In English and French, words are often times "cut" when spoken. For example, in English we might say "Watcha doin'" instead of "What are you doing". Likewise, in French we often cut the 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 am 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.

  • For me this question is too broad. Obviously in language the spoken norm differs from the written one to some extent.
    – shabunc
    Mar 31 '21 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 '21 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 '21 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 '21 at 12:09


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

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

Another distinctive feature of Russian is the vowel reduction. It means that most vowels not under stress are less articulated and reduced to a brief schwa or i. This is not reflected in writing. There is 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 sometimes are 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) might differ a lot.

  • "А давай у нас в слове "Солнце" "Л" будет? - А в слове "лестница" - "Т"! youtube.com/watch?v=DBNnHI3Gjmw
    – Headcrab
    Apr 6 '21 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 '21 at 21:49

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