How to Speak With a Russian Accent

Written by john mack freeman
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How to Speak With a Russian Accent
A Russian accent is necessary for many theatrical parts. (Russia image by NataV from Fotolia.com)

Whether preparing for the plays of Anton Chekhov or for a role in Dr. Zhivago, a Russian accent is a useful tool for any performer to have. Also, due to the large number of traditional Russian villains, a Russian accent can be a useful accessory in completing many costumes. Whether your desire for a Russian accent is professional, amateur or just for fun, a Russian accent gets better through use, so practice it whenever possible.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Dialect CD

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Instructions

    Speaking with a Russian Accent

  1. 1

    Most commonly, speaking in a foreign accent is taught with the aid of a dialect CD. If you do not have access to these resources, then research movies and television shows that have characters with strong Russian accents. Find clips featuring these characters and listen to them speak so you can pick up on natural speaking patterns and intonations that may be unapparent from written instructions.

  2. 2

    There is no direct translation between Russian and English in regard to the "th" sound, so, many Russians compensate by making the voiced "th" sound (as in "this") into a "z" sound, making "this" into "zis." For unvoiced "th" sounds (such as in "booth"), a "s" sound is usually implemented, changing "booth" into "boos."

  3. 3

    Russian native speakers typically have trouble with the "w" sound in English. That means most change the "w" sound into the "v" sound, changing words like "war" into "var" and "Wednesday" into "Vednesday."

  4. 4

    There is little distinction in Russian between long and short vowels. The vowel sounds are typically the short vowel sounds (a as in "father," e as in "bet," i as in "lit," o as in "lock," and u as in "cut"). Long vowels will typically be flattened as much as possible and shortened to as close to these sounds as possible.

  5. 5

    Russians may also have a hard time with the "j" sound in English as there is no Russian equivalent. Many will combine the "d" and "zh" sounds together to form a "j" sound. Typically, it is a bit too harsh for native speakers.

Tips and warnings

  • There is no substitute for adequate audio exposure to a dialect. Use as many native speakers and videos as you can find to help you adapt more quickly to speaking with a proper Russian accent.
  • Russians use the Cyrillic alphabet while English speakers use the Roman alphabet. A direct phonetic translation is impossible because similar letters don't stand for the same sounds. Be cautious on pronunciation when pronouncing Russian words.

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