5 Minute Russian Pronunciation Guide – Quick Intro

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Hello Junkies,

Welcome to the Russian Pronunciation Guide. This will help you understand and pronounce Russian correctly. Here’s what you need to know:

  • This will take you 5 minutes to review
  • You’ll learn which sounds to skip & which to learn
  • You’ll learn how modifiers work
  • And print this for extra review (it’ll take time)

Now, the basics of the Russian Alphabet: If you didn’t know, Russian is made up of 33 letters, 21 consonants, 10 vowels and 2 letters that act as modifiers. They have no sound. But they do affect the consonants they’re paired with!

21 Consonants

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10 Vowels

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2 Modifiers

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You should know these already. If not, you can learn the Russian Alphabet here.

Now, let’s get into the Russian pronunciation guide.

Russian Pronunciation Guide Linguajunkie.com

Here’s the first rule to Russian pronunciation.

1) Care about Sounds, not letters.

First of all, you should know the letters by now.

However, we will be focusing on more so on sounds. Speaking is about sounds, right? What else comes out of your mouth? Sure, letters represent sound but the angle this tutorial approaches is the sound angle.

  • Many Russian sounds you’re already capable of pronouncing.
    • Why? They’re also used in English.
  • Some,  you are not yet capable of.
    • Why? They’re unique to Russian. Don’t worry, you’ll learn them.

2) Know which sounds to skip and which to learn.

Alright. So you know that there are 33 letters, 21 consonants, 10 vowels and 2 modifiers.

Let’s start with consonants. Of the 21 consonants, you already know 15 of them. (You definitely know B, V, G, D, etc. etc.) Check below.

The Not Available ones are the ones you need to know. Just 4! Not so hard, eh?

Russian English Sound Russian English Sound
1 б B 11 н N
2 в V 12 п P
3 г G 13 р R
4 д D 14 с S
5 ж Not available 15 т T
6 з Z 16 ф F
7 й Not available 17 х H
8 к K 18 ц Not available
9 л L 19 ч Ch (like Chair)
10 м M 20 ш Sh (like Show)
21 щ Not available

Now, the Russian vowels. Granted, the English language doesn’t contain letters like “Ch” or “Sh” (see above) or “Eh” or “Yu” – see below – but you’re already capable of these sounds. Again, that’s why I said, we’re focusing on sounds. There’s only 1 vowel here that you need to learn.

Russian English Sound Russian English Sound
1 а A (Like Art) 6 я Ya (like Yard)
2 э Eh (Like Eh!) 7 е Ye (Like Yes)
3 ы Not available 8 ё Yo (Like Your)
4 у Oo/U (Like Moo) 9 ю Yu (Like You)
5 о O (Like Oh) 10 и I/Ee (Like See)

So thus far,  based on these charts, you need to learn:

  • ONLY 4 consonants of the 21
  • ONLY 1 vowel of the 10

And you can skip the rest because you already know them!

3) The Consonants & Vowels You Need To Learn

Again, let’s start with the consonants. You need to learn these.

  • ж – (Sounds like “Zh”)
  • й – This letter makes a sound similar to и (ee) but a bit shorter. It’s never alone and is always paired with a vowel. It makes the vowel end with a “y” sound.
    • Add it to A and it becomes AY (like Chai).
    • Add it to O and it becomes OY (like Toy)
    • йo becomes YO like in YOGURT
    • Add it to E and it becomes Yey (like Yay!)
    • to и and it becomes EEY
  • ц – Do you know the word Czar?
  • щ – Like Sh in Short or shirt.

And now, the one vowel you need to know!

  • ы
    • Many Russian learners cant pronounce this because there’s nothing like it.
    • How can you replicate it? It’s purely from the throat. Try saying “ew.” The “e” comes from the throat, right? Try saying “ew” in slow motion without finishing with the “W.” That’s somewhat close.Press play below:

 4. The Modifiers.

Most consonant sounds exist in pairs.

In each pair, there’s 1) the original sound and 2) the same sound with a Y (Ь) sound. Ь is called a “soft mark” and softens the consonant.

For example, see below. Let’s look at K and KЬ.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 1.24.09 AM

Nearly all consonants follow this pattern. So if you know the original sound…. and you do now,  you can figure out the other one, simply by adding that Y sound.

I will expand on this. I know, seeing one example isn’t enough on the modifiers. And you’ll need to practice these quite a bit.

However, you now have the basics of Russian pronunciation.

If you know the Alphabet, this is enough to get you going.

Stay tuned for more Russian pronunciation guides, tutorials and more!

The Main Junkie

P.S. Highly recommended for learners. If you REALLY want to learn Russian with effective lessons by real teachers – Sign up for free at RussianPod101 (click here) and start learning!

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