Russian accent in English: the main features and how to get rid of it

Today, English is taught very actively in Russian-speaking countries. Most often from the first grade of school or even kindergarten.

But this does not in any way prevent the majority of our compatriots from speaking English with a double Russian accent. Let’s take a look at its main features and give advice on how to deal with it.

Why does an accent appear at all? It’s simple. Because the sounds in Russian are pronounced differently than in English. Articulation is different, but we habitually try to bring pronunciation closer to a familiar and understandable way.

For example, there are only 6 vowels in Russian, while in English there are as many as 20. And that’s not counting triphthongs like aʊə (flower) or əʊə (lower). The words “sheep” and “ship” are practically the same for the Russian ear, therefore they are often pronounced the same way. But there is a difference. This is the point.

5 main features of the Russian accent

Replacing the short “i” with the long “her”

Since we have already remembered about “ship” and “sheep”, this is one of the most common features of the Russian accent.

There is no sound in Russian [ɪ]as in the words “pig” or “ship”. Russian “and” is as close as possible to English long [i:]… therefore [ɪ] and [і:] often sound exactly the same.

In the English-speaking environment, there is even a comic test for the Russian accent. Try saying “This fish is a little bigger than this insect”. If the speaker does not know how to pronounce the sound correctly [ɪ], then the whole phrase turns into “Zees feesh eez a leetle beeger zan zees eensekt “.

Sound [r]

In Russian [р] and English [r] there is nothing in common. That’s right at all. Therefore, its incorrect pronunciation is very common.

Although, to be honest, Americans who are learning Russian have great difficulties with our [р]… Its pronunciation is illustrated in different ways. To demonstrate the correct movement of the language, some teachers resort to tricks and show an old video of Vitas.

There is a common method for staging sound. To get the same [r], teachers advise to pronounce the usual [p] while squeezing your cheeks with your fingers until the tongue stops vibrating.

It’s not so hard to get used to it, but many people simply don’t want to bother with it.

Anything instead of [h]

English sound [h] very soft. It is pronounced literally on the exhale without additional articulation. Its Russian counterpart [х] much more noisy and harsh. This is especially audible at the beginning of words.

Try saying “Happy Halloween, Harry”.

Now listen to how the sound [h] articulated by Stephen Fry, Briton, whose voice we listened to audiobooks about Harry Potter.

In the English version of the sound, air flows freely through the larynx without encountering obstacles. In Russian, the throat is compressed, which makes the sound wheezing.

But that’s not all. In borrowed words like “hamburger”, Russian speakers instead of [h] and at all insistently speak [г]…

You can forget about th

Russian speakers also have many problems with consonant sounds in English. And the combination of letters th is a leader.

In Russian, there are no sounds similar to [θ]as in the words “that”, “the” or “this” or [ð]as in the words “thin”, “thick”. And in Russian, in principle, there are no sounds, with the articulation of which the tongue goes beyond the dentition – it always remains in the mouth.

Biting the tip of the tongue when articulating [θ] and [ð] – difficult to understand. And many, without much hesitation, exchange them for acquaintances. [с] and [з]… This is mainly true for people who studied English 15 years ago or earlier.

Today teachers put sounds [θ] and [ð] in one of the first lessons, so in the future, students do not experience any problems with them.

In English there are just a lot of excellent tongue twisters for the letter combination “th”, which are extremely difficult for a Russian speaker. Here is some of them:

Without a crystal clear understanding of how sounds work [θ] and [ð], everything runs the risk of sliding to [c] and [з]… It is largely thanks to tongue twisters that teachers put the correct pronunciation. After all, it is important not only to learn how to articulate sounds, but also to pronounce them in combination with other vowels and consonants.

V instead of W

In English, the sound [v] fully corresponds to Russian [в]… It is created when the upper teeth touch the lower lip. Sound [w] articulated only with lips folded into a tube.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson demonstrates how to speak sound perfectly [w]:

In the Russian accent of sound [w] no, as in Russian. It is pronounced in exactly the same way as [v]…

In most cases, this does not interfere – it just sounds unusual for the carrier. But there are situations when the meaning of a word changes completely.

For example, a whale (whale – [weɪl]) magically turns into a veil (veil – [veɪl]).

Floating E

Difference between sounds [æ] and [e] pretty thin. Therefore, even students who have been studying English for several months often cannot pronounce the words “bad” and “bed” correctly.

The whole trick is in how wide a person opens his mouth during pronunciation. In Russian, there are no sounds that depend on this. And the difference in pronunciation is at least minimal, but the meaning of the words depends on it.

These are the main features of the Russian accent that are most common.

When we were collecting information for this article, we found videos with random passers-by who speak English. And everyone has an accent.

And let’s just warn you, this is never a stone in the garden of the authors of the video. Almost all of the respondents understand English. Although young people have an accent, the main thing is for a native speaker to understand them.

Is it worth removing the Russian accent and how to do it

The accent is not a hindrance to communication with native speakers. If you are understood, this is an indicator that your English is good enough to communicate.

English is generally very accented because it is the most spoken language in the world taught as a foreign language.

If Americans and British have learned to understand eerie Indian and Chinese accents, then Russian is an easy walk for them. Although it sounds rough and clumsy, as native speakers say, it is generally quite understandable.

You can listen to the difference between different accents for yourself:

Sighting to improve your accent is only necessary if you sometimes speak to an audience in English or your work in general is related to voice communication. Or you just want to make your language more pleasant and understandable for a native English speaker.

The steps are quite simple and standard:

  1. Listen to audiobooks read by native speakers. Stephen Fry’s Harry Potter is a great place to start.

  2. Study with a teacher. True, an experienced teacher will be able to explain clearly how to make the right sounds. The rest is a matter of technology.

  3. Speak more. Sign up for special English speaking clubs or communicate by voice on special language exchange sites.

  4. Use tongue twisters. After all, it is important not only to pronounce the sounds correctly, but also to train the speed of speech.

  5. Work on your accent every day.

And finally, if you nevertheless decide to get rid of the accent, you can watch our video “How to get rid of the Russian excent”.

Now admit, who still has a Russian accent in English, and who has already successfully got rid of it. And most importantly – how exactly. We are waiting for your answers in the comments.

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