Russian Lesson One

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Hard Sounds

Russian letter Symbol Pronunciation
A (stressed) ah as Ah, but shorter
A (unstressed) a as u in but
O (stressed) o as aw in law
O (unstressed) a as u in but
Ы i no English equivalent
У oo as oo in wood
Э e as e in pet

Soft Sounds

Quick reference on "soft-indicating" vowels
Russian letter Symbol Pronunciation
Я (stressed) ya as ya in yahoo
Я (unstressed) ee as ee in meet, but very short
Е (stressed) ye as ye in yes
Е (unstressed) ee as ee in meet, but very short
Ё (always stressed) yo as yo in yonder
Ю yoo as the word you
И (stressed) ee as ee in meet

б/ б'

These sounds are designated by the letter Б. The sound /б/ is the same as the English b in but. Its "soft" version /б'/ is close to the English b in bee.
бочка
boch-kah

в/в'

The "hard" /в/ is pronounced as v in voice. The letter В is "soft" when followed by "soft" vowels or a soft sign, and it is "hard" otherwise.
вечер
vye-cheer

г/г'

The letter Г designates the "hard" sound /г/ when followed by "hard" vowels, and the "soft" sound /г'/ otherwise. /г/ sounds like the English g in go.
гул
gool

д/ д'

The sound /д/ is pronounced like d in dial. In order to pronounce /д'/ you should arch your tongue agains the palate.
дом
dom

ж/ж'

The sound /ж/ is similar to s in leisure. The "soft" /ж'/ is very rare (can be found in приезжать) and is not explained here.
жест
zhest

з/з'

The sound /з/ is pronounced like z in zoom. Its "soft" counterpart /з'/ should be palatalised like the English z in zeal.
зуб
zoop

к/к'

The sound /к/ is similar to the English c in clock, or ck in nock. The palatalised sound /к'/ is similar to c in cage, or k in okey. These sounds are designated by the letter K in Russian.
кит кедр
keet kyedr

л/л'

The sound /л/ is pronounced like l in lump, but you should lower the back of your tongue and touch the upper teeth with its tip. In order to get the "soft" counterpart /л'/ you should palatalise the sound as in leak.
лампа
lahm-pah

м/м'

The sound /м/ is pronounced like m in monk. The "soft" sound /м'/ is pronounced as if it followed by a short English y sound, and it is similar to the sound of m in muse.
миг
meek

н/'н

The letter Н makes the sound /н/ when it goes after "hard" consonants or a hard sign. It is pronounced like n in noon. When followed by "soft" consonants or a soft sign, the letter H makes the "soft" sound /н'/ which is close the English n in need.
надо
nah-dah

п/ п'

The sound /п/ is pronounced like p in pot or mop. Its "soft" counterpart /п'/ is close to p in pew because it is palatalised by arching the tongue against the palate. However, you will need to palatalise it more to the Russian /п'/. These sounds are designated by the letter П in writing.
пака
pah-kah

р/ р'

рад кора
raht kah-rah

с/ с'

The "hard" /c/ is close to the English s in soup.
сад сын пост сено сито
saht sin post sye-nah see-tah

/т/ - /т'/

The sound /т/ is close to the English t in ten, but you should touch the upper teeth with the tip of your tongue. The sound /т'/ is palatalised as t in stew.
ток вата пост кость тётя
tok vah-tah post kost' tyo-tya

/ф/ - /ф'/

The sound /ф/ is pronounced like f in fault. Its "soft" counterpart /ф'/ sounds more like f in few.
флот фосфор
flot fos-fahr

/х/ - /х'/

The sound /x/ is close to the English h in host. The "soft" /x'/ is similar to h in huge.
хохот хлеб
kho-khaht khlyep

ц

This sound is similar to the sound produced by the letters ts in what's up. It is designatd by the letter Ц in writing.
лица
lee-tsah

ч'

The consonant letter Ч can sound both "hard" and "soft". However, in the majority of cases it is "soft" (even if followed by "hard" vowels) and sounds like ch in church.
часто
chahs-tah

ш

This sound is similar to the English sh in shake. It is designated by the letter Ш in writing.
ваш
vahsh

This sound is designated by the letter Щ.

This sound is designated by the letter Щ. There is no exact equivalent of the sound /ш'/ in English, but it is close to the sound made by combining sh and ch. The main idea is to make the sound /ш/ palatilised by arching your tongue against the soft palate.
щека
shchee-kah

j

This sound is used to form "soft" vowels. You can found it in the letters е, ё, и, ю, я.

Soft Indicating Vowels

Quick reference on "soft-indicating" vowels
Russian letter Symbol Pronunciation
Я (stressed) ya as ya in yahoo
Я (unstressed) ee as ee in meet, but very short
Е (stressed) ye as ye in yes
Е (unstressed) ee as ee in meet, but very short
Ё (always stressed) yo as yo in yonder
Ю yoo as the word you
И (stressed) ee as ee in meet

Soft Vowels

я, е, ё, и, ю

я

This vowel is pronounced like English ya in yahoo

E as in yes

The Russian sound of e is easy, because it is close to ye in English yes. Do not confuse it with English letter e, which sounds like Russian э.
песня весело
pyes-nya vye-see-la

Rule #2

In unstressed positions, Russian letters Я, Е, Э are pronounced like an abbreviated Russian И.

Ё as in yonder

This letter is pronounced like yo in yonder. As you can see, ё is formed from y sound and vowel o: y + o = ё. Now practice these words:
ёж ёлка плёнка
yozh yol-ka plyon-ka

Rule #1

In unstressed positions, Russian letter O is pronounced like unstressed Russian A. In other words, it sounds like English u in nut.

A as in Ah

This vowel is pronounced in two different ways depending on stress. When stressed, it is close to the sound of the English word Ah, but shorter. When unstressed, it is pronounced like u in the word nut.
вода масло
va-dah mahs-la

Rule #3

The letter Ё is always stressed in Russian words.

И as in meet

This letter is pronounced like ee in meet.
игла
eeg-lah

Ю as in you

The letter ю denotes the same sound as the English word you. Practice these words:
юг Юпитер плюс
yook yoo-pee-tyer plyoos

Quick reference on "soft-indicating" vowels

Russian letter Symbol Pronunciation
Я (stressed) ya as ya in yahoo
Я (unstressed) ee as ee in meet, but very short
Е (stressed) ye as ye in yes
Е (unstressed) ee as ee in meet, but very short
Ё (always stressed) yo as yo in yonder
Ю yoo as the word you
И (stressed) ee as ee in meet

Lesson 2

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