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.
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
‘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’ .
‘lea-st’ not ‘last’,
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
‘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’
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
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
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
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’
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.
The American ‘L’ is often mispronounced by Russian speakers. In Russian there are two different ‘L’s. There is the ‘dark L’.
‘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’,
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’ ,
‘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’.
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’,
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’,
‘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
‘you’. So, it’s it’s as if I’m adding a ‘w’ sound at the end. ‘Two’,
Okay, that’s the tense ‘uw’. The relaxed ‘u’ is somewhere between ‘u’, and ‘o’ and ‘a’.
‘Cook’, ‘look’. Imagine like you have a hot potato in the back of your mouth.
‘book’, ‘facebook’, not ‘faceбук’, ‘facebook’, ‘book’.
‘Push’, ‘look’. And then we have some pears like ‘pool-pull’,
‘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’.
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’.
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
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’
‘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
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
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.
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!
Russian speakers, Clarity is Confidence!
download the FREE pronunciation guide for Russian speakers.Get it
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 speakers
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.