Learn Russian Pronunciation Podcast Ep. 1

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Hi, my name is Mark. Welcome to the podcast, Learn Russian Pronunciation. If you have any doubts about your ability to pronounce Russian clearly and easily, then you’ve come to the right place. In these podcasts, by carefully breaking down the speech of my native speaking assistants, I’m going to reduce your accent and greatly improve your Russian pronunciation. Those tricky consonants clusters, the rolled Russian R, voicing and devoicing, soft consonants and those strange Russian vowels….we’ll get you over all those hurdles and more. We’ll even get you developing your fluency, because that, too, is an important part of good pronunciation.

We’ll accomplish all this using modern language-learning techniques like consonant vowel separation, minimal pairs, “whisper vowels”, pattern recognition, and so on. All you have to do is follow along, and be sure to repeat out loud when prompted. Are you ready to get started? Try to repeat the following sound after the native speaker…


It’s spelled with three letters..the Russian D, A and L. And to my ear, it sounds very much like the English word “doll.” Listen again…


On a side note: Whenever I use English as a comparison, I’m referring to what I call American broadcaster English. So, I apologize to my U/K. listeners, and to my friends down under in Australia and New Zealand. Anyway, what was that sound again? – дал

Ok, now listen to this version of it…


Hmm. What’s going on there? Listen side by side. The first version…the second version…


If you have some experience with the Cyrillic alphabet, you might have guessed that we’ve added a soft-sign after the L. Let’s try a different combination. Here’s M-A-L


and now with a soft-sign after that L…




How are they getting that sound? Well, basically, as you pronounce that L, the middle of your tongue comes up to the roof of your mouth. When I do it, I kind of have to kind a half-smile. When I say the first one, мал ..my mouth barely has to move. But this one…маль…my tongue is moving. And my mouth has to open and make room. If you’re still having trouble, one way to kind of cheat is to say the word mile (M-I-L-E)

But cut the vowel very short, and again—put the middle of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. “mile” (маль)

Here…Let me play a clip from a Russian rap song. The singer’s name, in English, is Albina but in the song they call her Альбинка. And what’s cool is, the guy pronounces her name super slowly. You can just hear his tongue slooowly going up as he glides into the letter L. Check it out…

(song: Альбина Сафарова – История меня)

Let’s try another combination, this time using an O. We’ll do a B sound (as in ‘boy’), an O, and an L.


And now we’ll add that little soft-sign at the end, and listen?


Let’s try G-O-L…It is the word for goal, in Russian. Listen:


but put a soft-sign at the end…Голь

If we add an F sound at the very end, we get the Russian word for golf.


Let’s do all four of those pairs that we worked on. Again, the first one without the soft-sign, the second one, with.


Now, in each episode of this podcast we’ll be learning one new word or expression. So here’s the word that we’ll be learning today: мальчик

Do you hear that “softened L” in there? So not малчик…it’s: МАЛЬ-чик

I have to bring my tongue up to the roof of my mouth. So, what does that word mean? Well, instead of me just telling you the meaning, which is lazy teaching, let’s see if you can figure out the meaning from context: My wife and I have fraternal twins. Sophia is our little girl. And William is our мальчик.

Their babushka—their Russian grandmother—went with the standard color bias when the twins were born. “Give the pink blanket to the little girl,” she said, “and the blue blanket to the… мальчик.”

So мальчик is the Russian word for a boy.

Let’s do a little listening practice. So, we’re going to hear words that have the letter L in them, and I want you to tell me if there’s also that ‘soft-sign’ there. You ready?

угол – Nope

Надаль – Heard it

стол – Nope

зал – Nope

миндаль – Heard it

жаль – Heard it

Quick quiz: What was our new word for today? I’ll give you a hint: Sophia is our little girl, and William is our…мальчик.

Remember, this podcast is focused strictly on improving your pronunciation of Russian words. Each episode will be pretty short, so we can concentrate on one particular issue at a time. But if you’re looking for a podcast that will teach you to speak conversational Russian, please check out my free Russian Made Easy podcast. It’s on I-tunes RussianMadeEasy app and GooglePlay RussianMadeEasy app or you can go straight to the website and get it there…. RussianMadeEasy.com

Meanwhile, for a transcript of today’s episode and to download an audio of just the exercises we did today, then head over to RussianPronunciation.com

Before we go…What’s the Russian word for ‘boy’? Beings with an M….мальчик

Great job. See you in the next episode, where we’ll work on the rolled Russian R.