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I have learned that an unstressed ю is pronounced /jʊ/. However, I cannot hear the /j/ in "Я читаю" (ref: Google Translate) as clearly as I hear in the English word "yes" (https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/yes). Am i missing something, is Google Translate pronouncing it badly or am I just hearing the audio badly?

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I'm inclined to think that the Google Translate pronunciation is a bit odd.

There are three pronunciations of читаю on Forvo (https://forvo.com/word/%D1%87%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D1%8E/#ru) where I hear the /j/ much more clearly. These sound more natural to me.

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  • I have heard these Forvo audios and I can also hear the /j/ clearly in them. The problem seems to be Google Translate indeed. – Alan Evangelista Sep 14 '19 at 19:47
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Good question! /j/ can be clearly heard in читаю if pronounced by a native Russian speaker.

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  • Nope, not necessarily. In a normal casual conversation it will hardly ever be pronounced by many (most?) native speakers. – tum_ Sep 17 '19 at 16:02

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