Top 5 English pronunciation mistakes that Russian speakers make
Some English sounds simply do not exist in the Russian language. As such, Russian speakers often substitute similar Russian phonemes for these, leading to mispronunciation.

Want to improve your English? In this article, you will learn the 5 most common pronunciation mistakes for Russian speakers. Practice these sounds and become a better speaker!
Mistake #1: Mixing up [w] and [v]
Russian does not have the [w] sound. So when native Russian speakers see a /w/ in English, they sometimes replace this with [v] sound (“в” as in “ведь”) that is more familiar to them.

The [v] sound is made by biting gently on the bottom lip and breathing air out. The friction creates a sound known as a voiced fricative.

Examples: vine, love, drive, five, vacation, save, very, have, effective, Eve.

To make the [w] sound, start with rounded lips which are pushed forward, as though sucking on a straw (but don’t breathe in!). The sound is then made by the lips moving back to a natural, open and relaxed position.

Examples: water, woman, below, win, window, flower, winter, towel, sweet, wow.
Mistake #2: The TH sound
This is rare sound not found in many languages (including Russian). As such, many non-native English speakers incorrectly substitute this sound with a [t], [d], [s], or [z] sound.

When we talk about a TH sound, we refer to two possible sounds: a voiced [ð] and an unvoiced [θ] dental non-sibilant fricative.

To make the sound, place the tip of the tongue between the upper and lower teeth as though biting gently on it. For the voiced version [ð]: breathe gently, forcing air down the center the tongue and out of the mouth. Do this whilst causing your vocal cords to vibrate. For the unvoiced version [θ], do the same thing but without your vocal cords vibrating.

Examples: this, think, other, month, thunder, three, thanks, both, therapy, breath.
Mistake #3: Sheep vs ship
There are no long vowels in Russian. This leads to some Russian speakers incorrectly shortening the long vowel [iː] to [ɪ] such that “sheep” ends up sounding like “ship”. This sometimes leads to embarrassing situations when mispronouncing words like “sheet” or “beach”.

[iː] sounds as though you’re stretching and saying the letter “e”. Place the tip of the tongue behind the bottom teeth, keep your lips are open and relaxed (not rounded), have your tongue close to the roof of the mouth (almost closing airflow), and breathe out. The sound is made at the front of the mouth.

Examples: keep, free, achieve, dream, eat, key, see, meet, read, feel.

Even though [iː] is called a long vowel and [ɪ] a short vowel, you should not focus on the length of the sounds. Your mouth should feel a little more relaxed when saying [ɪ] compared to [iː]. This means compared to the closed front [iː] sound, the [ɪ] sound is near-closed near-front. The tongue position is now very slightly lower and the sound very slightly back. Compared to [iː], the airflow should be easier and less constricted.

Examples: still, sick, fit, bit, dinner, list, sit, fill, his, fish.
Mistake #4: The H sound
There is no H (voiceless glottal fricative) sound in Russian. So some Russian speakers use some similar consonants instead such as a [kh] sound (“х” as in “хотя”) or a hard [g] sound (“г” as in “голос”).

Foreigners are often surprised to hear Russians calling Harry Potter by the name Garry (Гарри) Potter.

The best way to think about the [h] sound is to imagine a laugh, “hahaha”. The sound is made by breathing air out through the mouth, without vibration of the vocal cords, and without a sound from air across the tongue.

Examples: home, help, happy, handsome, his, how, him, hear, who, hello.

Mistake #5: Heavy ‘L’s
When an “L” appears before a vowel sound, it is pronounced as a clear-sounding ‘light L’ in English, written as [l]. However, Russians then to pronounce it with a heavier sounding L (“л” as in “ладно”), similar to a ‘dark L’ or ‘hard L’ in English. This makes the speaker sound heavily accented.

To make the ‘light L’, the tip or blade of the tongue should be placed against the alveolar ridge just behind the upper teeth. Then breathe out, causing air to flow around the sides of the tongue and out of mouth, vibrating the vocal cords. ‘Light L’ sounds are used before a vowel, such as in “life” and “leaf”. In phonetic notation, it is written as [l].

Examples: large, learn, black, blog, learn, long, lay, like, low, flag.

The heavier sounding ‘dark L’ is almost the same as a ‘light L’ but with an additional secondary sound which is made at the same time. The secondary sound is made by having the back of the tongue high and close to the soft palate, or having the root of the tongue close to the back of the throat. ‘Dark L’ sounds are usually used after a vowel, such as in “sell” and “bull”. In phonetic notation, it is sometimes written differently as [ɫ].

Examples: full, milk, pool, kill, build, elbow, hold, billiard, help, circle.
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