Learn Russian Pronunciation Podcast Ep. 13

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Welcome to episode 13. Today we’ll be working with the letter Ж. In English I’d sound it out with the letters ‘ZH’. Let’s start by learning some common Russian words that have that sound, putting them—as always—in context. Ready?

Imagine you’re in a doctor’s office and on the coffee table you see: VOGUE, Popular Mechanics, Cosmopolitan…Each of those is a журнал.

Next word: With its seven foot neck, the tallest animal on Earth is the жираф.

In these next ones, listen to how Ж becomes devoiced when it’s the final letter. We know that pattern, right? So: Once a week I treat myself to a Swedish…массаж.

Hear that? Devoiced, it sounds like the letter “Ш”. Here’s another example…

The standard American home has three bedrooms and a two-car гараж.

Let’s try those again:

Newsweek is my favorite … журнал

The tallest animal on Earth is the … жираф.

After a hard workout I like to get a full-body….массаж

I park my car in a …. гараж

Being cognates, those four words are all pretty easy to absorb. But now let’s try two purely Russian words. Can you figure them out?

Kevin and Sara are married. When Kevin introduces Sara to new acquaintances, he says, “This is Sara, my жена. And when Sara is the one making introductions, she says, “This is Kevin, my муж.”

What were those two words again?

муж

жена

Do you recall, back in Episode 6, we learned how to say: I was in the bank.

Я был в банке.

And a woman would phrase that…

Я была в банке.

So try to say: My husband was in Boston. Sidenote: Russians will leave off the word “my” because it’s understood. So for now let’s just say: Husband was in Boston.

Муж был в Бостоне.

How about: My husband was in the bank.

Муж был в банке.

My wife was in London.

Жена была в Лондоне.

Or try: My wife was in the theater.

Жена была в театре.

You might be wondering why we say ‘в банке’. Why is there that ‘yeh’ sound at the end? That’s a great question, but it’s beyond the scope of a pronunciation course. But I will tell you, it’s the very first topic we cover in my Understanding Spoken Russian podcast. By the end of Episode #1 you’ll be a master of what’s known as the prepositional case in Russian.

Meanwhile…Let’s review some of our recent vocabulary using the ‘I want’ construction. Try to say…

I want a flower.

Я хочу цветок.

I want eggs.

Я хочу яйца.

I want beet and potato soup.

Я хочу борщ.

I want cabbage soup.

Я хочу щи.

I want shishkabob.

Я хочу шашлык.

Now ask your friend: Want a magazine?

Хочешь журнал?

Want a massage?

Хочешь массаж?

Again, it’s not “massaZH” in Russian, but “massash”. Devoiced.

When we hear an unfamiliar word for the first time, it can be hard to guess what that last letter is. Tell me, what’s the final letter in the following words…

род

It wasn’t a ‘T’, but actually a Д that was devoiced. Next…

жив

Not an ‘F’ at the end but a ‘V’ devoiced

круиз

Not an ‘S’ at the end but a devoiced Z.

грабёж

Not a Ш but today’s letter Ж devoiced.

But do you know what I do? I just ask. Like, with that last one, грабёж…I’d ask Это грабёш, или грабёЖ?

Speaking of voiced and devoiced variants, let’s look again at our new words from this lesson. Fill in the blanks.

During the marriage ceremony, the minister asks: “Kevin, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded…жена?”

“And Sara, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded…муж?”

So жена is our example for the voiced version of Ж…and муж has our devoiced version because it comes at the end of the word.

Let’s try two more words that contain ж.

жизнь

What does it mean? My grandfather died at the age of 97. He lived a long and happy жизнь.

And this word: хожу

My son Andrei loves to tell people, “I хожу to pre-school every day.”

Use those two words to fill in the blanks here…

Imagine an angry teenager: It’s my ____, let me live it the way I want.

It’s my…life. (жизнь)

Every day after work, I ____ to the gym.

I go…Я хожу…

You don’t really need to remember those, but I wanted to share them with you because we’ll soon be learning the chorus to a Russian song, and these words are in it. So I wanted you to have some experience with them before we got there. Let’s end with some review:

Newsweek is my favorite…журнал

The tallest animal on Earth is the жираф.

After a hard workout I like to get a Swedish….массаж

I always park my car in the …. гараж

What’s the Russian word for husband? And for wife? How do you say ‘life’ in Russian? And ‘go’, as in, I go to school.

Alright. Great job. Check out my Understanding Spoken Russian podcast, and I’ll see you in the next episode.

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