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Eddie: Pronunciation Lesson 3 - Consonants. Hello, I`m Eddie and I'm joined in the studio by... Oksana: Hi everyone. I am Oksana. Today, we will look at the Russian consonants.
Eddie: This is the part when you realize that Russian pronunciation isn't so scary after all.
Oksana: Absolutely. Learn the sounds and you will find them very consistent at all times. Each letter has a specific sound regardless of its position in a word and it always sounds the same.
Eddie: Learn these and you are a very long way into mastering Russian pronunciation. So, let's get down to business. There are twenty-one consonants and two signs, the soft sign and the hard sign, in Russian.
Oksana: Let's begin with the sounds that have their exact equivalents in English. These are "-м", "-н", "-в", "-з", "-г", "-с", "-ф", "-ч", and "-ж".
Eddie: Let's look at them one by one. "M" looks like an English "-m", as in the "-m" in "mother", and is pronounced in the same way.
Oksana: Our examples are "мой", which means "my", and "мама", which as you can guess means "Mom".
Eddie: "-Н" looks like an English capital "-H" but is pronounced like the "n" in "November". It may sound confusing, but you'll be surprised how quickly you'll recognize it for what it is. Examples in Russian are "Наташа", the female name, and "нет", which as we know means "no".
Oksana: The next looks just like an English capital "-В" as in "bravo", although it is pronounced like a "-v" in "Victor". Some examples are "ванна", which is a "bath", and "вера", which means "faith".
Eddie: My next letter looks just exactly like the number "3!" Yet it's a letter and is pronounced like the "z" in "zoo". Can you read the examples?
Oksana: "Зебра", which of course is a "zebra", and "звать", which means "to call".
Eddie: The next almost looks like a small "-r" as in "Romeo," but it's actually two lines at right angles to each other. This is pronounced like "-g" in "go".
Oksana: For example, "год", which means "year", and "глаз", which is an "eye".
Eddie: The next looks exactly like a capital "-C" as in "Charlie", although in Russian it's an "-s" as in "son". Unlike in English, this never changes to sound like a "-k"…it always sounds like an "-s".
Oksana: Our examples for this letter are "сын" and "соль", “son” and “salt”.
Eddie: My next letter looks a little strange. It's like an "-o" with a vertical line running through the center. No strange pronunciation though, it's simply an "-f" as in "fun" times! Which examples do you have for this letter?
Oksana: I have "фонарь", which is a "streetlight", and "фары", which means "headlights".
Eddie: "-Ч", which looks like the number "4" on a digital clock, is pronounced like "ch-" in "chair". It's also the first letter of the number "four" in Russian, which is "четыре".
Oksana: The next letter has an equivalent sound in English, though it isn't attributed to a particular letter. In Russian, this letter almost looks like an asterisk and the sound is like the "-s" sound in words like "measure" and "pleasure". Here are some examples for you…"живот", which is a "stomach", and "жарко", which means "hot".
Eddie: Okay, so that's the set of consonants that have the same sounds that can be found in English.
Oksana: Now let's take a look at consonants that are similar to English consonants yet are a bit different. These are "-б", "-д", "-т", "-п", "-к", "-р", "-л", "-х", "-ш", and "-щ".
Eddie: Some of these sounds seem already familiar.
Oksana: Especially the letters "-б", "-д", "-т", "-п", and "-к". These are similar to English sounds. However, in English when you pronounce these consonants, perhaps you didn't realize that they are actually pronounced quite strongly.
Eddie: I don't think I realized. But you're right. A way of measuring it almost is if you hold your hand in front of your mouth when you say these normally in English, you'll feel the air forced out of your mouth as you say the letter.
Oksana: That's a great way of describing it. In Russian, you need to be able to say these letters but hardly feel any breath on your hand so you're altogether saying them much more softly.
Eddie: So try to bear this in mind as we look at the next five consonants.
Oksana: "-Б" almost looks like a small English "-b" and has the same sound too, but remember, it's softer. Two words in Russian that begin with this letter are "большой", which means "big", and "бар", which is the word for a "bar".
Eddie: Cheers!
Oksana: And to you too!
Eddie: The next letter almost looks like a strange looking capital "-A". The pronunciation is like a "-d" as in "delta".
Oksana: Listen to the examples…"дом", which is a "house", and "вода", which means "water".
Eddie: The next letter is easy. "-T" for "tango" looks just as it does in English, just remember it's a little softer when expelling the air.
Oksana: For example, "торт" is a "cake".
Eddie: My next letter almost looks like a small "-n" but it is made of very straight lines. It actually looks like a rectangle standing tall with the bottom line missing.
Oksana: Nice way of describing it!
Eddie: It's pronounced just like "-p" as in "Patrick".
Oksana: Some words that begin with this letter are "папа", which means "dad", and "пирог", which means "pie".
Eddie: What`s the next letter?
Oksana: The next letter looks and sounds like an English "-K": "кошка", “cat” begins with this letter.
Eddie: Now, this next letter looks like an English "-p" as in "pencil”, but it sounds similar to the "-r" in Romeo.
Oksana: Similar?
Eddie: Similar because it is an "-r" sound, but ideally for Russian, you need to roll the "-r" just like the Italians and Spanish do.
Oksana: For example, "рот", which is a "mouth" in Russian, and also "река", which means a "river".
Oksana: This next letter sounds like an English "-l" but it isn't quite as soft as it is in English. It looks like a small English "-n" but the first vertical line curves away to the left.
Eddie: Even though it sounds very much like the English "-l", it should be a little harder.
Oksana: Yes, that's quite important. For example, compare the English word "look" and the Russian word "лук", which is "onions". Eddie, can you say "look" in English?
Eddie: "Look".
Oksana: You'll probably hear that the Russian "-л" sounds harder. Some other examples are "лошадь", which is a "horse", and "луна", which is the "moon".
Eddie: This next letter looks just like an English "-x" as in "x-ray". The pronunciation is similar to an English "-h" but is a bit stronger (more air is expelled). It's also a little guttural, similar to the "-ch" spoken by a Scottish person saying the word "Loch".
Oksana: Examples in Russian for this letter are "хлеб", which means "bread", and "муха", which is the word for a "fly".
Eddie: These next two letters look similar to the English "-w" but are altogether very square. One looks like two square "-u"s, and the other is the same but has like a little tail on its right edge.
Oksana: It's often difficult for a non-native Russian speaker to hear the difference between "-ш" and "-щ". They both sound like English "sh-" in "she"; however, "-ш" sounds a bit harder and "-щ" is softer.
Eddie: Yes, it's quite a challenge to hear the difference at first. Do you have any Russian examples so we can make a comparison?
Oksana: Yes, try and hear the differences in these three pairs…"Ша" – "ща", "Шу" – "щу", and "Ше" – "ще".
Eddie: Actually, you can hear it.
Oksana: Yes and again, give yourself time to learn it.
Eddie: The next letter looks like a big capital "-U" but again, is more square and it has a little tail on its bottom right-hand corner.
Oksana: It's pronounced [ ts ] and the sound doesn't really exist in English, except for in "pizza".
Eddie: So think of "pizza" and practice Russian "-Ц".
Oksana: Exactly! Russian words that contain it are "месяц", which is a "month", and "цена", which means "price".
Eddie: The next letter looks like a capital English "-N" that is written backwards AND has a little line floating above it.
Oksana: In modern Russian, "-й" is considered to be a consonant, although there has always been some ambiguity about it. It's actually used to create diphthongs in Russian like "-ой" and "-ай".
Eddie: It actually sounds like the "-y" in "boy" or "clay".
Oksana: Okay, now we have the soft sign that looks like a small English "-b" in "bravo" and the hard sign that looks the same but has like a little tail going to the left at the top.
Eddie: Technically speaking, these are neither vowels nor consonants. They are just signs that are used to show when pronunciation of other letters is modified.
Oksana: That's right. The soft sign indicates that the preceding consonant must be softened. Listen carefully to these pairs of words. The first is without the soft sign, and the second word has the soft sign. Try to repeat them…"ел" – "ель" (pause) "мат" – "мать" (pause) "смешит" – "смешить" (pause) "ген" – "тень" (pause) and "сер" – "серь" (pause).
Eddie: Yes, it's quite noticeable.
Oksana: Now, the hard sign is used to separate a consonant and a vowel and creates a pause between them.
Eddie: A pause?
Oksana: It's slight, but you'll notice. For example, the word "въехать" without "-ъ" would be pronounced "вехать". "Подъезд" would become "подезд".
Eddie: Okay, yes, I hear it.
Oksana: To be honest, you need to know this, but the hard sign isn't very common in Russian so don't focus your energy on it too much compared to the others.
Eddie: Great! That rounds up all of the Russian consonants.
Oksana: See? They weren't so scary after all. They key here is not to try to memorize it as a long list.
Eddie: Yes, you'll never remember it if you just do that. Try reading Russian words too. These different methods of learning will help instill recognition and sound familiarity.
Oksana: I definitely recommend you use the PDF notes for the podcast so you can actually see the letters and the examples!
Eddie: Ok, that`s all we have for today. Before we go, we want to tell you about a way to improve your pronunciation drastically.
Oksana: The voice-recording tool!
Eddie: Yes, the voice-recording tool in the Premium Learning Center...
Oksana: Record your voice with a click of a button,
Eddie: ...and then play it back just as easily.
Oksana: So you can record your voice and then listen to it.
Eddie: Compare it to the native speakers...
Oksana: ...and adjust your pronunciation!
Eddie: This will help you improve your pronunciation fast! Stay with us at RussianPod101.com and we’ll help you all the way. Bye for now.
Oksana: Until next time, пока!


Please to leave a comment.
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Sorry, please keep your comment under 800 characters. Got a complicated question? Try asking your teacher using My Teacher Messenger.

Monday at 6:30 pm
Pinned Comment
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What consonant is the most difficult for you to pronounce?

Thursday at 11:06 am
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Hello Arianna,

Please, check the Ultimate Russian Pronunciation Guide. Hope it will help you.


Best regards,


Team RussianPod101.com

Friday at 11:51 am
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Do you have any tips for someone struggling to make the "P" sound?

Monday at 4:59 pm
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Hello Parth Mehta,

Do you mean the word "Leti"? If so, it means "fly" (verb), for example "please, heart, fly..."


Team RussianPod101.com

Parth Mehta
Sunday at 7:20 pm
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hello Alena mam

I am the one who asked for the meaning of letzi

here is the song

ZAAVA"Закрой глаза"автор Арсен Касиев

singer is ZAAVA

the word is in the main stanza

Sunday at 6:10 pm
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Hello Parth Mehta,

Could you please give the name of this song?

It`s hard to guess the meaning, probably spelling and pronunciation are different than "letzi".


Team RussianPod101.com

Parth Mehta
Friday at 3:24 pm
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What is the meaning of the word letzi? I heard it in a song

And how is the above word pronounced?

Monday at 9:21 pm
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Hello Chin,

"P" is pronounced as "P". If "P" is followed by voiced consonant, it can be pronounced as "B".


Team RussianPod101.com

Saturday at 11:54 am
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How to pronounce russian P when it is in the middle of a word instead of in the beginning or end ing of a word?