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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Russian Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, you'll learn the top 5 Russian pronunciation mistakes to avoid.
These are common mistakes that Russian learners tend to make.
So pay close attention and make sure that you don't make these same mistakes too.
Are you ready?
Then let's get started!
Can't pronounce ы
This is a rare sound that doesn't exist in many languages. Many Russian learners are unable to pronounce this vowel simply because it's unfamiliar to them.
When Russian learners attempt to pronounce this vowel, they tend to pronounce it as
Instead of
This is an issue because the former sound is a another vowel in Russian.
Consider these two words:
бить (to beat) and быть (to be)
These two words sound very similar, but their meanings are completely different. It is essential that you're able to clearly distinguish between the two vowels.
The inability to do so could lead to some very problematic misunderstandings.
We'll cover this sound in the next lesson. Stay tuned so that you can correct this common mistake.
Can't pronounce words with soft sign ь
This is another letter that's difficult for Russian learners to deal with.
The soft sign is a letter that acts like a modifier. It doesn't produce any sound on its own, but is instead used to affect a preceding letter's sound quality by adding palatalization. The problem arises when speakers pronounce words without paying attention to the tiny soft sign.
Compare the following examples.
Listen to (host name) and pay attention to the way it's pronounced in the following words.
брат (a brother) - брать (to take), угол (a corner) - уголь (a coal), мать (a mother) - мат (a mat)
Sometimes, the soft sign may be the only quality that distinguishes two words. As you can see, ignoring the soft sign will undoubtedly lead to miscommunication.
But don't worry, we'll teach you all about these sounds and palatalization throughout this series.
Can't pronounce щ
This is another difficult sound for Russian learners.
It should sound similar to the SHCH sound in the words 'fresh cheese' but a little softer, *or* like the SH in the words 'ship' or 'sheep'. Be careful though, because it's *not* the same as the 'sh' in 'shock'. The 'sh' in 'ship' forces the tongue to be raised *higher* than in words like 'shock'.
Listen carefully to the way that (host name) pronounces this consonant.
щ, щ
плащ (raincoat)
щука (pike)
щётка (brush)
Notice how it sounds a little more constricted and tense. It also sounds slightly longer than other consonants.
If you want to know how to pronounce this sound correctly, stay tuned until lesson 6, where we break it down in detail.
Not using the correct intonation
There are many different ways to construct statements and questions in Russian, either with or without the use of interrogative words like what, why, when, how and so forth, and because of this fact, things can get quite chaotic when improper intonation is used.
Intonation can transform a statement into question and vice versa in Russian.
Many students of Russian don't pay much attention to intonation. Without the proper intonation however, it's very difficult for native listeners to judge whether the utterance is a statement or question.
Compare the following example.
Это музей. (This is a museum.)
Это музей? (Is this a museum?)
The first example is a statement, meaning, "This is a museum". The second is a question, meaning, "Is this a museum?".
As you can see, changing the intonation alone can change the meaning of a sentence entirely. Improper use of intonation can lead to very problematic communication.
Try to pay attention to the way native Russians pronounce sentences and try to imitate them. Don't beat yourself up if you don't get it straight away though, because intonation usually comes naturally the more you study a language.
Mispronouncing letters that look alike
Many letters in Russian look very similar and this can be a difficult problem for new learners. This is particularly true for these two letters.
is a q and it sounds like the Y sound in 'boy'.
is actually a vowel, even though it looks very similar to the previous letter. It sounds like the I sound in 'visa'.
Consider the following examples.
мой (my) - мои (my, plural)
твой (your) - твои (your, plural)
Clearly, failing to recognize these two letters will result in the wrong pronunciation.
Try to be mindful of these two letters, and other letters that may look alike in Russian.
Now you know the top 5 Russian pronunciation mistakes to avoid.
Try to be careful so that you don't commit these same mistakes.
In the next lesson, we'll start learning Russian vowel sounds.
What's your biggest challenge with Russian pronunciation? Is it one of these top 5 mistakes?
Let us know in the comments.
Stick with us and you'll overcome it quickly!
See you in the next Ultimate Russian Pronunciation Guide lesson!