10 pronunciation mistakes RUSSIAN SPEAKERS make (and how to avoid them)

10 pronunciation mistakes RUSSIAN SPEAKERS make (and how to avoid them)


Hey, what’s up! It’s Hadar and this is the Accent’s Way. Today we’re going to talk about the top 10 pronunciation mistakes Russian speakers make. We’re gonna talk about why you make those mistakes and also how you can improve. So let’s begin. The first is mispronunciation of the ‘a’, as in ‘cat’. The ‘a’ sound is an open front vowel So, first of all, you have to open your mouth quite wide, which is something that Russian speakers don’t always like because it doesn’t happen in Russian. So, the tendency is to open the mouth a little less and the result. Is that the ‘a’ sound becomes ‘e’ and then a word like ‘bad’ it may sound like ‘bed’ or ‘cat’ may sound like ‘ket’, ‘hepi’ instead of ‘happy’. Or you just turn it into an ‘a’ sound’ the ‘A’ that exists in Russian especially when it’s at the beginning like in the words ‘after’ or ‘accent’ instead of ‘after’ and ‘accent’. To make the ‘a’ sound you want to make sure that your mouth is open But also that your tongue is pushed forward ‘a’ The front part of the tongue is low and flat but the back is high ‘a’ It’s like when you when something is disgusting and you’re like ‘baa’ ,’a’ Make sure it doesn’t stay on the ‘e’ sound ‘he-appy’ , ‘he-a’ You can start with an ‘e’ and then gradually open it to an ‘a’, ‘a’ . ‘Happy’, ‘lea-st’ not ‘last’, ‘lea-st’ and cat. One of the most important things in English is the primary stress of the word. That means the one syllable that sticks out the most in the word. So, for example, in the word table, the primary stress is on /teɪ/. TABle. If I were to say something like taBLE it would be completely unclear especially in context, when you wanna use it in context like ‘put it on the taBLE’, right? What did I just say? Now a table is a simple example and no one says ‘taBLE’. However, when we get to words with three syllables, four syllables and more not all Russian speakers but many speakers tend to misplace the stress. So, for example, you may hear someone saying ‘EN-gi-neer’ instead of ‘en-gi-NEER’. ‘CA-tas-trophe’ instead of ‘ca-TAS-trophe’. The primary stress is probably the most important thing when pronouncing words You have to listen closely to English, especially long words that you use quite often and try to detect what is the primary stress. Which syllable which unit is pronounced with the most emphasis, right. Usually the primary stress is higher in pitch and longer. Okay, so do not take anything for granted. Always look for the primary stress try to detect what is the one syllable that is stressed the most, that is higher in pitch that is longer and if you can’t tell go to pronunciation dictionaries And usually you’ll see it in bold or if you read it in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) you’ll see that the primary stress is marked by an apostrophe to the left of the syllable that is stressed. So, in the word ‘engineer’, it’s going to be right before the last syllable near and not at the beginning. Okay, so you’ve got to practice it you’ve got to listen to it closely and then you’ll be able to pronounce words with the right stress. In English here is the ‘ow’ as in ‘go’ sound. It is a diphthong, a changing sound from one vowel to another, ‘ow’ as in ‘go’. As you can see I’m starting open and then I’m closing my lips gradually as I’m pronouncing the sound ‘go’, ‘low’. A lot of Russian speakers substitute this ‘ow’ sound that doesn’t exist in Russian with a similar sound that is the neutral ‘o’ sound in Russian. And then instead of ‘gow’ you may hear something like ‘go’ instead of ‘low’ ‘law’. You can even hear it more clearly when the ‘ow’ appears at the beginning of a word or before another syllable like /only/ instead of /ownli/ or ‘gol’ instead of ‘gowl’. Okay, so make sure that when you have the ‘ow’ as in ‘go’ you round your lips at the end as if you’re actually adding ‘w’ sound ‘gow’ go won’t won’t don’t not don’t don’t Okay, so add the ‘w’ for the ‘ow’ as in ‘go’ sound. Now speaking of ‘w’s Russian doesn’t have a ‘w’ sound, ‘w’. So, a lot of speakers actually substitute the ‘w’ sound with a closest sound that does exist in Russian, which is the ‘v’ sound vhy/why, vel/well. However, most Russian speakers are aware that there is a ‘w’ sound and they know how to pronounce it but then sometimes they overapply it. So instead of just using ‘w’ when it needed sometimes they also use a ‘w’ when there is a ‘v’ sound. ‘Wery’ instead of ‘very’ and ‘ewen’ instead of ‘even’. The hardest phrase for Russian speakers, I think is ‘very well’ where you have a ‘v’ sound and a ‘w’ right after. Try with me ‘very well’ . There’s also ‘r’s and ‘l’s and else So it’s a big party of sounds. ‘Very well’ In order to improve you want to make sure that when there is a ‘w’ sound and. mind you, it’s not always when you see the letter W. Sometimes you hear a ‘w’ sound when there isn’t a ‘w’. For example. ‘queen’, right. Here we also have a ‘w’ sound. So, when there is a ‘w’ sound you want to make sure that the bottom lip does not touch the top teeth. ‘W’. For the ‘w’ sound the lips round as if you’re rounding them for a kiss ‘wha’ and nothing touches here. The lips are now too close. ‘Wha’ then it’s gonna sound like a very soft ‘v’. ‘Wha’ and also the back of the tongue goes up a bit. ‘Wha’. For a ‘v’ the bottom lip touches the top teeth creating this friction sound and that is the ‘v’ ‘very’, ‘well’, ‘Very well’. The next thing is the ‘h’ sound as an ‘hi’ or a ‘head’. When Russian speakers pronounce the ‘h’ they bring that back over the tongue high up creating this tense sound. It sounds something like this ‘x-x-x’ instead of an open free sound ‘h’ like you’re breathing out. And then the word ‘hello’ is going to sound like ‘х-x-xеллоу’ and ‘hope’ becomes ‘хоуп’ ‘Х-х-хоуп’. You do want to relax the back of the tongue, lower it and create this free open sound ‘h’ as if you’re just ‘a-h’ breathing out after a long workout. ‘hi’, ‘hi’, ‘hello’, ‘Hadar’ and ‘hope’. The American ‘L’ is often mispronounced by Russian speakers. In Russian there are two different ‘L’s. There is the ‘dark L’. ‘La’, ‘La’. And there is the really ‘light L, ‘Le’. I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly. ‘Le’. I got to learn Russian! Anyway, so there is this really ‘ultra light L’. You know how it sounds. I don’t want to I don’t want to butcher it, and there is ‘the dark La sound’ that is more frequent, more common because that really ‘light L’ only happens before certain vowels, before front vowels. Now in American English there are also two different kinds of ‘L’s. So, there is ‘the dark L’, the very same ‘L’ as in Russian but it only occurs at the end of words. So, that ‘La’ sound is great when it’s at the end of the word or before a consonant like ‘well’, right. So go for it, go as dark as you want ‘feel’, ‘LL’, milk. But try not to apply this really ‘dark L’ when the ‘L’ is at the beginning of a word or in the middle of the word, ‘light’, ‘hello’, right. You don’t want it to be too heavy. So you want to reduce the tension in the back of the tongue. Actually, what you want to do is bring the tip of the tongue to touch the upper palate and that’s about it. ‘La’ ‘Listen’. Maybe you want to create a little bit of tension here, so it’s not ultra light like ‘la’ but ‘light’ , ‘listen’, ‘hello’. Okay, so soften it out a little bit so it’s not too heavy. The next thing is the merge of the tense ‘ee’ as in ‘sheep’ and the relaxed ‘I’ as in ‘ship’. They both merge into the same sound that exists in Russian ‘и’. ‘sheep’, ‘sheep’, ‘sheep’, and ‘ship’. Okay, so first of all, understand that there are two different ‘e’ sounds in American English and there is no ‘и’, British English as well, not just American, all English dialects. So, it’s not just one ‘и’ sound that doesn’t exist in English The first one is a high ‘ee’ sound, the tongue is actually higher, the body of the tongue, the tongue rolls forward ‘ee’, right, until you feel this really tense sound. ‘We’, ‘see’, ‘feet’. Imagine as if you’re adding a ‘y’ sound after the ‘ee’. ‘Fee-t’, but keep the tongue forward and pushed against the sides of the teeth and don’t relax it in the middle, so, it doesn’t sound like ‘fee-yt’. ‘Fee-yt’. And you know what I’m talking about! ‘Feet’, okay. Keep it tight until you reach the next consonant. That’s the high ‘ee’. The relaxed ‘I’ is somewhere between ‘i’ and ‘e’, right. ‘Sit’, ‘kid’. So, you want to think is if you’re saying that ‘I’ sound but you want to drop your jaw relax your lips create space between the top and bottom teeth ‘I’, ‘kid’, ‘list’, ‘finish’. The relaxed is usually spelled with a letter ‘I’ but that’s not always the case. So, don’t trust the spelling, start categorizing the words understanding that there are these two sounds and that’s it, the tense ‘ee’ and the relaxed ‘I’. ‘Sheep’ and ‘ship’, ‘Leave’ and ‘live’, not ‘leave’ and ‘leave’ ‘beach’ and ‘bitch’. So, it’s it’s important to practice this vowel pare. Another vowel pair that is often confused by Russian speakers is ‘the pool vs. pull’ vowel pare. Here as well a lot of Russians pronounce these two different vowels as the same vowel ‘pull’ and ‘pull’. Now, it’s the same thing. Here we have a tense ‘uw’ sound, so it’s longer. It’s actually double the length of the Russian ‘y’ sound ‘room’, ‘two’, ‘you’. So, it’s it’s as if I’m adding a ‘w’ sound at the end. ‘Two’, ‘room’, ‘fool’. Okay, that’s the tense ‘uw’. The relaxed ‘u’ is somewhere between ‘u’, and ‘o’ and ‘a’. ‘Cook’, not ‘кук’. ‘Cook’, ‘look’. Imagine like you have a hot potato in the back of your mouth. ‘Foot’, ‘push’, ‘look’, ‘book’, ‘facebook’, not ‘faceбук’, ‘facebook’, ‘book’. ‘Push’, ‘look’. And then we have some pears like ‘pool-pull’, ‘luke’ – ‘look’, ‘food’ – ‘foot’. ‘The Russian ‘Р’ is different from the American ‘R’ sound. So in Russian you bring the tip of the tongue up to trill against the upper palate. ‘Р-р-р-р’. It’s called the trilled ‘R’. It’s so much fun to pronounce this ‘Р’. ‘Р-р-р-р’. Do it with me. ‘Р-р-р-р’. Now, in English when you pronounce the ‘R,’ there is no contact between the tip of the tongue and the upper palate. In fact, the ‘R’ is this state where the tongue just stretches in the middle of the mouth creating this tension ‘R-r’ and as a result you hear this ‘Urr’. sound. ‘Ur-r’. So, the sides of the tongue touch the sides of the teeth there is contact but only on the sides of the tongue, the back of the tongue goes up a little bit and the tip of the tongue can either be up or down usually up, ‘ur’, but not touching anything. ‘Ur’. You also don’t want it to be too close because then you’ll hear these vibrations ‘vr-vr-vr’. It’s kind of like you’re you want to pronounce the the Russian ‘Р’ but you’re not really pronouncing it. But also it’s not really the American ‘R’. It’s this hybrid ‘R’ right there in between, ‘right’, right. So, bring the tongue in ‘ur’ ‘ur’, but not too far back. ‘Ur’, because then it’s gonna sound hollow, right. So make sure you round your lips a little ‘hear’, and you create that contact between the sides of the tongue and the sides of the teeth. ‘ur’. ‘hear’, ‘car’, ‘where’. There is no ‘th’ sound in Russian, but unfortunately for some people there is in English. For the ‘th’ sound the tongue has to come out. as in ‘think’ or as in ‘they’. Because it’s difficult and weird to stick the tongue out a lot of Russian speakers keep it inside and then it sounds something like an ‘s’ ‘sink’ /think, ‘seatre’/theatre or ‘Z’ as in zay/they if it’s the voiced ‘th’. Sometimes people substitute it with the ‘T’. ‘Tanks’ instead of ‘thanks’. So you want to make sure that the tip of the tongue comes out and that it’s soft enough to allow the air to pass and believe me I know it feels weird and weird is good and artificial and strange and fake is good at the beginning when you practice it. Because it’s something that you’re super uncomfortable doing. You don’t do it in your native tongue. So, why would it feel comfortable. Be ok with that but do it over and over again until you make it your own and then you get comfortable with it and then it sounds natural and effortless. Stick the tongue out and drill it in words. Okay, that’s it. Thank you so much for watching. Please share it with your friends and consider subscribing if you like this video because there is more coming. Have a wonderful week, and I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

100 thoughts to “10 pronunciation mistakes RUSSIAN SPEAKERS make (and how to avoid them)”

  1. What I learned from making this video is that I REALLY have to learn Russian!! If you're not a Russian speaker, what are the mistakes in this video that are also relevant to you?

  2. Thank you so much! I really have a great problem with 'very well' and I don't hear the difference between "man" and "men" so I'm not sure that I pronounce "man" correctly. There is also a difference with "t" sound – you didn't note it

  3. Cause I`m from Russia this video seemed very helpful for me, though I don`t have many of these mistakes. By the way it`s funny watching how you try to imitate Russian accent, especially the sounds TH and R. Studying Russian in private school, I listen to these mistakes almost every day. Sometimes it hurts my mind. Thank you for the lesson, Hadar!!!

  4. Большое спасибо за ваши видео! Очень интересно слушать. Буду работать над устранением указанных вами ошибок!
    Many thanks for your videos! Very interesting to listen to. I will work to eliminate the errors you indicated!

  5. a as in cat!!! catastrophe!!! engineer!!! yes!!!!! 😂 tbh, for the last one we have the same primary stress as in english, no idea why i'm so weird. ;))

  6. Hey I started uploading videos teaching some english expressions, I'm still a rookie in this industry when it comes to teaching, but we just have to break the ice. Lol.

    Great lesson even though it is specially for Russians.

  7. great video, applicable not only to Russians.
    Hadar, can you speak little bit slower, I like to shadow the entire video not only the pronunciation parts

  8. Great Russian accent! 🙂
    Though I know all of these problems, I still can't fight some vowel pairs. Thank you for inspiration!

  9. I want to note that your pronunciation of the russian sounds is really good! It's a pleasure for me to find out what problems I might have with my pronunciation. Great video! Thank you very much!

  10. Great video. I'd like you make a video about the most common mistakes of the Spanish-speakers when speaking English.

  11. The mistakes #7 y #8 are also common from spanish-speakers (theres is tendency to pronounce /I/ like /i:/ and /ʊ/ like /u:/). The spanish-speakers also tend to pronounce /h/ like /x/ (spanish "J"), the dark L like clear L, the /z/ like /s/ , /ð/ like /d/, etc.

  12. In the Russian language, "labiodental fricatives /v/ and /vʲ/ are often weakly articulated [v̞, v̞ʲ] or are realised as approximants [ʋ ʋʲ], particularly in spontaneous speech."
    Source: https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/55589EC639ADEF1764B5ECD0B76970FA/S0025100314000395a.pdf/russian.pdf

    [ʋ] (labiodental approximant) sounds similar to [w] (labio-velar approximant) due to the lack of friction. That's why it appears that Russian speakers say sometimes /w/ instead of /v/.

    There are some other common mistakes:
    1. Substitution plosive consonants /p,t,k/ with non-plosive ones, as result, /p,t,k/ in the beginning of words may sound more like /b,d,g/ to English speakers.
    2. Final Consonant Devoicing
    3. Tendency to produce an audible release for final consonants.
    4. Use of the dental articulation of /t, d, l, n/.
    5. Use of /ng/ instead of /ŋ/.
    6. Use of Russian "o" in words spelled with "o" such as "not".
    7. The lack of sentence stress.

  13. Hadar, thank you so much for this video! It's just amazing. I didn't realize that I've been pronouncing so many sounds wrong 😀

  14. It`s certainly useful for russian. I have a little confused with pronounciation
    walk – work
    we live here – we leave here
    etc.

  15. My goodness, it's brilliant! I agree with all the typical mistakes, and some of them are like pain in the neck for me ^_^
    This video is a diamond for every Russian (Ukrainian, Polish etc.) speaker! Now I have a feeling you can read the minds of the students 😀
    But seriously, you are a superb teacher, and I'm happy to have found you exactly when I needed it badly. May the Schwa god be with you 🙂

  16. Hi Hadar, how about k and g sounds? I was told that they are more glottal in Russian, the tongue touches the soft palate further in the mouth. In English k and g are softer, the tongue touches the soft palate not as back. K in American English is like "кь" (soft к) in Russian, especially at the end of the words , like "drink".

  17. "very well" is ok since we hear it pretty often and the phrase just gets remembered as is. it's the word "vowel" (which is only used in specific conversations) that is hard to pronounce for us Russians 🙂

  18. You'll be astonished if you see how an American English pronunciation coach from Chicago pronounce the sound [ l ]. https://youtu.be/tpN9CPwZ-oE?t=251

  19. Thank you for this video – it's really helpful see/hear comparison of sounds to those in Russian language and have the differences explained.
    Few comments:
    About Russian 'L' : in Russian schools they described as "soft" (i.e. palatalized ) and "hard". I didn't realize that 'hard' and 'dark' L are the the same, or practically the same; and that "light" L is somewhat close to "soft" L.
    For "U" sounds the big challenge is to remember which word has which sound, as spelling often doesn't help.

  20. Hi Hadar, I was watching a movie and I noticed that sometimes American speakers turn the 's' sound into a "shh" sound when it appears before a 'y' consonant.
    For instance: "thishh year" " when I washh younger" "I mishh you"
    Is this correct?

  21. Thanks a lot! This video is very useful for me! Конечно pool-pull и luke-look – отрыв башни)

  22. Look sounds almost like luck? There is no trouble to pronounce V because в is the same 🙂 as for my ears this is loud American accent of Emglish 🙂

  23. the deal is we've been told to pronounce it that way 🙁 Since I was a good student I still can't get rid of it (30years went by), lol

  24. Hi Hadar, I'm Russian, I thought my pronanciation became better, but "Facebook" killed me 😄. All Russian mistakes are right in this video. It's very useful, thanks a lot!

  25. Wow, I was really convinced that Russian is your mother tongue – you sound exactly natural imitating Russian sounds. You have a very good ear for accents and auditory memory!

  26. Thank you, Hadar! I didn't even realised I mispronounced "only" and "don't", "food" and "foot". I guess I have to relearn a lot of words now.

  27. One of the most miss-stressed words is "colleague". Maybe problem there is because stressed syllable is not that which is long one

  28. It always make me angry when russians pronounce H,just weird!
    Um, I think the most mispronunciation is about H and th

  29. I'm a Russian native speaker and this video is brilliant! You got all the typical pronunciation "mistakes". Thanks a lot! 👍👍

  30. Russian Rrrrrrr is awesome! Thanks for you wonderful channel and the video above. Have a good one! P.s. I've shared the video with my friends😀👨‍💻

  31. I'm from Russia
    Yeah my mistakes
    Especially with "ou" sound
    Thank you i'll be better

  32. I'm Italian and I am noticing that with vowels I have the same problems of Russians. ae, i and u are the most difficult sounds to me.

  33. perfect english speaking fellow here. this video helped me so much with my russian accent impersonation, thanks a lot

  34. “Press your tonsils against the underside of your larynx. Then with the convex part of the septum curved upwards so as almost—but not quite—to touch the uvula, try with the tip of your tongue to reach your thyroid. Take a deep breath, and compress your glottis. Now, without opening your lips, say ‘Garoo.’”
    Three Men on the Bummel, by Jerome K. Jerome

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