Every student dreams of having native speaker pronunciation. Unfortunately for most, this will never be a reality as a result of mother tongue influences. That, however, should never be used as an excuse for not trying to assist your students to improve their pronunciation. As will become evident, many of their errors are correctable, and only require the teacher to either visually portray mistakes using a phonetic chart or to engage the students in pronunciation games and activities. Like grammar, a thorough knowledge of the sound system of the English language is fundamental.

What follows are some of the more common mistakes that Russians learners of English will often make when trying to pronounce words in English. In order to appreciate this section (or at the very least understand it), you should first become familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet from which this section has been developed.

Common Pronunciation Errors by Russian Speakers of English

Sounds Confused

is confused with

There is no short and long vowel differentiation.

is confused with

Use of A instead of E For example in sat/set or bed/bad

is confused with

Again there is no short and long vowel differentiation. Note, also, that there are often no differences in these two sounds in various dialects of English (Scottish etc).

Sounds Mispronounced

is trilled

Use of a trilled R instead of the soft R is the most recognizable aspect of a Russian accent!

is pronounced as in the Scottish word "Loch"

This sound needs to simply be made softer and aspirated. Teach the students that it DOES NOT sound like the first phoneme in the Russian word for bread, "Xleb" but is a far softer sound like in the English word for "House".

This sound is often separated in Russian into two distinct sounds. It should be taught that this must be a soft, singular sound.

is said as

Often there is the use of G or N instead of NG i.e. Wing-wig or win. This is because the Nasal NG does not exist in Russian. Students will need to be shown the position of the tongue and the airflows diagrammatically on the whiteboard.

is said as or even

There is the use of S/Z instead of TH i.e. Sin for thin, useful for youthful, Zen for then. To correct this, have the students start with T and then show that the tongue must protrude from the teeth in order to make the TH sound.

is said as

We often also see a use of V instead of W. This causes real problems with work, worm, worth and worse etc. The students need to be shown that the teeth rest upon the bottom lip in and English V, and vibrate, while the W is a rounded mouth sound.

is said as or even

Long Vowels that get Shortened

is said as

For example, Cart will become Cat.

is said as

For example, Bird will become Bed.

is said as

For example, Torn will become Ton.

Miscellaneous Russian Pronunciation Points:

a) Generally, long vowels sounds like short vowels i.e. field-filled, seat-sit.
b) T/D/L/N are aspirated by the tongue touching the top teeth-this sounds "foreign"
c) Final voiced consonants (T, D, G) are devoiced in Russian ie. lab-lap, said-set
d) P, K, T are not aspirated. Therefore, mispronounced at beginning of words ie. Pit-bit, come-gum.
e) Dark L (full, hill) replaces Clear L (light, fly)
f) Consonant Clusters are very difficult for Russians! i.e. Months, clothes, sixth.
g) Initial Clusters; TW, TR, PR, DR, BR cause problems i.e. twice, tree, price.
h) 2nd part of diphthongs and 2nd/3rd part of tripthongs tend to be over pronounced.

Foundation TEFL methodology course
  • Engaging & interactive assignments
  • Based on decades of combined experience
  • Learn anywhere at any time