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In English and French, words are oftentimes "cut" when spoken. For example, in English we might say "Watcha doin'" instead of "What are you doing". Likewise, in French we often cut words. For instance "peut-être" becomes p'têt, or the "re" sound "notre" is often dropped when spoken, so that we just say something sounding like "note". In addition, French has liasons.

My question is: are there any significant differences between spoken and written Russian?

I'm considering learning Russian, but wanted to clarify that before I begin.

When I learned French, I had the most trouble with listening skills. In general, I like to learn vocabulary and grammar. I wouldn't mind having to learn those things for Russian (even the notorious case system), but before I embark on the long journey of learning Russian, I would like to know what to expect when it comes to any differences between spoken and written Russian.

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    For me this question is too broad. Obviously in language the spoken norm differs from the written one to some extent.
    – shabunc
    Mar 31, 2021 at 13:58
  • "Spoken language" is very broad - from slang to "TV anchor speech". I'm afraid we need to narrow down this question so there would be any chance of answering it.
    – Alexander
    Mar 31, 2021 at 17:34
  • Let's say just russian spoken between two educated people in normal life. Not TV anchor speech nor tons of slang Apr 1, 2021 at 1:32
  • If you want to study a language with similar grammar but with more predictable pronunciation, consider Ukrainian. Less vowel reduction, more phonetically driven orthography. Apr 9, 2021 at 12:09
  • As a native English speaker who's been studying Russian for over 10 years, I can tell you this is the least of your worries. Every language takes shortcuts in speech — it's unavoidable. I think the best approach is to imitate what you hear. I find that Russians, for example, don't use enough contractions, which tells me that they either aren't speaking a lot of English, or aren't imitating what they hear from native speakers. However, contractions are an indication of a natural rhythm in the spoken (and written) language. The same with Russian: achieving a natural rhythm is key.
    – CocoPop
    Jan 28, 2022 at 13:52

3 Answers 3

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Drastye!

This is an approximated rendition of the Russian word zdravstvuytyе, "hello". If you count the letters, you may get an idea of how far off the elided forms of some words can be.

This is true for most commonly used polite words like spasibo "thanks", pozhaluysta "please" or "you're welcome" etc. They're very prone to elision.

Another distinctive feature of Russian is vowel reduction. That means that most unstressed vowels are less articulated and reduced to a short schwa or i. This isn't reflected in writing. There's a similar thing in French as well, although Russian does not go as far as French does.

Finally, Russian has some scary consonant clusters, but the consonants in clusters are usually not articulated well either, and are sometimes interspersed with vowels that are omitted in writing. This might take some getting used to as well.

In general, Russian orthography is based on the so-called "historical morphological principle". This means that Russian orthography tries to use the same letters for the same phonemes, and, in case of doubt, reverts to etymology. The allophones of these phonemes (sounds that you actually make when speaking) may differ a lot.

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    "А давай у нас в слове "Солнце" "Л" будет? - А в слове "лестница" - "Т"! youtube.com/watch?v=DBNnHI3Gjmw
    – Headcrab
    Apr 6, 2021 at 4:16
  • I would emphasize that the impact of vowel reduction on listening could be great. Sometimes you would hardly tell the difference between distinct forms of the word. For example, "your / yours" is spelled either "ваша", "ваше" or "ваши" depending on the object, but the difference in pronunciation is next to none.
    – Igor G
    Apr 14, 2021 at 21:49
  • I transcribed your Russian examples, bearing in mind that graphtheory123 has not yet taken up Russian and probably can't read them. I hope that's ok.
    – CocoPop
    Jan 28, 2022 at 13:40
  • Headcrab, а они там и есть, сильно акцентировано или нет :> Feb 2, 2022 at 7:11
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To complement existing good answers:

  • In Russian, it's almost never an error to say words the way they're written, granted your speech apparatus allows that. It might sound unnatural, but that's going to be unavoidable anyway. In fact, Russian speech tends to circle around the written form, whereas in French and English it seems to mostly move away from it in time: Russian comes around.
  • Written Russian almost never has the stress marks on vowels, but you need to know the correct stress in order to pronounce a word properly. Foreign speakers often make words unintelligible when they mess up the stress - native speakers have much more leniency here.
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Я использую почасту словечки "коэш", "коэшн" - конечно. "вообще" - в общем.

Но, на самом деле, всё это встречается редко (в словесно-частотном смысле), относится к жаргонизмам и чаще даже индивидуальным, вряд ли можно говорить об этом (тем более как о чем-то таком конкретном, как "Watcha/Gotcha") как о массовом явлении. И если кто-то чрезмерно и постоянно перенасыщает свою речь подобными искажениями, то и реакция на него будет соответствующей. :>

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  • Most everybody is saying 'щас' instead 'сейчас'
    – alamar
    Jan 28, 2022 at 11:37
  • и это верно. чичас-чичас поправим :> Чаще это "щас" имеет еще и - ироническую нагрузку :> Jan 28, 2022 at 11:54

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