ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION For Russian Speakers

English Pronunciation & Accent Exercises For Russian Speakers

Includes Audio files & Practice Recording Tools

Hi there, 

So, your first language is Russian and you want to improve your English accent and pronunciation. Is that right?

I recently put together this helpful page specifically for Russian speakers who are looking for English pronunciation training or accent reduction.

You’ll find out what the most difficult areas of English pronunciation are for Russian speakers and what areas affect English clarity the most. You’ll listen to other Russian speakers, record your own speech, compare it to a native speakers recording and more. 

This page gives you a little introduction into English pronunciation training and how to improve your English accent. Remember that to make real changes, most people need help from an expert and regular practise : )

What are the typical English Pronunciation problems for Russian Speakers? Many Russian speakers have difficulty pronouncing the English consonant sounds /w/,/v/, /r/ & ‘th’. Russian has a quarter of the vowels that English does so many English vowels are challenging. Word stress is often flatter and more even than an English native speaker.  

Top 8 English Pronunciation Problems For Russian Speakers

Over the past 15 years I’ve worked with hundreds of Russian speaking professionals to help them improve their English pronunciation skills. They wanted to speak English more clearly so listeners could understand them easily. Some where already clear and wanted to sound more like a local. 

The 8 areas below are typical problem areas for Russian speakers. Some of these are relatively straight forward and easy for them to correct and some were very challenging and took a lot of dedicated, systematic training and practice. 

Use the questions in the checklist below to check these areas in your English pronunciation.

You might not have realised if you’re making these errors or not. That’s OK. It takes time to become aware of your pronunciation and to get control of your mouth and muscles.

The recording tools below will help you with becoming more aware of your problem areas. 

Record your own speech to check for errors further down the page!


The Top 8 Problem Areas For Russian Speakers And Checklist:

1. Consonants /w/ and /v/            

Check: Are you making /w/ & /v/correctly? Many Russian Speakers confuse these two sounds because they aren’t clearly distinguished between in Russian. 

2. Vowel /oʊ/ like in ‘note’       

Do you pronounce ‘note’ more like ‘not’ or ‘nought’? Russian only has 5 or 6 vowels. English has 20! This means that Russians often mispronounce some English double vowels like/oʊ/. 

3. Vowel ‘er’ /ɜː/ like in ‘hurt’  and /æ/ like in ‘hat’  

Do you distinguish correctly between the vowels in ‘hut’, ‘hurt’, ‘hat’ and ‘heart’? Russian speakers tend to slot in Russian vowels which results in mispronunciation of these vowels. 

4. Voicing. Many Russian speakers add voice to the sound /p/ so it sounds more like /b/.    

Do you pronounce /p/ like in ‘pig’ more like /b/ like in ‘big’? In English the sounds /p/, /t/ and /k/ are very light, without voice and with a little puff of air. Russian speakers often make /t/ and /k/ slightly voiced too.  

5. Word stress                               

Do you feel like the pitch and rhythm of your English is flatter than a native speakers? Each multi-syllable word in English has 1 stressed syllable. Using word stress makes words easy for your listeners to recognise and makes the ‘rhythm’ English.  

6. Weak vowels                           

Many Russian speakers make strong vowels in English words where there should be a weak vowel.  For example in the words ‘today’ and ‘complete’ – the letter ‘o’ is pronounced as a weak vowel but many Russian speakers pronounce it as a full ‘o’ vowel. The letter ‘o’ in ‘today’ and ‘complete’ is weak, more like ‘uh’, so it’s /təˈdeɪ/ (listen here) and /kəmˈpliːt/ (listen here).

7. Strong /r/ sound. 

Are you making a Russian trilled or tapped /r/ sound in English words? English /r/ is very different to Russian /r/. In English the tongue tip is slightly curled but it doesn’t touch the roof of the mouth and there is no friction created for the sound.  Doing this doesn’t affect how clear your English is – so it’s not important to change if your goal is to develop clearer English. 

If your goal is to speak more like a native English speaker, then this is one you will want to change, especially if you are aiming for British or Australian English. 

In British and  Australian English, we only pronounce /r/ when it is before a vowel sound.  For example, we don’t pronounce /r/ in ‘cart’ and we do pronounce /r/ in ‘carrot’. So if you have a strong /r/ and you are pronouncing it in all words that have the letter /r/, these words can sound very different to a local. 

8. Consonant sound ‘th’.                        

Do you sometimes use /s/ or /z/ instead of ‘th’? For example you might say ‘sink’ instead of ‘think’. There are no ‘th’ sounds in Russian, so many Russian speakers use /s/ for unvoiced ‘th’ and /z/ for voiced ‘th’. 

Doing this doesn’t affect how clear your English is – so it’s not important to change if your goal is to develop clearer English. If your goal is to sound more like a native English speaking and reduce your accent, then ‘th’ is important to change because ‘th’ is one of the most common sounds in English.

Scroll down to LISTEN & RECORD!

Record Your Speech & Listen To Russian Speakers 

Let’s start by looking more closely at the sound /v/, the diphthong vowel /oʊ/ & word stress. 

1. Read about the problem in the grey box. 

2. In the blue box, listen to the Russian speaker. Can you hear the error?

3. Listen to the English speaker. Compare the Russian speaker and the English speaker. 

4. Try it yourself! Record your speech using the voice recorder. Play to listen. Are you making the sound incorrectly or correctly?  

Changing pronunciation takes time. This exercise will help you become more aware of what your problem areas are.

Correcting pronunciation and improving your English accent can be made easier with specialised training. For training specifically for Russian speakers, that guides you through correcting all these problem areas check out our award winning English Pronunciation Course for Russian Speakers.  

 

The English Consonant /v/  

Many Russian speakers confuse /v/ and /w/ in some words.  For example they might pronounce the word ‘video’ as ‘wideo’ or  ‘avoid’ as ‘awoid’.  

What do Russian speakers do wrong? 
The image below shows the correct mouth position for the sound /v/ in English. 

Did you know that /f/ and /v/ have exactly the same mouth position? The only difference is that /v/ has voice and /f/ has no voice.  

For /v/ and /f/ the bottom lip lightly touches the top teeth and the air comes gently in between. There is a friction sound as the air passes through. 

Every /v/ letter in English makes this /v/ sound. 

The English Consonant /v/: 

The English Consonant /w/  
The image below shows how /w/ is pronounced. The lips are rounded.   

YOU NEED TO CHECK THAT:

When you make /v/ you are not rounding the lips for /w/. The bottom lip should lightly touch the top teeth with the air coming between.

For systematic training to master /v/ and /w/ enrol in our English Pronunciation Course for Russian Speakers.  

 

Making /v/ in ‘service’ & ‘avoid’

Can you hear that the Russian speakers use /w/ instead of /v/? They don’t make the friction sound for /v/. They have their lips rounded which makes /w/ instead of /v/. 

Now listen to the native speaker. Can you hear friction sound for /v/? 

The English Vowel //  

There are about 4 times more vowel sounds in English than Russian. English has 3 types of vowels: short vowels, long vowels & double / diphthong vowels.

Many Russian speakers pronounce the double vowel /oʊ/ as a single vowel instead of a double vowel.

For instance, a Russian student pronounces ‘coat’ more like ‘caught’ or ‘cot’ and pronounce ‘note’ more like ‘nought’ or ‘not’. 

What do Russian speakers do wrong? 
The double vowel /oʊ/ has two mouth positions. See these in the image below – /o/ and then /ʊ/ smoothly joined together. 

See the two vowels in the // diphthong below: 

YOU NEED TO CHECK THAT:
You need to check that you are making a double vowel for /oʊ/not a single vowel. 

Many Russian speakers mispronounce /oʊ/ because the spelling of English words is confusing. The way English words are spelled doesn’t tell us the pronunciation. This makes it difficult to know when to make /oʊ/. 

Russian speakers often miss /oʊ/ in words like:

cope /koʊp/
won’t /woʊnt/
most /moʊst/
global /ˈɡloʊ.bəl/
focus /ˈfoʊ.kəs/
both /boʊθ/

Correct/oʊ/ and the other English vowels that are challenging for Russian speakers with our English Pronunciation Course for Russian Speakers.  

 

Practise //

// in ‘won’t’ &
‘We spoke on the phone’

Listen to the Russian speaker saying the word ‘won’t’. There’s a problem! It sounds like they are saying ‘want’ because they use a single vowel instead of a double vowel.   

Also, listen to // in ‘spoke’ and ‘phone’. Can you hear a single or double vowel? 

Now listen to the native speaker. Can you hear they make two vowels for /oʊ/. 
won’t – double vowel  – /woʊnt/
want – single vowel – /wɒnt/ or /wɑːnt/

And Don’t Forget About Word Stress! It’s Important For Russian Speakers. 

Do you ever feel like your English sounds a bit flat or monotone? 

Many Russian speakers say this to me. Even some who have been here for many, many years. They say, I just don’t know how and where to put the stress. It feels so strange and unnatural to me. 

I find many Russian speakers haven’t realised that the stress they use affects how easily other people understand their English. They have realised that other people use more word stress and that it gives feeling to their English, but they haven’t realised it’s importance for clarity.

Research shows that the emphasis and rhythm has a HUGE effect on how clear your English is to listeners. English listeners rely on the pitch and emphasis in a word to recognise. If it’s different to what they expect, they won’t instantly recognise it.  Flat or incorrect word stress means that your English is very likely to be unclear. 

Every multi-syllable word in English has one stressed syllable. That syllable is slightly higher in pitch and has more emphasis than the other syllables. 

Many Russian speakers use word stress and rhythm in English that’s much flatter than a native speaker. 

This is because Russian has a very different ‘rhythm’ or ‘music’ to English. Watch the video below to find out how it’s different. 

Let’s reverse the situation! When English speakers speak Russian, many Russian speakers note that English speakers uses quite a lot of pitch change. They put emphasis and stresses on parts of Russian words that shouldn’t have it. That’s because they are transferring the ‘music’ and rhythm of English into their Russian. It’s hard for English native speakers to get the flatter and more even rhythm of Russian right :  )

Some Russian speakers pick up the stress and rhythm of English very quickly. Usually these are people who have learnt musical instruments or had singing lessons and they are good at hearing pitch and rhythm. Some people are just really talented at picking up languages. 

For many people, learning word stress and rhythm in English is very challenging.

Another factor that makes it challenging is that you can’t tell where the stress should be the spelling of the word. It can be on any syllable.  

Russian speakers! Start improving your word stress today here! 

Word Stress in English 

Every multi-syllable word in English has one stressed syllable. That syllable is slightly higher in pitch and has more emphasis than the other syllables.  

What do Russian speakers do wrong? 
Many Russian speakers use word stress that is too flat in pitch or sometime they put the stress on the wrong syllable in English words. 

The stress pattern in Russian is very different to English. Many Russian speakers bring the flat, even rhythm and tone of Russian into their English. They use a flatter, more even pitch and give all syllables a similar amount of stress. 

This means that their English listeners have to work harder to understand and recognise the words that they say.  Flat stress or incorrect stress make English unclear.  

TO IMPROVE YOU SHOULD:

Listen for the ‘up’ and ‘down’ of the voice when other people are speaking AND listen to it in your own English. 

It may take a week or so for you to be able to hear it but the more you try, the better you will get at it. 

Start to open your ears to stress and emphasis. 

For multi-syllable words, take a moment to think about which syllable should be stressed.

Master word stress and emphasis for clear and effective English with our English Pronunciation Course for Russian Speakers.  

 

Practise English Word Stress

report, suburb
mistake, cooperate

Watch the video below to hear examples of Russian speakers using incorrect and flat word stress.

Listen to the native speaker saying the words – report, suburb, mistake, cooperate. Record it yourself while focusing on the pitch / tone of the voice. Pay attention to the one stressed syllable in each word. It’s a little higher and then the other lower,  weaker syllables.  

What Next? How To Keep Improving!

Remember it takes time and effort to learn new sounds. There are a few steps involved as you need to learn to hear them and make them!

We are changing habits that have been in place since you started speaking English! So be patient, start listening to yourself and others more carefully. 

Our English Pronunciation Course for Russian speakers systematically guides you through correcting all these areas and more, making your English clear and easy for listeners to understand. We give you lots of practise in real life conversations to make sure you succeed in transferring your new skills to your every day speaking. 

Contact us to have a chat about your English pronunciation and what you hope to achieve. Fill out the form below, chat with us on our website, email us [email protected] or call us on +61 411 295 828. 

In the meantime, to continue improving- over the next few days, focus on paying more attention to the sounds you make when you speak English.

Here’s some things that you can do to move forward. 

2. When pronouncing the English consonant /v/ check you are not rounding your lips. The bottom lip should lightly touch the top teeth with the air coming between.

3. When pronouncing the English vowel /oʊ/ you need to check that you are making a double vowel  – which is /o/ and then /ʊ/ joined together – and not a single vowel. 

4. For improving your Word Stress in English you need to start to listen for the ‘up’ and ‘down’ of the voice when other native speakers are speaking. AND listen to it in your own English.  

For help with English vowel sounds and consonant sounds visit our Recording Tool – English Vowels & Consonants page. You can record all the sounds in English and compare them with a native English speaker. It’s a great way for Russian students to become familiar and practice all the sounds in English. 

Why Russian Speakers Get Great Results!


Russian speakers are among some of my most disciplined and successful students. I have found Russian speakers to be systematic in their approach to fixing problems and that helps a lot with English pronunciation and accent training. 

As well as being lovely people, they put in the practise needed to get the job done.

I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of Russian speaking professionals and students, based in the UK, the US, Australia and around the world.

Many have been working in the IT, Engineering and finance industries. They’ve enrolled in Speech Active training for Russian speakers to speak better, clearer English. They want to feel more confident with their spoken English and pronunciation. 

See comments from Russian professionals who have taken our English Pronunciation & Accent Reduction Course below.  

“When I just arrived to Australia my English was not really good. However, after studying here for a number of years many areas of my English such as writing, listening, grammar, vocabulary and so on have been improved significantly.

The only one thing that was holding me down was the pronunciation and I thought there is no way to improve it. I tried not paying attention to it but it was getting more and more annoying that people can’t understand me easily. In addition, I knew that the time to start searching for a job is coming soon. Thus, one day I’ve decided that I want to improve my pronunciation. Only in a couple of weeks later I have randomly discovered this course.

Now I speak a way more confidently, feel more confident making the phone calls and in general enjoy speaking English much more. I’m not afraid of a job interview any more. I know that there is still a lot to learn and improve about my pronunciation, but I actually enjoy doing it.

The course is organised in a very positive and well-structured way. I’m happy that I have discovered it and I think it would be great if everyone who wants to improve their pronunciation could have an opportunity to conduct this course!


Sofya
PhD in Mathematical Modelling 
Australia

Would You Like More Help With Your English Pronunciation? 


Please contact us to talk about your English speaking goals and how we can help you improve your English accent and pronunciation skills and your spoken English. 

You can chat with us with our chat tool on our website, email us at [email protected] or fill out the contact form below or call us on +61 411 295 828. 

We look forward to hearing from you. 

If you are ready to get serious about improving your English pronunciation you can enrol in our online course and get started straight away. 

Start Improving Today With Speech Active's Course For Russian Speakers


Russian Speakers, Thank You For Reading : ) 

We hope you’ve found this page helpful to become familiar with some of the areas of English pronunciation that Russian speakers find challenging.

Whether you’re looking for accent training, accent reduction training or English pronunciation training, this page is a good place to start improving your awareness of pronunciation problems for Russian speakers. 

We look forward to hearing from you. 

If you would like to know more about our training for Russian speaking students, please fill out the form below and we will get in touch with you. 

Thanks and enjoy your day. 

Georgie

Founder of Speech Active  

 

Please Contact Me to Discuss English Pronunciation Training for Russian Speakers

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