If you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language, you know it can be challenging. You’re not just learning a new set of words and phrases, but also a whole new way of speaking. That’s the unusual situation that many people who learn English find themselves in.
Do you remember the first time you heard yourself speaking English? Perhaps it was after a long conversation with your friends, or after coming home from school. The moment was probably embarrassing, as your native accent jumped out of your speech. With so many people learning new languages, accent tutors are now more in demand than ever before. A Russian accent while speaking English is not uncommon, and there are so many good reasons why that happens. Learning another language is difficult, and it takes time to feel comfortable speaking that new tongue. But once you get a hold of it, you will also feel much more confident when speaking to other people who speak English as their primary language.
Common English mispronunciations of Russian Speakers
Russian speakers venturing to learn an American accent will all, most likely, encounter similar challenges in the development of their English pronunciation. Here are the most common English mispronunciations of Russian Speakers:
Voiced TH Sound
One of the most common mispronounced sounds is the voiced TH sound. Many Russian speakers will use the Z sound in place of this sound. In American English, there are two sounds made with TH; one is voiceless, like in the words “think” and “thanks”; the other is voiced as in the words “this” and “that.” Articulating these sounds with your mouth can be slightly difficult, but with focus and repetition, you will be pronouncing these words clearly in no time.
The W Sound
Another commonly mispronounced sound is the W sound. Usually, the Russian speaker will use the V sound instead. In the English words “will” and “what”, we will articulate the W sound by bringing the lips close together, but not touching one another. The upper teeth are not touching the lower lip.
The IH Sound
A vowel sound that presents a challenge for Russian speakers is the IH like pig sound; often, they will use the EE vowel sound instead. To articulate the IH like pig sound, drop your jaw and slightly pull lips back as you pronounce the sound; also, the tip of your tongue will rest behind your lower front teeth.
How Can You Reduce your Ressian Accent?
So how can you reduce your Russian accent when speaking English? If you’re currently trying to improve your spoken English or reduce your Russian accent, these tips will help ease your transition and make it easier for others to understand you. Here are some useful tips:
Different Tongue Positions
The word “yes” is very common. This is something you say all the time. However, it might give you away. Slavic languages form the Y sound near the middle of the mouth, farther back in the mouth. Voice vibrations cause the tongue to vibrate so close to the front that you can feel a tickle just behind your teeth. So, “иеc” and “yes” should sound very different. Here’s an example of all the subtle changes you can make to pronounce things the American way. Russian and other Slavic languages generally pronounce vowel sounds and consonants farther forward in the mouth. It is possible to learn all of these details and more with the help of an accent coach.
The way you breathe has a huge impact on your accent. If you don’t breathe correctly, you could add additional stress to your speech muscles and make your accent sound worse. Try to breathe from your diaphragm, and not your upper chest. Make sure you are exhaling fully, especially after you make a consonant sound. Holding your breath can impact how you make those sounds, which can add the Russian accent to your English. If your accent is particularly strong and you want to reduce it as much as possible, you might want to practice diaphragmatic breathing while speaking. You can do this while speaking alone, or in the company. You can also do this while you are walking, sitting down, or even while you are doing some other activity you enjoy.
Train your Tongue and Mouth Muscles
Russian accents are often caused by a combination of bad breathing, tongue placement, and mouth tension. Your tongue and mouth muscles have to be trained to make sure they correctly form each English consonant sound. There are many tongue twisters you can practice daily. You can also try saying words that start with certain letter combinations, such as the letter “s” (spoon, snow, spoonful, sponge, etc.), or the letter “l” (leg, lid, leaf, etc.). These exercises may seem silly to do, but they really do help you get your mouth and tongue used to making these sounds correctly. You can also try practicing while you are in the shower, or while you are in bed before you go to sleep.
Rhythm and Intonation
Russian is a very expressive language. There are specific phrases to express feelings and situations that might be difficult to translate. English also boasts a wide variety of lexical expressions. The reality, however, is that most Americans don’t make full use of it. Instead, they rely more on rhythm and intonation to express themselves.
Focus on Consonants
Every language has certain sounds that are naturally harder to make than others. English has many different consonants that are a little tricky to say correctly. If you are having trouble with a certain sound, practice it! You can also find some useful tips and tricks online. You can also use your fingers to help you correctly form the sounds. You can place your fingers on your lips or in your mouth to help you feel the right muscles you need to use.
Verbal exercises are another great way to train your mouth muscles to make the correct English sounds. You can practice making the different sounds in a word by yourself, or practice putting two or three sounds together. Some examples of verbal exercises you can do are:
– Clapping sounds – Make the sound of a clapping person, or a clapping sound using two spoons.
– Repetition – Repeat a sentence, word, or phrase many times. You can also use tongue twisters, or sentences that use words you want to practice like “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.”
– Speed – Try to say a word or phrase as quickly as possible without making the incorrect sounds.
Don’t be afraid to use hand gestures while speaking
Hand gestures while speaking can help you feel more relaxed while you are talking. They can also help you pronounce certain words correctly. If you find yourself having trouble with certain sounds and words, try to use hand gestures when saying them. This can help you pronounce the word correctly, and feel more comfortable speaking. If you are in a group with other people, don’t be afraid to use hand gestures. In fact, it is recommended you use them, as they will help you be more understood by the group!
Find a Native Speaker to Listen to You When Speaking English
Finding a native speaker to listen to you when you are speaking English can help you identify any Russian accent you may have. You can ask a friend or family member to listen to you while you are practicing your English.
Subscribe to an American Accent Training Program
These services usually have native speakers available who can listen to you and give constructive feedback on your accent. These feedback sessions can be extremely helpful when trying to reduce your Russian accent when speaking English. Make sure you do your research before you decide on a program to work with. I highly recommend you to read this article; it gives you valuable information about available American Accent training courses and pronunciation apps in the markets.
Slow down your speech
Speaking slower is another great way to reduce your Russian accent when speaking English. If you are speaking too quickly, you may be forcing yourself to overuse the muscles that create certain sounds. This will lead to your natural accent being more present in your speech. You can practice speaking slower while you are alone in your room, or while you are walking. Try to be in the moment and relax while you are talking. You can also try reading a book out loud, or watching TV with the subtitles on (if you are following along with the subtitles, you will have no choice but to slow down!).
Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes
There is nothing to be ashamed of. We all make mistakes, and we all have our bad days. You are human, and you are learning a new language. You are bound to make mistakes. If you make a mistake while you are speaking, apologize, and then move on. You don’t have to dwell on your mistake, and you can move on. The more you practice, the less your Russian accent will be present in your speech. But it does take time, and you will have good and bad days with your English speaking. Don’t let the bad days get you down, and don’t be ashamed of the mistakes you make. Speak from the heart, and don’t worry about if you have an accent or not.
Practice, practice, practice
The best way to get rid of your Russian accent when speaking English is to practice, practice, practice! Practice as much as you can, with as many different people as you can. The more you speak English, the more comfortable you will get with it, and the less Russian accent will be present in your speech. It can be helpful to find another person who is also struggling with their accent while speaking English. You can practice speaking with one another, and see if you can help each other. You can also look for an online language exchange platform. These platforms allow you to find someone who is also learning English (or another language) as well. You can both help each other with your language skills, and have someone with whom you can practice speaking.
Be proud of who you are
The best way to reduce your Russian accent when speaking English is to be proud of who you are. You are unique, and you have a different life experience than most people. This includes a unique accent. If you are proud of your background, you won’t be as worried about having an accent when you speak. You were able to learn another language, and that is a huge accomplishment! Don’t be ashamed of your Russian accent while speaking English. Trust that you will get better and better with each passing day. Keep practicing, and don’t give up! It will take some time, but you will get there. And once you do, you will be proud of yourself and your accomplishments.