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I've been studying Russian for like 3-4 years and I still don't know how to pronounce this word. I see the я and I want to say ya but the more I listen to people speak the more it sounds like vremeh rather than vremya.

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  • бремя, время, вымя, знамя, имя, пламя, племя, семя, стремя, темя,
    – markvs
    May 5 at 20:23

4 Answers 4

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If you studied Russian, you should already know that the letter я is not iotized after consonants, so there is no "y" sound there. The word is pronounced [вр'эм'а].

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  • I think what has really thrown me off with this pronunciation rule is seeing the Latinized version i.e. vremya and other words like semya etc. Because that makes you think that they do have a "y" sound in them. NOW I finally realize what is going on. I've been busy learning vocab that's why I haven't taken the time to learn all of the pronunciation rules yet.
    – 22878
    May 6 at 8:09
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    @22878 yeah, I also often see "nyet" in Latin alphabet, which is very disturbing. Letters е, ю, я are iotized only word-initially, after vowels and after hard and soft signs.
    – Anixx
    May 6 at 8:19
  • Strange. On Forvo , mentioned by mimic in another answer, all speakers iotize the я , just as alluded to also in Netch's answer. May 21 at 9:39
  • @GeorgesElencwajg I have just listened the examples following the link you provided. None of the speakers iotized it. All pronounce this correctly.
    – Anixx
    May 21 at 9:49
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    @GeorgesElencwajg: Anixx is saying that the м is palatalized but there is no separate [j] glide after it: therefore, я in this context is not pronounced as "iotized a" (which Anixx uses to mean IPA /ja/), but as a plain /a/ sound with palatalized [mʲ] directly before it. To have [mʲ] followed by iotized /ja/, we'd need the spelling to be "мья". The term "iotized" as used in this answer is not the same thing as "preceded by a palatalized consonant", but a distinct, contrasting pronunciation.
    – sumelic
    May 22 at 0:20
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Russian language features reduction of unstressed vowels. This pertain both cases after palatalized consonants or without them, in a different manner.

What is principal here is that м is palatalized, due to presence of graphical я after it. So it results, in general, in pronounciation [ˈvrʲemʲV], where I noted "a non-distinguished vowel" as capital V. But the nature of this vowel could be different: some people say clear [æ] here, as it would be stressed; but for most of rest, a weaker variant closer to [e] is used (maybe with a minor shift to [i]).

So, both [ˈvrʲemʲæ] and [ˈvrʲemʲe] are correct here. But, replacement of [mʲ] with [mj] (suggested by your "vremya") is definitely foreign and hints on hearing a non-trained learner.

more it sounds like vremeh rather than vremya.

If you have hesitations in pronounciation, you'd better use IPA symbols than such "indirect" descriptions which are good among a single language but not studying a really foreign one.

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I highly recommend using the Forvo service. You can listen to different voices: https://forvo.com/word/%D0%B2%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%BC%D1%8F/#ru

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Оne of the methods to learn how to pronounce such words is to divide them into syllables. "Вре" + "мя" or "В" + "ре" + "мя"(even better). Learn to pronounce them separately. A common problem for English speakers is not to say "время" but "времЬа". "Я" is pronounced similar to "ьа", but still in a different way.

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