How to Speak With a Russian Accent

By John Mack Freeman
A Russian accent is necessary for many theatrical parts.

Whether preparing for the plays of Anton Chekhov or for a role in Dr. Zhivago, a Russian accent is a useful tool for any performer to have. Further, due to the large number of traditional Russian villains, a Russian accent can be a useful accessory in completing many costumes. Whether your desire for a Russian accent is professional, amateur, or just for fun, a Russian accent gets better through use, so practice it whenever possible.

Speaking with a Russian Accent

Most commonly, speaking in a foreign accent is taught with the aid of a dialect CD. If you do not have access to these resources, then research movies and television shows that have characters with strong Russian accents. Find clips that feature these characters and listen to them speak so that you can pick up on natural speaking patterns and intonations that may be unapparent from written instructions.

There is no direct translation between Russian and English in regard to the "th" sound. As such, many Russians compensate by making the voiced "th" sound (as in "this") into a "z" sound, making "this" into "zis." For unvoiced "th" sounds (such as in "booth"), a "s" sound is usually implemented, changing "booth" into "boos."

Russian native speakers typically have trouble with the "w" sound in English. As such, most change the "w" sound into the "v" sound, changing words like "war" into "var" and "Wednesday" into "Vednesday."

There is little distinction in Russian between long and short vowels. As such, the vowel sounds are typically the short vowel sounds (a as in "father," e as in "bet," i as in "lit," o as in "lock," and u as in "cut"). Long vowels will typically be flattened as much as possible and shortened to as close to these sounds as possible.

Russians may also have a hard time with the "j" sound in English as there is no Russian equivalent. Many will combine the "d" and "zh" sounds together to form a "j" sound. Typically, it is a bit too harsh for native speakers.

Tip

-There is no substitute for adequate audio exposure to a dialect. Use as many native speakers and videos as you can find to help you adapt more quickly to speaking with a proper Russian accent.

Warning

-Russians use the Cyrillic alphabet while English speakers use the Roman alphabet. A direct phonetic translation is impossible because similar letters don't stand for the same sounds. Be cautious on pronunciation when pronouncing Russian words.

About the Author

John Mack Freeman began work in 2009 as a freelance writer with a focus on articles in health and wellness and contemporary arts and entertainment. He has been published through various websites, specializing in health care and craft-related topics. Freeman earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Shorter College.