Accent Reduction and Communication Skills Training
Common Mispronunciations for Russian Speakers
With Russian being your native language, you are used to pronouncing sounds more harshly than American English sounds.American English sounds tend to be light and pronounced more quietly. Here are a few of the sounds that you may be having a difficult time pronouncing in American English.
1. The “t” and “d” sounds are pronounced with the tongue too far forward The Russian “t” and “d” sounds are usually pronounced with the tongue tip flat on the ridge (flat part behind the upper front teeth) pushing against the back of the upper front teeth.This creates a “heavier” sound than the American English “t” and “d” sounds. The “d” sound will sound thicker or heavier, while the “t” sound will sound similar to the American English “d.”
The American English "t" and "d" sounds are both formed by placing the tip of the tongue behind your upper front teeth, but not touching them. Using just the tip of the tongue makes the sounds lighter. Begin by placing the tip of your tongue behind your teeth, hold your breath, then force the sound out.
The only difference between these two sounds is in what we call "voicing." Your vocal cords in your throat make your voice; when you talk, they vibrate, and when you breathe out, they don't. When you say the "t" sound, you don't use your voice. This means that you are only pushing air out because your vocal cords in your throat are not vibrating. If you place your hand on your throat when you say the "t" sound, you should not feel any vibratioin and you should not hear your voice. The only thing you should hear is a puff of air as you force out the "t" sound. The "d" sound uses your voice. If you place your hand on your throat when you say this sound, you will feel it vibrate.
The word “to” will sound like “do” The word “tell” will sound like “dell”
2. The “w” and “v” sounds are often interchanged Right now you are most likely pronouncing the American English "w" like "v" and the "v" like "w."
To form the American English “w”, round your lips in a tight circle as you push them in front of your front teeth. If you say "oo-wuh", this will give you a good "w" sound.
For the “v”, keep your lips flat and lightly bite your lower lip. You'll feel your lower lip vibrate as you pronounce this sound.
The word “wet” will sound like “vet” The word “over” will sound like “ower”
3. The “r” sound is rolled The Russian “r” is very different from the American “r” sound.In your native language, you pronounce it by what we call “rolling” it.This means that you lightly place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth and let it quickly hit it.It may hit it once or several times.
To pronounce the American English “r” sound you begin by making a slight circle with your lips.As you do this, your lower jaw automatically pushes forward a bit.Then, pull your tongue high in the back of your mouth.It is actually the middle of your tongue that is high in your mouth.You should feel the front part of your tongue go down and then back up, so that the tip of it is curled and pointing up.Make sure that it does not touch the roof of your mouth.Try saying “er” to make the “r” sound.
"t" sound "d" sound
The "t" sound is formed by placing the tongue tip behind, but NOT touching the top front teeth. As you release your tongue, you will hear a puff of air. You do not use your voice when saying this sound.
The "d" sound is formed exactly like the "t" sound, except you use your voice when saying it.
"w" sound "v" sound
To form the "w" push your lips in front of your front teeth, then begin by saying "oo." Make sure your teeth and lips or cheeks are not touching. If they are, they will create a vibration and sound like "v."
The "v" sound is made by keeping your lips flat. Lightly bite your lower lip and push out your voice. As you say this sound, you should feel your lower lip vibrate because you are using your voice.
Slightly round your lips. As you do this, you should feel your lower jaw move slightly forward.
Pull the middle part of your tongue high in the back of your mouth. Your tongue tip should curl up, but should never touch the roof of your mouth. If it does, you will be creating the rolled "r."