When someone tells you they have some good news and bad news for you, and then they ask you which one you’d like to hear first. If you’re like most people, then you say, “I want to hear the bad news first.” Therefore, we’re going to give you the bad news first. That is, we’re going to tell you about several of the most difficult things to learn in Russian pronunciation, but then we’re going to ease that burden a bit by telling you some of the things that make it easier. As a matter of fact, a lot of people find Russian to be one of the easiest languages to learn to pronounce correctly, despite the difficulties which we’re about to tell you about.
One of the things that’s a little difficult about learning Russian pronunciation is the fact that some of its sounds don’t exist in the English language. This is true of a lot of languages. Another difficulty is that some of its sounds are similar to some of the sounds in English, but pronounced in a slightly different manner. Also, some Russian sounds change due to word stress or a change in the position of the letter in the word. There are also some clusters of consonants in Russian which you don’t normally run into in English. Plus, the words can be a lot longer.
After reading that last paragraph, you may be thinking, Russian pronunciation doesn’t sound easy at all!” As promised, we will now point out many of the reasons why that statement isn’t true. In the first place, there is only one sound for each of the thirty-three letters in the Russian alphabet. Therefore, once you memorize the alphabet, along with a few simple pronunciation rules, you will be able to correctly pronounce any word written in Russian. That can’t be said of very many languages! Not only that, you also won’t find any words in Russian that can have different meanings depending on how they are intoned.
Another neat little fact about Russian pronunciation is that only thirty-one of the thirty-three letters in the Russian alphabet actually have sounds. The other two letters are used to indicate whether the other sounds are pronounced in hard or soft ways. Remember, there is tremendous value in listening to recordings of these sounds being pronounced correctly. Obviously, this is particularly true of those sounds which do not exist in English.