Russian and Slavonic Accents

If your first language is Russian, or a dialect of Russian, you may be using the Slavonic “sound system” when you speak English. You may not have learned much about this if you studied English as a foreign language. Some of these differences won’t have great impact; some may give you a charming accent, but others can interfere with your ability to communicate.

You may get feedback that listeners can’t understand you, that you talk too fast, or that you sound harsh, depressed, or pushy. Perhaps you’ve gotten feedback at work that your presentation style confuses your audience or lacks direction. These, and other problems, result from applying what you know and use successfully in Russian, to English, where it doesn’t work as well. You are applying a set of Russian “sound rules” to English, which has its own sound rules that you should be applying.

Some common interference points between Russian and English:

  • Vowel system differences (long and short vowel differentiation, and diphthongs)
  • Consonant system differences
  • Intonation and pitch range differences
  • Pitch, rhythm and stress pattern differences

The above points are specific to sound production inside the mouth, however another potential source of interference may be that your presentation design, pace or organization doesn’t match what your audience expects and needs. Furthermore, in English, intonation and sentence stress carries layers of meaning, as well as signals regarding idea organization and speaker attitude, things that are not conveyed in the words themselves.

And if you like to listen rather than read, here’s a podcast about Russian accents in English and what to do about it.

If you’re working on your sound in English, get in touch! We can diagnose your current pronunciation habits, define your goals, determine your skills and knowledge in target areas, and create a plan that guides your practice and leads you to a better sound in English.

Contact me to discuss a customized, private pronunciation class that addresses your specific problems.

Peggy Tharpe teaches, coaches, and publishes about English pronunciation and intonation. She believes that if you understand why something is happening, you're better able to address it and change it. She teaches the "why" of pronunciation as well as the "what" and "how".