006 – Pronunciation rules – vowels

Russian language, as many others, has some rules that change the pronunciation of the letters depending on their position in the words. Fortunately, there is not many of those rules.

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Today’s lesson we dedicate to the pronunciation of Russian vowels. You might have noticed that we add a mark of accent (stress) to every Russian word that includes more that one vowel (syllable). It’s because the position of the accent affects the pronunciation of the words in Russian, so knowing where put an accent (make the stress) tells you how to pronounce the word. If there is only one vowel in a word, it’s the one that’s stressed. You can read about the stress in the Russian words.

  • In most cases Russians tend be lazy with their pronunciation, so the Russiah letter O, when it’s unstressed, usually sounds close to A.

    For example:
    – по́мощь [pómashch] – help
    – молоко́ [malakó] – milk

  • THe same “lazy pronunciation” happens also with the letters Я, Е and Э. When unstressed and not in the end of the word, the Russian letters Я, Е and Э tend to be pronounced close to Russian sound И.

    For example:
    – э́хо [é-ha] – echo
    – эта́ж [ee-tásh] – floor
    – ме́бель [myé-beel] – furniture
    – семья́ [seem’-ya] – family
    – я́щик [yá-scheek] – box
    – тяжёлый [tee-zhó-lyî] – heavy

  • The letter Ё (don’t confuse it with E) is always stressed in the Russian words (you’ll never see an accent mark above it as it’s assumed):
    – зелёный [zee-lyó-nyî] – green
    – жёлтый [zhól-tyî] – yellow

That’s all you need to remember about the pronunciation of vowels. Listen to the audio examples and repeat after it.

Spotted an error? Let us know please!

4 comments on “006 – Pronunciation rules – vowels”

  1. Craig B Caldwell says:

    I am wanting to write my given name in Cyrillic letters. My name is Craig. The C is a hard sound. It’s the AI I’m not sure about! The name does not rhyme with Greg! The correct sound is closer to the a, in way. So, at this point, I have this:

    Кр __ гь

    What letter, or combination best fills in the blank? The English equivalent is the word “plain,” (simple, ordinary)

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Craig,

      You name in Cyrillic will be Крейг. No need for the soft sign in the end.

      Good luck!

  2. daniele says:

    itash or etash?
    why some russian person tell tyazhioliy and other tizhioliy?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello daniele,

      Usually the real pronunciation is something between и and я, different people give different efforts to pronounce the words clearer.

      But if you tend to pronounce the word exactly as it’s written it sounds less natural. So the best advise – try to listen to the pronunciation and you will feel it.

      Good luck.

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