Learn Russian Pronunciation Podcast Ep. 7

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Welcome to episode 7 of Learn Russian Pronunciation. Today we’re going to learn a sneaky little trick, a pronunciation hack, I guess they’d call it, to help with a very common Russian word. I call it a whisper vowel. So here’s the word we’ll be focusing on today: нравится

It starts with an N – R combination. It’s very hard, for me, anyway, to jump from pure silence, directly into that N sound. So I add a whisper vowel in front of it. The sound “ih”.

Like this: ih-nravitsa.

It’s just for practice, so I can get a feel for the word. Then I alternate back and forth. Like this: ih-nravitsa…нравится….ih-nravitsa…нравится

What does the word mean? It’s very tempting just to tell you the translation, but again, that would be lazy teaching…and it’s not the best way for you to really grasp the word. These examples are gonna be a little awkward, but let’s just see what translation you come up with. So…This woman…

(audio clip)

I find her voice very mellifluous. I love listening to it. But this guy (annoying guy from Independence Day)…Ugh, his voice, to me, is not nravitsa.

Or this example: I find mushrooms disgusting. But onions, to me, are very nravitsa.

Tricky, isn’t it? Almost every course out there will translate нравится as “like”. That is:

I like pizza. – Мне нравится пицца.

And I am telling you, that is not correct. Because the word literally translates as “is pleasing.”

Pizza to me is pleasing.

Пицца мне нравится.

It’s much more commonly phrased this way: To me….is pleasing….whatever.

To me is pleasing soup.

Мне нравится суп.

Yes, if I’m interpreting for someone, of course I’ll use normal English and translate it as: I like soup.

But to speak Russian grammatically, you have to think the way they think. And with this verb, нравится…you’re not “liking” anything. It is the food—or whatever it is—that’s doing the action. The pizza is pleasing to you.

This is called Super-Literal Translation. It’s an absolutely vital step in trying to learn the language. So basically, here’s the process: I want to tell say: I like rice. But before saying anything in Russian, you have to think of the Super Literal way that Russians phrase that idea, which is: To me…is pleasing…rice. And that is the version that we then translate from: Мне….нравится…рис.

Again, this course is meant to focus on pronunciation issues, which is why I keep directing you my other, conversational courses like Russian Made Easy or my online video course, called Russian Accelerator. Because in those courses, I give you the SLT—the super literal translation—of every single phrase, training you to think in Russian. So be sure to check those out…but for now, let’s get back to our word of the day. Try to say: To me…is pleasing…football.

Мне нравится футбол.

I like basketball.

Мне нравится баскетбол.

Try not to pause between your words. Remember, that’s what fluency is all about. No pauses.

So not this: Мне. Нравится. Бокс. But instead…Мне-нравится-бокс…Like it’s one long word. Бокс by the way, is the sport of boxing.

Alright, let’s do some review. Ask your friend: Pavel was in the bank?

Павел был в банке?

Change Pavel to Maria.

Мария была в банке?

Did you add that ‘a’ to the end of the verb—была–because Maria is a woman? That was our big vowel from the last episode, right? Ы And do you remember the formal way to say “you” in Russian?


Good. And the version you’d use with friends?


Imagine that a man is about to introduce himself. Listen?

Меня зовут Игорь.

Repeat his name and add, Very pleasant.

Игорь? Очень приятно.

So let’s use that word очень…(which means “very.”) In normal English, I might say: I really like tennis. In Russian, they would would phrase that idea like this: To me very pleasing tennis. Listen…

Мне очень нравится теннис.

Try to say: I really like soccer. That is: To me very pleasing football.

Мне очень нравится футбол.

Remember, keep that sound flowing. No pauses, especially not between очень and нравится. If you want to pause for effect, you could do this: Мне…ОЧЕНЬ нравится.

Now the word очень ends with a soft-sign. So let’s compare. Let’s take away the soft-sign…

очен (that’s not a word in Russian)

And now, properly, with a soft-sign at the end: очень

Again, side by side: No soft-sign: очен

And with it…. очень

It’s almost like the first “n” in the word onion. (slowly) onion…There’s a nyeh sound. Listen again: очень

So, imagine you’re at a Russian friend’s house having dinner. What do you think she’s asking you:

Тебе нравится суп?

To you is leasing the soup? In other words, do you like the soup?

Say: Yes. Very. Да. Очень.

Let’s try that again. Тебе нравится салат?

To you is pleasing the salad?

Say: Yes. Very.

A little more review from earlier episodes. What’s the Russian word for ‘boy’?


And the word for ‘toy’?


And speaking of rolled R’s…How do you greet someone in the morning?

доброе утро

Quick question—answer this in Russian: What’s the capital of Italy?


And speaking of that city: The Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum, the Pantheon…those are just a few of the….what’s the word?


Say: I really like Rome. Lit: To me very pleasing Rome.

Мне очень нравится Рим.

I really like Berlin.

Мне очень нравится Берлин.

Alright. Keep up the great work, and I’ll see you in Episode #8.