Learn Russian Pronunciation Podcast Ep. 8

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Welcome to episode 8. Today we’re going to work with this letter: Х …which, on paper, looks like an X. It’s similar to that sound we make when we don’t like some food. эххх (yuch)

When importing words from other languages, Russian sometimes use Х in place of a “ch” sound.

So, “choir” becomes: хор

And “character” – like, he’s got a nice character – becomes: характер

But more often, they use it in place of the English ‘h’. For example, Halloween becomes:

Хэллоуин

Hooligan becomes хулиган

A hit, in the sense of a hit song, is: хит (Remember, Russians don’t have an “ih”, so that vowel becomes an “ee.”)

The Hulk becomes: Халк…and so on.

One of the most common Russian words with this sound is: хорошо

If you’ve been at Russian for a while, you’ve likely encountered that word, but here it is in context, just in case. Imagine that you were just riding an amazing roller coaster. “How was it?” your Russian friend asks. And you say…

“Очень хорошо!”

Hey, how was the new Terminator movie?

“Очень хорошо!”

So in that context, хорошо translates as good.

But it’s also used to agree with some proposal. For ex: “Hey Mark, wanna shoot some hoops?”

“Хорошо. Let me just put sneakers on.”

“Alright. Be outside in five minutes and I’ll pick you up.”

“Хорошо.”

So here it translates as, “Ok, sure”.

I never found it too hard to pronounce that letter when it was the start of a word. But for some reason it’s a little tougher when it’s in the middle. For example, the word Manhattan in Russian is pronounced: Манхэттен

Or this word: сахар. …which is Russian for ‘sugar’… (a word they took from German.)

Try to say: I like sugar. Lit: To me is pleasing sugar.

Мне нравится сахар.

Another word where X is in the middle is: нахал. It’s kind of a bad word. Like, “Man, I hate that guy! He’s such a нахал!” Usually translates as jerk.

Oddly, Russians decided to use the Х sound when pronouncing the state of Texas. Odd, because they could sound it out much more accurately with other letters: (Т-Э-К-С-А-С.) But instead, they used х for the English X. Listen: Техас.

It’s almost as if someone just looked at the word and decided, “Okay, this is how we’re gonna spell it.” As opposed to listening.

So try to say: Olga was in Texas.

Ольга была в Техасе.

Or this: Houston is located in Texas.

Хьюстон находится в Техасе.

The official word I’d like to teach you today is actually a two word phrase: Я хочу

Again, you’ve probably encountered that phrase elsewhere, but having taught thousands of people Russian over the years, I can say it seems pretty hard for some students to pronounce. They either don’t say it strongly enough….basically turning it into an (English) H…Ya hochu.

Or they hit it way too hard: Я хочу (aggressive X)

Remember earlier, how my friend invited me to play hoops? Imagine afterwards, I mention I’m thirsty. He opens his fridge: “I’ve got Sprite and Pepsi.”

So I say…”Я хочу Спрайт.”

“Хорошо.” (soda can pops open) “На,”…he says, handing me the can.

So, я хочу translates as I want. Try to say: I want sugar.

Я хочу сахар.

I want ketchup.

Я хочу кетчуп.

Mind you, it’s pretty rude—in any language—to phrase things this way. But we’re just practicing our new construction.

To ask a friend if they want something, we need a different form of the verb—what’s known as a conjugation. Listen:

Хочешь?

You want?

Mark, want soup?

Марк, хочешь суп?

Хорошо.

You try it. Say: Irina, want a hamburger?

Ирина, хочешь гамбургер?

Pavel, want a hotdog?

Павел, хочешь хот-дог?

Say: I want a salad.

Я хочу салат.

I want borscht….(which is a soup made from beets and potatoes.)

Я хочу борщ.

Let’s end with some review. You’ve just arrived to St. Petersburg and your friend asks what you’d like to see. With one word, say: the main tourist sites.

достопримечательности

How do you greet someone in the morning?

доброе утро

And how might you part ways with a friend?

до встречи…Which literally means? Until the meeting

Let’s say you’re talking about holidays. Try to say: I like Halloween.

Мне нравится Хэллоуин.

In a bar, your friend is offering to buy you a beer. Tell him: I want a Heineken.

Я хочу Хайнекен.

Turns out, the bar is out of beer, so how does your friend ask: Want a Pepsi?

Хочешь Пепси?

Okay.

Хорошо.

If you got most of those, you’re doing great. Hopefully you’re feeling more confident about your Russian pronunciation. And if so, I encourage you to check out my video-based course, called Russian Accelerator. And in the meantime, I’ll see you in the next episode.

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