9

I listened to various pronunciations on Forvo, Wiktionary and various dictionaries with audio files.

To my (untrained) ear it always sounds as if the "в" is silent and not pronounced at all.

That being said, the IPA is [fsʲɪɡˈda] and that suggests that there should be a distinct hard /f/ sound (like the letter ф) in the beginning. So, I guess that sound is just very subtle and therefore (almost) imperceptible.

When I pronounce the word, I omit the /f/ sound, because I can hardly pronounce the /f/ sound before /sʲ/. That is, surely, I can pronounce the letter there, but then it really is a very, very distinct and perceptible sound and it kinda sounds funny, and to my mind my pronunciation is closer to the pronunciation of a native speaker when I drop that letter.

Do native speakers, or those whose ears are trained to distinguish Russian sounds, perceive the /f/ sound in the beginning? Is it clearly distinguishable from a word that begins in "с" (e.g. сегмент)? And do you think you would notice when I omit the letter altogether, i.e. pronouncing it [sʲɪɡˈda]? Does someone have any experience on that?
And finally, how could I learn to pronounce it correctly?

Besides, I am a native speaker of German.

  • Russian 'ф' slightly differs from German 'f'. Don't give much voice, make it shorter, and all would be OK. And, yes, there must be 'ф' in "всегда". – Matt Nov 25 '15 at 11:33
9

The German F [f] sound is really different from its Russian counterpart, the German [f] is fortis, that is very strong and noisy, while the Russian [f] is rather slight and lenis. When Germans speak Russian, very often they have a noticeable German accent which is perceived by Russians as if Germans say voiceless consonants instead of their voiced counterparts, e. g. the word девочка said by a German sounds to the Russian ear as if тефочка was pronounced. That is because the German voiced lenis consonants are weak, and for Russians they sound as the corresponding Russian voiceles consonants which are also lenis. This feature, the substitution of the voiced with the voiceless in the speech of a character, is often used in Russian literature, films, etc. to show that the person is of German origin.

Because of this, I can give you a tip. In the Russian words beginning with вс-, just try to do the reverse of what I explained above, pronounce the German voiced lenis W [v] in the beginning of such words, not the voiceless fortis F [f], that is, read such words as they are written, and you will get the Russian [f] sound that almost perfectly corresponds to how Russians pronounce it.

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5

It is quite a surprising idea that you cannot hear /f/ there. Yes, it should be there and the word without it would sound wrong. Also there are a lot of other words that start with вс- which have differend meaning than similar words without в- because в- in the beginning is a prefix that changes meaning.

For instance, встать "to stand, to stop" vs. стать "to become", вставить "to insert" vs. ставить "to put, to erect", встряхнуть "to shake up" vs. стряхнуть "to shake off", вступить "to enter, to accede" vs. ступить "to step", всучить "to give against recipient's wish" vs. сучить "to twist, roll out".

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2

The [f] is definitely there, but it's a barely perceptible short puff of air, as when you blow on something. On many recordings, it blends into the background noise. It does, however, affect the [sʲ] that follows, giving it a lower-than-usual acoustic pitch, and that might be a subconscious cue that the [f] is there even when one can't hear it. (I used to work as a sound engineer, so caveat that "when you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail" is a possibility here.)

Anyway, what you might try to do is put your lips in the position for [f] and then start pronouncing the [sʲ] while you're still unrounding your lips. To some degree, it's what we all do, the [f] being as short as it is.

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1

Всегда is pronounced with the sound [f] ("ф") which is short and quiet, but not silent. You cannot pronounce it without [f]. You can hear the correct pronuncation here: https://ru.wiktionary.org/wiki/всегда .

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0

Hm, your post reminded me that a lot of russian 1,5-3 years old children (including mine!) who are starting speaking, struggle with ф sound - сегда instead of всегда, сем instead of всем, стать instead of встать etc - may be they just do not hear it like you? :)

Answering your question - people may understand you as we do understand our children but your pronunciation will be a bit "childish" for them. Also, people who do not expect "childish" speaking from adult may not understand you.

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-1

There is a clear audible difference to native speakers. If my kids said седга instead of всегда I would tell them this mistake would result in being quickly whisked off to Лубянка if they were in Russia as a spy with the "legend" of being a native Russian :-)

It is possible the reason you are not picking it up is in the quality of the audio. See if you can find any Russian native speakers in your area and have them show you the proper pronunciation.

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