Russian pronunciation presents to a foreigner, and specifically to Italians like me, several difficulties. These are the major problems I encountered, approximately in order of their importance:

  • 0) Correct placement of word stress.
  • 1) The sound ы, especially after м, б, п, в, ф.
  • 2) Proper reduction of non-stressed vowels.
  • 3) Proper use of vowel allophones (all vowels change somewhat their sound depending on whether they are stressed or not and on whether they are followed by a soft or hard consonant).
  • 4) Pronunciation and contrast of л / ль
  • 5) Practically all soft consonant sounds apart from нь (especially мь, бь, пь, вь, фь, рь and even more so if word-final).
  • 6) Proper prosody and intonation ('rhythm').

I study Russian on my own so I have no feedback on my pronunciation; I've therefore put here a recording of myself reading a short story (there's no need to listen to all of it, of course) and I would be very grateful to hear some opinions on my delivery, if possible in reference to points 0-6 above, so that I can focus on those particular aspects. For example, listening to the recording, I think I mispronounced the word жители, but in general it is difficult for me to know what erroneous features and mispronunciations stand out the most. Thanks in advance!

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    Overall, very impressed with your delivery. One little thing (among others): note that Н in конце is hard, while in конец it's soft. Tricky, I know! – Sergey Slepov Oct 22 '18 at 19:22
  • some points in addition to Quassnoi's rundown, 1) ведь is enclitic (appended to the immediately preceding word), pronounced with no stress всигдАветь 2) так что is pronounced as one word тАкштэ 3) не о чём is pronounced as one word нЕочем 4) sometimes slips through a typical feature of Italian pronunciation - lack of stop at the last consonant like in дом(э), рот(э), домикаф(э), окнах(э) 5) in в той стране тOй shouldn't be reduced, pronouns always mantain their separate status & proper stress 5) за стеклом has genuine E, not Ё 6) к сАмому главному 7) добреЙэ, not добреэ 8) наУчатся говорить – Баян Купи-ка Oct 22 '18 at 19:27
  • @БаянКупи-ка: this should be an answer – Quassnoi Oct 22 '18 at 19:43
  • @Quassnoi it doesn't address specifically points 0-6 – Баян Купи-ка Oct 22 '18 at 19:44
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    @VCH250 i kind of agree, but still the answers may contain some useful tips – Баян Купи-ка Oct 22 '18 at 19:47

I can only congratulate you on such a great success! You sound quite good, and if you work on just few minor flaws, you can read aloud to record audiobooks. :) With your permit I'll name the mistakes I've noticed.

0) научатся - stress У here; каменная - stress the first А; не о чем - stress НЕ, it's a set expression, поглядывая - the second syllable is stressed, but the fifth is not;

2) самой is pronounced as [самай] when the stress is in the first syllable;

4) Exercise that. Sometimes your Л sounds correct, but sometimes not. Make your Л in лаем just like in ласковое. Also, work a bit more on Л in the end of words and before a consonant. E.x., попадал, дрожал, долго.

5) That is also to be trained. That was the most remarkable thing. Just remember that it matters, train your tongue, and you'll make your soft cosonants proper. :)

Also, the word добрее contains not only the soft рь, but also й between two е-s. I mean, the first Е softens the preceding consonant, and the second Е sounds like in the alphabet.

Besides, к примеру should be pronounced without any vowel between the preposition and the noun. It's not so easy, but it's possible. :) КПР.

Пример, при этом - do not omit рь, I mean the first and soft р.

The sound Ц should always be pronounced and it is never softened.

Так и повелось - these three saparate words should sound separately.

Занавески. Not завесёнки, but it sounded so nice. )))))

But I wouldn't even say a word if a foreigner spoke like you and did not ask for correcting him. You sound really great, and it is even more surprising that a person can achieve such results studying on his own. If you correct your soft sounds you can work as a spy in Russia. :) Or as a reporter, which would be better.

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    Hi and welcome to Russian.SE! Would you please spend a minute and format your post a little bit so that every item in your list would go on its own row? It would make your post much easier to read and hence much more useful for the community. If you need help with that please don't hesitate to ask. Thanks! – Quassnoi Oct 22 '18 at 19:59
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    Так и повелось we actually pronounce as one word, there're no pauses before and after the И-conjunction, in the recording it sounds peculiar probably due to imprecise stress placement tending to emphasize такиповелОсь, whereas the main stress should fall on тАк and the stress downstream is secondary – Баян Купи-ка Oct 22 '18 at 20:43
  • Not only the stress. We also do not palatalize К before И as these words are separate. – Elena Oct 22 '18 at 20:53
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    thank you very much for the detailed analysis! Apart from my more blatant mispronunciations (for занавески as `завесёнки' I just misread it -- I though it was built from завесить :) I take my main problem are soft consonants and unnecessary iotation (ве mispronounced as вье). This seems to be an insormoutable problem :( If fact, when I hear eg где I most definitely hear a /je/ ending. If I try to pronounce где without /je/ I realise something a bit alike Polish gdzie, but this version seems very different from what Russians say. Perhaps I need some new ears! – Lorents Oct 23 '18 at 12:51
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    @Lorents as far as i'm concerned accent is absolutely a no-problem, without some type of accent Russian language is spoken by very few people who either were specifically trained (actors) or come from a very educated family (the intelligentsia) in which purity of language is being passed down through generations with mother's milk, Italian accent is no more inferior than some Viatka, Archangelsk or Perm accent, this is not to dissuade you from investing efforts, rather to put things in perspective – Баян Купи-ка Oct 23 '18 at 13:17

As the Russian pronunciations go, yours is not that bad at all!

The most prominent mistake you're making is inserting the [j] between a palatalized consonant and the following vowel: in the third word of your dictation, you're saying [gdʲje] (*гдье) instead of [gdʲe] (где), and this goes on with practically any palatalized consonant.

The rest of your mistakes are quite minor:

  • You're overarticulating the reduced vowels. Try pronouncing the vowels which don't have stress on them shorter that you're doing now, as if you were mumbling.
  • You're making a stereotypical Italian mistake of inserting vowels between consonant clusters: возьмём - [ə] - к - [ə] - примеру at 0:24, девяносто восемь - [ə] - собак at 0:57 etc. К, as most Russian prepositions, is a proclitic, meaning that phonetically it's an integral part of the following word, so as far as the stress, vowel reduction etc. are concerned, к примеру, про нас, о них etc. are single words. This, to a certain extent, is true even for larger phrases, and spaces between Russian words within an isolated phrase are much less articulate than those between Italian ones.
  • Л/ль is something that would need some love indeed.
  • You're mispronouncing some words and phrases (*не о чём instead of не́ о чем, *завесёнки instead of занавески etc.), but this happens to everyone.
  • thanks a lot for your extremely useful comments! Regarding the soft consonants... I'll try to work on it, but getting them just right seems to require an almost superhuman precision. Regarding the insertion of vowels: I analysed my recording by zoom in to the relevant parts, and as far as I can tell there is no vowel inserted; BUT, there is 1) a small pause between the two words and 2) stops (к, п, т) are pronunced with audible release. I think these two effect are interpreted by natives as 'inserting a vowel'. For восемь I paused because мь is one of the most difficult sounds in Russian :) – Lorents Oct 23 '18 at 13:02
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    Right you are, on second 24 there is "Возьмём, к примеру", which sounds as "возмём, ка примеру", but actually there's a stop with aspiration after К. As for the soft consonants, I believe, you'll conquer them. Your Ш and Щ, for example, do sound very Russian. – Elena Oct 23 '18 at 13:27
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    @Lorents: it seems that the root of your mistakes is putting too much effort into articulation. When Russians speak, they hardly open their mouths and hardly move their lips at all, except for pronouncing the labials maybe. I myself speak Italian a little bit and when I do it's a real exercise for my jaws and lips, my face literally aches after an hour or so of speaking Italian. So try to keep your mouth a little bit more closed, pauses between words a little bit more short, and your unstressed vowels a little bit more lax, and the rest will follow. – Quassnoi Oct 23 '18 at 15:05
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    but that's true of any language—when you are a native you don't move your mouth or lips) – VCH250 Oct 24 '18 at 8:57

Some points in addition to Quassnoi's rundown not related specifically to the points 0 - 6 of the original question (converted from a comment)

1) 0:58 так что is pronounced as one word тАкштэ

2) 1:08 всегда ведь - ведь is enclitic (appended to the immediately preceding word), pronounced with no stress всигдАветь

3)2:33 не о чем is pronounced as one word нЕочем, Е instead of Ё (Ё on the other hand is featured in the phrase ни о чём which is always coupled with negated verb and pronounced slower as ниачЁм)

4) sometimes slips through a typical feature of Italian pronunciation - lack of stop at the last consonant like in дом(э), рот(э), домикаф(э), окнах(э)

5) 3:10 in в той стране тOй shouldn't be reduced to тАй, pronouns always maintain their separate status & proper stress

6) 3:36 за стеклом has genuine E, not Ё, therefore the stress is за стеклОм

7) 4:23 к сАмому главному (here the word is сАмый and not сам, which in Dative does receive stress on the final syllable самомУ)

8) 4:47 добреЙэ, not добреэ

9) 4:57 наУчатся говорить (научАться is an infinitive form, which is somewhat dated, the stress pattern is identical to обучAться)

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