Are you a Russian speaker of English? Here are the top five pronunciation tips to help you become a clear and confident English speaker.
• The sound “th”. “th” is a very common sound in the English language. When you say it correctly, you not only sound good, but you look good speaking English, so it’s really worth mastering this sound. For “th” you put your tongue between your teeth and you blow air out, that’s all there is to it. You have to practice the muscular movement if you’re not used to it, but just practice a few words a day over and over again and you will get it.
• The sounds “v” and “w”. The sounds “v” and “w” are two entirely different sounds in English and you can’t really replace one with the other or you might be saying a different word such as ‘vine’ and ‘wine’. To pronounce “v” you bite your lip, you blow air out and use your voice. For the sound “w”, you put your lips forward, make them round and use your voice. In Russia, you don’t have the sound “w” and that’s why you’re substituting “v” for both “v” and “w”, however, if you practice about five words a day, with the sound “w” such as ‘wine’, ‘will’, ‘we’, ‘where’, and ‘wow’, you’re lips will get used to that movement.
• Word stress. Russian speakers of English tend to sound “choppy” in English. That is, they stress all of the syllables in a word with the same stress or put the stress on the wrong syllable. By listening carefully to English words, you will notice that we only stress one syllable in each word, and de-stress all the other syllables. How do you know which part of the word to stress? The best way is just to listen and memorize, but you can also look them up in a North American dictionary and the dictionary will indicate which word to stress as well as what the word sounds like. If you go to an online dictionary such as Dictionary.com or Webster.com and click on a word you will see where the stress is and you will also hear it.
• The difference between “ee” and “i”. “ee” and “i” are two different vowel sounds in English and one cannot be substituted for the other. To pronounce “ee”, you need a smiling lip position, to pronounce “i”, you need a serious lip position or you don’t need to move your lips for that. Practice this in front of a mirror and with a tape recorder to see or hear the difference. Listen to which words have “ee” and which words have “i”. Try some of these word pairs for practice, ‘wheel’, ‘will’, ‘wheat’, ‘wit’, ‘weak’, ‘wick’, ‘seat’, ‘sit’, ‘leap’, ‘lit’.
• The sound “ah”. The sound “ah” in North American English sounds just like the sound you might make when looking at a cute baby or a puppy and you just say “ah”. Your lips are relaxed and opened, and the jaw is dropped. Words with “ah” include ‘not’, ‘cot’, ‘flaw’, ‘draw’. It’s a very common sound in English. Try it!
• The sound “a”, the sound “a” in English is different from the sound “e”, and the two can’t be mixed up. When you say the sound “a”, put your lips in a smiling position and the tongue flat on the bottom of the mouth. Make sure your jaw is not dropped too much. Try these words, ‘mat’, ‘pat’, ‘fat’. You wont have to make this extreme lip position once you get used to the sound, but it will help you make the correct sound initially.