Russian for Serious Beginners | Lesson 1 - The Alphabet & Pronunciation | Jekaterina Kotelnikova | Skillshare

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Russian for Serious Beginners | Lesson 1 - The Alphabet & Pronunciation

teacher avatar Jekaterina Kotelnikova, Artist & Language Tutor

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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (38m)
    • 1. Intro to Russian for Beginners

    • 2. About Russian Language

    • 3. Similar Letters

    • 4. Written the Same Sound Different

    • 5. Written Differently but Sound the Same

    • 6. Peculiar Cyrillic Letters

    • 7. Hard and Soft Signs

    • 8. The Alphabet

    • 9. Sounds & Spelling | Vowels

    • 10. Sounds and Spelling | Consonants

    • 11. Voiced & Devoiced

    • 12. Pronunciation Rules Vowels

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About This Class

In this class, you will learn the Russian alphabet, and most importantly, will do lots of practice, pronouncing the sounds like a real Russian!

We will take a look at all the letters of the Russian alphabet and what sounds they make and when. You will learn why words in Russian sound different than how they are written and how to avoid the most common mistakes that beginners make.

We will discuss what is that thing that makes the Russian accent so recognizable and how you can use it to your advantage to sound like a true Russian speaker.

This is Lesson 1 from my new Russian for Serious Beginners course. Stay tuned every week for a new lesson & learn Russian with me!

All the best,


Meet Your Teacher

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Jekaterina Kotelnikova

Artist & Language Tutor


Hi there! I'm Kate and I am an artist and an illustrator (and a mom of a wonderful 5-year-old). I live and work in Jelgava, Latvia. 

When I was very young I went to art school but did not finish it as I got really tired of everyone telling me what 'the right way' to do things is. I believe that in art there is no right or wrong :)

I returned to drawing and then painting after I started having problems with my health. Right after I gave birth to my daughter I was in pain 24/7 for over a year and a half when I was finally diagnozed with fibromyalgia (for those of you who are lucky enough not to know what that is, it's an illness that makes your nerves transmit paint which is not there). 

I run my YouTube art channel, Patreon, my little online art school... See full profile

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1. Intro to Russian for Beginners: Hi there, My name is. I am mother tongue in Russian. I've been teaching languages for a very long time as a private tutor. And Russian is the language that I love. This is my own language. And in this course, I will tell you everything you need to know about russian grammar and give you many examples. We will learn how to pronounce the sounds and we will learn all the things that you need to pay attention to, to actually sound like a Russian, we will have the course divided into different chapters, and I will be adding new chapters as they are ready to be published. So you can watch the course from the very beginning, or you can move on to the topic that you are not very sure about and you would like to maybe revise. I will be posting new glasses that will contain information and all the points about the particular subject. Every week in this class, we will be dealing with the alphabet and how to actually pronounce the sound to sound like a true Russian. We will also discuss why do Russian people have a strong accent in English? And what is that particular aspect of Russian language that makes them have this very recognizable Russian accent. We will talk about how spelling rules apply it to Russian when we hear certain sounds and why do we see different letters, sounds that we actually hear when we spell the words, writing them, you will learn your first rules on the pronunciation and the spelling of words. And most importantly, you will get to know the Russian sounds. You will get to watch me closely to the way that I pronounce the sounds so that you sound as close to the original Russian speaker as possible if you don't have any experience and you have never studied Russian before, this course is definitely for you. So this is the first-class, the alphabet. And in the next one, we will be dealing with the nouns. For now, let's start learning the alphabet and how to actually speak like a Russian. 2. About Russian Language: Russian is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia. About 250 million people speak it today and a 180 million of them reside in what was previously known as the USSR. Russia is a Slavic language and belongs to the Indo-European group of languages. The closest relatives of Russian language are Ukrainian and Belarusian, but such languages as Bulgarian, Czech, Slovak, Macedonian, they are very close relatives to Russian language in all of territory of Russia, you will almost not see any dialect change. It means that all the people in all the vast of Russia speak the same language. The literary language. You will see no change almost from region to region, like it happens in countries like Italy or Spain, the Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters, and 24 of those are based on the Greek alphabet. The other letters were specifically created to show other Slavic sounds. Don't get scared. The Russian alphabet might seem scary in the beginning, but I am sure you will very quickly get used to it. Some letters in the Russian alphabet are very similar to those in English. For example, are all the other letters. This is the catch here. Other letters may look the same but sound completely different. This is the case with a letter, which looks like the English B. So here we pronounce it does not book. Other letters, on the other hand look completely different, but have a very similar sound to that of an English letter. For example. You can see that it's written differently, but it sounds very similar to an English book. And then this is the most fun part. There are some letters that have no equivalent in English. They might seem very peculiar at first, but I'm sure you will learn them and you will be enjoying to read in Russian language very soon. 3. Similar Letters: So let's start taking a look at the letters. The first group of letters that we're going to go through are very similar to English letters. These letters include. We would pronounce it the same way as you would in a word, car. Or, or isn't full. O. As in zoo, as an kitten. Mode, as in map, as in city, as an tip. Now, let's try to pronounce some of these words that contain letters that we just discussed. And we will have a group of words that will contain and 0. Now. Thumb, some, some doc, doc, mama, mama, Zara, zara zum, zum, MC, MC tock. Tock. Okay, Now the ones with the letter O in them, quote, quote, Most SOC, SOC, tone, dot, dot, dust, dust. 4. Written the Same Sound Different: So now let's talk about the group of letters that does look like the English letters with sounds completely different. The first one looks like the English II, but we pronounce it as yeah, as in the word yet, year, year. The next one is the English y. And in Russian we pronounce it as woo. Woo as in boot. Let's practice some sounds with the letter O. Wolff's law. The next one is, look what? This one looks like the English be as we already mentioned, but it's pronounced as. So. Really put that lower lip under your teeth. Let's practice pronouncing some words with vasa. Vasa, foot. Vote via, via vis a vis a vis. The next letter we will look at is the Russian know, which actually looks like the English H null, we would pronounce as in the word not. So let's try to practice and pronounced le turn num in Russian words, not, not know. Norse, norse, NAS, NAS, NAS, NAS. The next letter looks like the English tea, but in Russian, we pronounce it with a rolling are. So really let your tongue role and it's a very, very pronounced sound. Remember when you were kids and the ticker said, this is where you pronounce her. And we will pronounce some words in Russian now and practice our lost roast. Wrote, wrote, quarter, whore. The next letter is hook. With whom? You might have heard this sound in a word that is low in Scotland, Loch Ness. So who here is very pronounced, but it doesn't look like the English x. So let's practice some words with her as well. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. 5. Written Differently but Sound the Same: Now we're getting to the most interesting part, letters that sound similar to the ones in English, but look completely different. So let's start with the first one. It's the E with two dots on top. Yo, yo. As an younger yo. Let's try to pronounce some words. Your yoga. Yoga, yoga. Next one is E, That actually kind of looks like the inverted and an English II. This is very similar to what you hear in the word, see E. Let's try to pronounce some words with letter E, Gim, me, Gim, gig one, gig, gim Nicea, EEG. Eeg Le Havre. The next letter is. So this one we pronounce it as in the word met, a wide mouth opening it. Let's try to pronounce some words with letter SEC, said matter, matter, era, era. The next letter is U. In my experience, this one is one of those letters that actually gets people quite confused together with another one too, which we will get soon. But u is a bit kind of a difficult letter, but don't get scared. We're gonna get there. I'm sure that you will pronounce you in a perfect way. So you, how do you pronounce you in English? In the word use? So let's try to pronounce some words with the word you. Eula, uvula. Uvula. Euro, bureau, bureau. Now let's take a look at yeah. Yeah. Yeah, we pronounce it very similar to the way we would pronounce the word yard. Yeah. Let's try to pronounce some words with the letter yak, yak, yak, Baca, Baca, Yang, Yang. And here's the first word that you will actually need to know. Yeah, means I. So now you already know your first word in Russian. The next letter is book. This one is very similar in its sound to the English book in the word bit or bug. And let's try to pronounce both in some of the Russian words. Baba. Baba, breathe, nom, nom, bomb, book, bound, book. Good. Good, as in the word go. So again, very similar to English here. Let's try to say some words with the left are good in it. Good. Goal, goal, good, No good norm. The next one, do, do. Though, is very similar to our English. The, in the word do, dun, dun, divide, divide, dong, dong. No, no, Look low, equivalent of the English l. So we would say low in the English word lamp. Look, let's try to pronounce some words with low lung. Lung, luck, luck. Taxa, taxa. This one here is a difficult one. So we combined low and yeah, and we have the axon book, bot as in bet. So let's pronounce some words with baba. Baba. Passport, passport, spot, spot, spirit, spirit. And the last letter in this group is full for as an face. So let's pronounce some words with float. Float, float, foot, foot. Flip it, flip it. 6. Peculiar Cyrillic Letters: And now this one, these are the most interesting letters. So we do not have the equivalent of these sounds or letters in English. And they might look strange than the Peer, strange to you. But as I said, don't worry, we're gonna get there. As a genre. Let's practice saying words with the genre. Genre. This one is very similar to the one we saw before. And we know that without the little tick on the top, it's pronounced e. But when you see that little thing over the top of letter E, it means that you pronounce it as e. E. This is very similar to what you would hear in the word boy. So let's practice pronouncing some words with E. Chai and Chai. Yogurt, yogurt, Chicka, Chicka. The next one is letter. You would hear in words like cats or rats. So the combination of 27 together which creates a sound. Let's try to pronounce some words. Sattler, Sattler, sodium now, sodium. Sweet doc, submit doc. Canyons. Canyons. The next one is letter should shift. This one you would hear in a letter combination C-H, that would mean in English and in a word, for example, like chip. So let's pronounce some words with literature. Shy, shy. Check, check. Chin. Chin. Cut, Chile, Chile. So now we have two letters that look almost the same, but pay attention that one of them has a little tail at the end. So the first one is pronounced as as an shut. So it's quite a wide. So feel the mouth at the back of your mouth here. It creates kind of a wide shape inside your mouth. And your tongue goes to the top of your palate as an shut. And the other one, the one with the little tail is ssh. Ssh. So what does show? It's similar to the sound that you would get as in the word shear, SH. So let's pronounce some words containing shrunk and ship. So sure, in this case it will be the softer version of which is pronounced a lot stronger. A lot harder shunts. Shunts, shock, shock, shock. Sharp, rock, rock. Now let's pass on to the SH, xi, xi sugar, sugar, Chicago. Chicago. So this one is a particular letter that I wanted to talk about separately. So it's pronounced like a very hard E that you would pronounce in the middle of your mouth, but we pronounce it almost at the back of your mouth. So imagine as if you are having your mouth full of stuff, food and trying to pronounce e. But as the food is in the beginning of the mouth, you will have to pronounce it at the back so soon. Soon. Sir. Sir, Notice how my mouth doesn't open almost, so it doesn't create that vocal sound like E does. Vary. Hide. 7. Hard and Soft Signs: These two letters, I put them aside even from the previous group, just so that you can remember that there are two letters that you actually do not pronounce in Russian language. Those are the soft and the hard signs. So the first one that we'll look at is the heart sign. It has this little kind of a roof over the top. And the heart sign shows us that the sound that precedes it actually is going to be pronounced hard. So that means that the consonant is going to be pronounced hard. For example, in words such as cm, CM, listen to that. So that is very hard. Cmb, if we did not have the heart sign in this word after so then it would sound like CM. Cm. So you hear the difference CM, CM. The same would go to, but the yeast, but BSD do is very hard. The next one is the soft side. This one, on the contrary, renders our consonant very soft. So the consonant that precedes the soft sign becomes very soft. Let's look at some words. Means brother in Russian, but if you add the soft sign to that at the end, it becomes Borat to take. So you can see that the word completely changes meaning. You have to be very careful with this. And unfortunately, there is no way you can actually say if there's going to be a soft sign, they are or not, until you actually read the word and you know how to write it, so you'll have to just memorize that. But as I said, don't get scared. We get there. The same would be me, me, MET, MET. So the consonant is rendered very soft. 8. The Alphabet: Now let's go through the Russian alphabet. And as an English, we have actual names for our letters, as in a standing for the letter R, and B standing for the litter book. So let's go through the Russian alphabet and name, all the letters that we have learned so far. Ah, ah, good. Good. Bare, bare. Year. Year. Your your z. Z e e e, e car, car a M, M N, N. Or, or pair error. Error. S. S. There. They're ooh, ooh. F. F, ha, ha, say, cheer. Cheer. Sharp, sharp. Sharp. Sharp. To the ordinate is knock the heart sign. Your snack. Ooh, ooh. Mac is like this is the soft sign. Milk is Mac. And you. You. Yeah. Yeah. So congratulations. Now you know how to pronounce every letter in the Cyrillic alphabet. 9. Sounds & Spelling | Vowels: Let's talk about sounds and spelling and Russian language. Now that you know all the alphabet, we can start discussing the letters. In Russian. There are 10 letters, which are vowels that express five sounds. Let's take a look. Here. We have the hard battles and the soft ones. So in the heart vowels we have such letters is ah, or. The equivalent of the same sounds, which are a lot softer, are in this next column. Yeah. Yeah. Ie, your y2. So there is a difference in Russian when you pronounce hard and soft vowels. So how do you know which one to use and when the vowels in the beginning of words and after hard consonants would be the hardware and the software was, on the other hand, come after soft consonant or with words which are beginning with the sound year. Let's compare these words. Alto, yell. I'll don't yell. You can see the difference between the pronunciation of Yap in this case, or Aemilia. Yeah, Eliana. Aemilia, Juliana. With these two names, we hear the soft and the hard bowels. Add the hard one and year, as we said, beginning with the EU in Russian, and that makes it a soft vowel. Yeah, Eliana, let's have one more example on Raul. Raul versus UT. Ut, What about B and e? Well, e, you read it after soft consonant and we have after the hard ones. 10. Sounds and Spelling | Consonants: Now let's talk about consonants, hard and soft ones. Yes, you thought this might be easy, but now in Russia we have everything in two variants. In English, we have most continents that are pronounced with a heart articulation. But in Russian we can have both versions. So we have the soft version and the height one. Just to give you an example, if you know Spanish, you might have already encountered letter Nu, which in English sounds as well in the Spanish. For those of you who have no knowledge of Spanish, think of the word onion. So we have a very soft N in the word onion. In some books, you will see that the author suggests inserting a y in between the consonant and the vowel that follows it. So for example, in a sound and a law, to make it sound softer, we would insert Y and it would sound like this is not very correct. But in the beginning, you can use this analogy to actually pronounced softer consonants in Russian. So let's try to pronounce our Russian consonants both ways. The hard and the soft way. We will be using two letters here so that you can tell apart which sound is hard and which one is soft. And we'll be using two vowels. One of them is going to be F and the other one is. So f will be the hard one, will be the soft one. So let's begin. Z beer Here. Here. But then there are six continents in Russian that are either hard or soft. Only amongst the three hard consonants are. And this means that it doesn't matter which will, will actually be after them. They will always be pronounced as hard letters. This soft consonants on the other hand, our ship, ship. And this makes Russians spelling system and complicated, but don't get scared going to tackle it. The most important thing here to remember is that these consonants, all six of them and not be followed by the letter woo. Always when writing, we will have the e sound followed by the letter e after these consonants. Even if you hear the sound, you still will write it with the letter E instead of goo. And also this goes for the letters, yeah, and the EU, which always will be replaced in the writing with and so remember, not. But after these continents, not yeah, Or you, but r And after these consonant. So this brings us to our first rule. Such consonants as ship, ship and could. Hook will always be followed by E, R instead of you. Okay? So this is the thing to remember when actually writing in Russian. But there is an exception that out of all these letters that we were talking about, the sugar, so should ship ie only does not follow these rules. 11. Voiced & Devoiced: Now let's talk about voiced and unvoiced consonant. What is that? In Russian, there can be both voiced and unvoiced consonants, just the same as we have in English. So what is a voiced consonant? A voiced consonant is pronounced with the vocal cords. So if you say a left turn or a sound and you feel vibration here in your throat. Just put your fingers on your throat and you will hear that, that sound is voiced. For example, if we say, we can hear the vibration in our throat at the same time, if we do not feel that vibration, if we pronounce. This means that the continent is d voiced. This is the difference between voiced and d voiced consonants. So let's take a look at some voiced and unvoiced consonant pairs. The first one is bla. Bla and pr. Pr. Pr. Pr traveled me but PR. For what? For? Zip. Zip. Good, good. Ssh. So when does D voicing of consonants happen in Russian, basically is the endings of the words. So former Russian speaker, the words bank and bang would be pronounced the same way Bank. Other words such as mom and mom would be pronounced the same way as it would get the voiced. So at the end of mob would get d voiced and become a Russian speaker as it's at the end of the word. This is what makes the Russian accent very recognizable in English. So a lot of Russian people who speak English, they D voice the ending consonants in English words, and this is how we hear bucks, as in bugs in English, when the person really intended insects and not bucks. So the thing here to remember is that Russians tends to d voiced consonants, which are at the end of the word. Consonants that have only the voiced version of themselves are moon. No loop. So these ones are the only consonants which you will encounter at the end of the words, which will not get d voiced. 12. Pronunciation Rules Vowels : Now let's talk about pronunciation rules for bowels. This is the interesting point. So we have one number of Russian vowels in the alphabet and slightly different number of vowel sounds in the Russian alphabet because of pronunciation rules. So the first rule that we will remember is that letters I and all will always be pronounced the same when they are in a stressed position. When OT and all are not stressed in a word. This is what happened. Let's take the word mama. We hear that the first stressed is pronounced clearly as ma, ma. But the last, as it's not stressed, loses that ins of itself and becomes similar to the sound that the schwa in the phonetic alphabet makes. So mama, mama tried to print out that with me. Mama. As we said, all is pronounced as all only in the stress position, in the position before the stressed vowel. So this is important here. In the position before the stressed vowel, it is pronounced this arc. So let's say a word but a mole. But on the whole, the stressed all become mole. You hear all the stress position and become more. Bob got a mole. We hear in the syllable that is in the pre-stressed position. This happens also with all in the beginning of the word idle. Idle, which is spelled audio, but you print onto this ideal. So here we clearly here and so the beginning of the word and in the position just before the stressed syllable. In all the other cases, our, all becomes just like our ah, and it becomes this schwa sound. Let's take a look at the other words. How does show? Show, show. So here you can clearly hear both the Shuang in the beginning, the law of the letter O, that is before the stress position and or where it is stressed. What our show, OK, no. But now let's talk about letters, year and the year. These two letters also are pronounced only as year and the app when they are in distress position. In all the other positions, they are reduced to a sound very similar to E music. Yes. So we write it with a young in the beginning, but we pronounce it as you use it, ds, ds it. This is a very common error when you are writing in Russian the same way as you're actually hearing words. And the spelling becomes incorrect because what you are hearing instead of Yap, in this case, DHCP is e. So practice pronouncing these words. You can always go back in the video and practice pronouncing these words and pay attention to how they are actually written. So now you know that if you hear the e sound somewhere in an unstressed position, you might know that it's not an IEP, but yeah or yeah. But if you know these rules soon, you will get to know all of these words that actually are spelled with yet and won't make this mistake.