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Welcome to episode 2 of Learn Russian Pronunciation. Today we’ll tackle one of the biggest sticking points for students of Russian: The rolled R. We’ll start by repeating the following four words after the native speaker.
You probably noticed that those were all cognates. That is, they sound very much like their English counterparts. The first two were types of music. Rock and rap. Listen again…
The next two were locations. A bar, and the planet Mars.
To get a feel for the rolled R, try saying the word “udder.” Did you feel your tongue bounce off the roof of your mouth? That’s what a rolled R feels like. So, for practice, for that first one you could say: udder-ok. Now you can do the same with the word бар…Try: bah—udder…бар
Let’s try some Russian names that have an R in them:
And some place names. Can you guess these?
Рим is how Russians say Rome, but I’m not sure, really, why they changed that vowel.
Let’s take it up a notch. Here’s the Russian word for hamburger. Listen…
It’s one of those words…once I got it down, it’s all I ordered. I’d pop into a vegan cafe, everyone’s drinking wheat grass…”Эй, девушка! Гамбургер, пожалуйста.”
Now here’s another tough one. The Russian word for reporter. Listen:
That’s a tough one. There are three R’s there. ре…пор…тёр
Anyway, for our official new word of the day, let’s try this one: игрушка
That, to me, is so Russian!
Again, instead of me simply telling you what the word means, let’s see if you can figure out the meaning from context.
When I was a boy, my Han Solo action figure was my favorite игрушка.
My son William’s remote control car is his favorite игрушка. It’s all he plays with.
Tell me, as a kid, what was your favorite игрушка?
This is how your brain prefers to learn new words…by figuring out the meaning on its own, from context. Think about it. You know what an игрушка is, and I never actually told you. Here…Let’s try this. I’ll name objects and you call out whether it’s an игрушка or not. Ready?
a yo-yo – игрушка
watermelon – not an игрушка
Lego blocks – игрушка
a suitcase – not an игрушка
a Barbie doll – игрушка
A Hot Wheels car – игрушка.
Alright…Speaking of new words, do you recall the word we officially learned in the first episode?
Fill in the blank: My wife and I have three year old twins. Sophia is our little girl, and William is our….мальчик.
And what’s the Russian word for ‘toy’?
Getting back to our main topic, our rolled R, listen and repeat as our speakers pronounce the names of famous people, all of whom have at least one R in their name. Can you figure out who each person is?
Chris Pratt, Frank Sinatra, Ariana Grande, Brad Pitt, (phew, that one was tough): Roger Federer.
How about these brands? Repeat, and try to guess what they are:
Prada, Mercedes, Reebok, Pampers, Hummer
And if you get those vowels correctly, if you can avoid the temptation of saying (American accent) Pampers, and make it (Russian) Памперс…you’ll go a long way to reducing your accent in Russian.
Okay, one more list. Repeat these items and try to guess what they are…
television, guitar, computer, radio, tractor
Last quiz before we go. Substitute the two Russian words that we’ve learned in these episodes, into the following sentence:
When I was a ____ my favorite ____ was Lego.
When I was a мальчик my favorite игрушка was Lego.
Remember, if you’re looking to learn conversational Russian, and put your rapidly improving pronunciation chops to good use, then go check out my Russian Made Easy podcast. I think you’ll really like it. And in the meantime, I’ll see you in the next episode where we tackle Russian’s dreaded consonant clusters! See you there.