English Pronunciation for Russian Speakers: Part Two

There are a number of vowels in English that do not exist in Russian such as the [æ] sound so often Russian speakers pronounce it as [ε]. For example "black" becomes " blεck". To pronounce the [æ] vowel, drop your jaw and lift the back of your tongue to form a sound like a goat: [æ].

These exercises will help you: http://rachelsenglish.com/videos/sounds/vowels/aa-as-in-bat

Further, the letter [a] represents the [ä] sound in Russian. Keep in mind that English has six different ways of saying the letter [a]. Also see: http://teflpedia.com/Decodingtheletter_A

Russian spelling rules can lead to problems in English with the pronunciation of vowels. English students whose native language is Russian tend to pronounce the letter [o] as in Rob like Robe instead of Rääb. It is important to remember that the letter [o] is pronounced as /ah/ here like in Raaab, a sound that already exists in Russian. Just say it with the Russian accent. That does the trick. Use that as a reference point when you want to pronounce words like: mall, biography, song, problem and so on.

Sometimes you may pronounce the letter /o/ as [ä] when it really should sound like an [o], as in only, both, and most which are also exceptions to the English spelling rules. Pronounce /o/ as a round [o] here as in rose. This is also true for words like home, coal, role etc.

Russians tend to pronounce the schwa sound (more about that important sound here: http://rachelsenglish.com/english-pronounce-schwa/) as [ä]. That might make you sound overly gloomy like a vampire who is trying to sound intimidating. The schwa sound exists in Russian. It is pronounced like the final sound in spasiba [sp'sibə] not [sp'sibä]. Just like in Russian, the schwa sound is an unstressed syllable and is completely neutral.

Making a distinction between dynamic/long and basic/short vowels is hard. For example, in English, the [u] sound can be spelled as /oo/ or /ou/ whereas the vowel [ü] should be pronounced closer to [i] or [uh]. Don't overdo the pronunciation of book and could. The vowels here should not sound like booook and coooold. They should be closer to a short vowel.

Another important distinction is the difference between /ee/ and /í/ as in seat and sit or leave and live. These English vowels are often pronounced with the [y] by Russian speakers as in lhiv and lyiv. Thus, the dynamic vowel in leave gets underpronounced while the latter gets overpronounced. Also, tone down the middle [i] in multisyllabic words as in similar [sim'lr]. Do not pronounce it as [see-mee-lär]. Also, do not pronounce the final /y/ as a short /i/ so that, for example, the words very silly sound like verə sillə. Make the final vowel longer like this: vereee funneee.

Marike Korn