10 Pronunciation Mistakes Russian Speakers Make

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In this video, you’ll learn what the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes are for Russian speakers, how to pronounce the sounds correctly, and how to practice your American accent effectively.

Pronunciation mistakes happen when a sound in the target language, in this case, English, doesn’t exist in the speaker’s native tongue (Russian). When this happens, speakers tend to pronounce a different (but somewhat similar) sound that does exist in their language.
Or Slightly mispronounce the sound in English, not knowing what exactly they need to do to pronounce it accurately.

Scroll down to read about each mistake and to download the FREE English Pronunciation guide for Russian Speakers.

Get a head start and download the English Pronunciation guide for Russian speakers

A FREE guide with the 10 most common pronunciation mistakes explained, tips to improve, examples and additional practice resources!

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Mistake #1: Mispronouncing the /æ/ as in ‘cat’

The /a/ as in ‘cat’ is a front open vowel sound and since it doesn’t exist in Russian, it’s usually substituted with the /eh/ as in ‘red’. This substitution happens when you don’t open your mouth enough and keep the tongue arch high in the mouth.

To learn how to improve and practice the a as in ‘cat’ download the FREE pronunciation guide for Russian speakers

Mistake #2: Misplacing the primary stress

The primary stress is probably the most important element in pronunciation and is essential for clarity. It is the most dominant syllable in the word, and it is longer, louder, and higher in pitch. Sometimes, speakers tend to misplace the primary stress, and stress a different syllable in the word instead, what makes the word unclear.

Mistake #3: oʊ as in ‘go’

The ow as in ‘go’ is pronounced as ‘aw’.
In English the ow as in ‘go’ is a long diphthong: a long, changing vowel from /o/ to /w/. Russian speakers may pronounce only ‘half’ of the sound, dropping the second part, the /w/.

To learn how to improve and practice the oʊ as in ‘go’ download the FREE pronunciation guide for Russian speakers

Mistake #4: w and v are confused

Since there’s no /w/ in Russian, whenever a /w/ appears in English it is sometimes replaced with a /v/ consonant sound – that does exist in Russian. OR, the speaker overapplies the v and replaces the /v/ with a /w/.

To learn how to improve and practice the /w/ and /v/ download the FREE pronunciation guide for Russian speakers

Mistake #5: The H

The letter H is pronounced as a velar fricative as the back of the tongue is high and close to the soft palate just like the x as in Хорошо. In English, however, the back of the tongue is low, and the H is soft and sounds like a whisper.

Mistake #6: The L

Sometimes the L in English is mispronounced by Russian speakers.
In English, there are two types of L’s: light L (before vowels) and a dark L (before consonants and at the end of the word)
In Russian, there are two types of L as well. The hard L (as in ‘лак’) is just like the dark L in English.
The problem is that Russian speakers tend to apply this L in all positions, not only before a consonant but also before vowels when it’s supposed to be a light L. Which makes the speaker sound a little ‘heavy’

To learn how to improve and practice the /L/ download the FREE pronunciation guide for Russian speakerss

Mistake #7: Sheep-ship

These two different vowels are often pronounced with the same neutral vowel sound causing different words to sound the same.

To learn how to improve and practice the sheep-ship vowel pair
click to download the FREE pronunciation guide for Russian speakers

Mistake #8: Pool-PULL

These two different vowels are often pronounced with the same neutral vowel sound causing different words to sound the same.

Mistake #9: The AMerican R

The American R is replaced with a Russian R
The Russian R and American R are pronounced differently.
In Russian, the tip of the tongue trills against the upper palate.
For the R in English, the tip of the tongue doesn’t touch the upper palate, but curls back a bit as the lips round (click to watch a video tutorial about the R).
Russian speakers often pronounce the American R as they would pronounce the Russian R, bringing the tip of the tongue to touch the upper palate.

To learn how to improve and practice the American R download the FREE pronunciation guide for Russian speakers

Mistake #10: The TH

The /th/ consonant sound is substituted with /t/ or /d/ or alternatively with /s/ or /z/.
For the TH, the tongue has to stick out from between the teeth.
Since Russian speakers don’t have the TH consonant sound in their language,
they tend to keep the tongue inside for words with TH.
It is a common mispronunciation and sometimes will result in pronouncing different words the same.

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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.

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7 Comments on “10 Pronunciation Mistakes Russian Speakers Make”

  1. This is just what I’m looking for! I am a volunteer tutor for a Russian couple. They have a large English vocabulary but want work on pronunciation. We’ve worked on many of these sounds. Fabulous resource for me!

  2. Great video! Although I’m not Russian, I make majority of these mistakes to the point that people ask me if I’m Russian! Very helpful. Awesome work as always!

  3. Dear Hadar , I’ve gone through this video A couple of times , & will do so in future too . l shall really be benefited out of this video as of your other . Thanks for sending me this in my e -mail but I got this video in you tube befor getting here as I always try to get my teacher Hadar in every teaching portal specially in you tube . God knows , how much I shall be able to change my rotten English to real one with your superb help . any way thank you very much .

  4. Hi dear Hadar, I thank you for sending me this class.
    But I from Brazil, however I have been learning a lot about your way to teaching English. Really my goal is to get fluency in English, so and you have been helping me with this videos. Thanks so much.

  5. Hi Hadar! I really like your videos, so whenever I get chance I watch the video. Helping others is a big reward in this world and judgment day too that my heart say for you. Ameen!

  6. Dear Hadar ! Thank you very much for the superb video ! I learned a lot from it.
    As far as the Russian language is concerned I’m a bit ambivalent. Although I know that it is a beautiful language (as all the other languages, too) I don’t speak a word in Russian. When I attended the primary school in the nineteen fifties I started to learn the German in the school. Soon I became quite good in this language. Than came the Stalinist dictator, Rakosi’s rise to power (the Russian army was still deployed in Hungary) and teaching of any foreign language became forbidden and occasionally punished. Exclusively the teaching of Russian language became permitted and forced. That was difficult because there weren’t enough language teachers in the country who spoke the Russian.
    I felt, as a 15 years old kid forced to change from learning a foreign language in which I started to be good to a new one, if I had been subjected to a linguistic rape. I was simply unable to memorize the new language. I became perfectly inhibited.
    Today, I would like to learn the Russian. It is the language of Tolstoy and Dostoievsky my favorite novelists. But I feel being at 84 it would be a bit difficult.

  7. Many thanks for your videos! Very interesting to listen to. I will work to eliminate the errors you indicated!

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