In Russian, the consonants that are not soft (except к, г, х) are harder than in English. What makes them harder is that the back of the tongue is kept high and back. Another exception is "l" as in fall, which is hard in both languages. ("velarized") All other consonants are non-velarized in English.
I would like to learn what are the common methods that can be used to teach this. I find this important since it seems to be the primary reason non-native speakers sound as foreigners to Russians.
To give a better example of what I'm talking about, I found two recordings of this text twice by the same speaker, once with velarization (time mark 00:00) and once without (00:33). The recording is at the bottom of this page. I need to learn to pronounce with velarization.
My largest problems are:
- I usually don't hear the difference between normal and hard consonants when I speak
- My tongue becomes too tense when I velarize
Do you have any tips? I think I devised some which I might post, but later, to avoid influencing answers. Any ideas? I hope this kind of brainstorming is within the scope of this site.
EDIT: For example consider the word "love". With my non-velarized v, I can feel the back of my tongue moving and relaxing forward in the middle of the word. This wouldn't happen if a Russian speaker pronounced it, (back of the tongue would stay at the same place), would it? So an exercise for me would be moving only the tip/front half of my tongue while pronouncing it.
EDIT 2: After accepting the answer, I made further research, and finally solved my problem completely. Firstly, velarization is real. To acquire those sounds, I used any pronunciation of the alphebet and tried to imitate those sounds. What I found was, even though they were slightly velarized, the largest difference between English and Russian hard consonants was that Russian ones are made with the tongue lower. It seems that I'm on the correct path, since this doesn't make my tongue exhausted.
EDIT 3: To learn the oral posture, see this: https://web.archive.org/web/20191022020249/https://www.study-languages-online.com/russian-articulation.html
EDIT 4: My last edit, sorry for bumping again. The research linked solved my problem. All (if not almost all) hard consonants are uvularized. This means, the tongue is retracted horizontally to the back without its back raising or descending. This is what gives the Russian hard consonants "as if the mouth was more closed" say my ears.