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Zdrastvuite, Ya Svetlana! Welcome to Russianpod101.com’s Алфавит Made Easy!
The fastest, easiest, and most fun way to learn the Russian Cyrillic alphabet: the Алфавит!
In this lesson, we'll be learning the system of accents in the Russian language and learn how it affects word stress and the pronunciation of some letters. As we have gone through the series, I have told you from time to time that certain letters aren't always pronounced the same way. Well, in this lesson we'll clarify why and when that is.
In fact, writing with accents in Russian makes reading it much easier. So why did we wait until the end of the series to introduce it? Because unfortunately, it isn't used outside of textbooks and is really just a teaching and learning aid.
Every word in Russian has a stressed syllable. In English, even knowing which syllable has stress doesn't always help you pronounce the word correctly because so many spellings are irregular.
Russian, on the other hand, is much more phonetic, so knowing the letter combination and which syllable is stressed will help you read the word correctly 99% of the time.
Let's think back to those letters which have multiple pronunciations. There are only two: “O”, and “E” . So for example, “O” can be read as “O” or “ah”, but how do we know when? Well, it depends on whether or not they are the stressed vowel in the word. When “O”, and “E” are stressed, they sound normal. So let’s see a simple case.
We denote stressed syllables by writing a “знак ударения” - an accent mark - above the stressed vowel, but if a word is only one syllable there's only one place for the stress to go. For example:
So you know it's one syllable, and you know that when “O”, and “E” are stressed they sound normal, so you can predict exactly how to pronounce these words.
Let's look at a few more examples where there is more than one syllable but the “O”, or “E” is still stressed.
As you can hear, and see from the accent marks, the “О” in “Ольга,” and the “е” in “форель,” are the stressed vowels. But what about when they are UNstressed? Well, let's find out!
“O” is pretty easy. When it is unstressed it sounds like the letter “A”. So, here's a word that has both stressed and unstressed “O”s:
Here we see that there are 3 “O”s, but only one is stressed, so it's easy to hear how the other 2 “O”s sound like “ah”. You probably remember this word means “good” or “well.”
“E” is a little more complicated, but it usually sounds like a very short “ih”.
Here's a word with an unstressed “E”:
“Бу́дет” means “will be”. Because it isn't stressed, the “E” is pronounced as “ih”. Can you hear it?
Ok, you've practiced on words but now let's see a whole sentence.
[pause] I'm not going to read it right away. Try and figure out how it's pronounced by yourself. [slightly longer pause] It's read as “Два медве́дя в одно́й берло́ге не живу́т.” and means “Two bears won't live in the same den,” meaning something like “This town is too small for the both of us.”
Два медве́дя в одно́й берло́ге не живу́т.
Now it's time for Svetlana’s insights.
Accent marks are a great way to learn how to pronounce a word. But try not to depend on them too much, and remember that they are just an educational tool - not something you will experience in real life. Good luck!
In the next lesson, we'll compare how Russian punctuation differs from English punctuation and learn some fun idioms along the way! See you in the next Алфавит Made Easy lesson!
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