Vowels /æ/ and /e/
Due to the dissimilarities in phonological systems, native Russian speakers who wish to learn how to speak English with a neutral sounding accent,–an attribute most often given to English speakers in the Midwestern United states–find it relatively challenging to pronounce English vowels in such a way that when necessary, the vowels in the word in question are distinctly audible to the listener.
Russian vowels vs. English vowels
The English language has 12 vowel sounds – five long vowels and seven short vowels. It has eight diphthongs. In contrast, the Russian language only has five vowel sounds, with no delineation between short and long vowels. Therefore, it is not surprising that as Russians learn English with a modified accent, they struggle with words that feature multiple vowels, or words with vowels in close proximity of one another.
One of the most for arduous vowels Russian speakers is the /æ/. This is the vowel in words like “bat.” Because there is no alteration between short and long vowel sounds in the Russian language, Russians often replace the vowel with /e/. This is a vowel seen in the word “bet.” Therefore, when Russians say the words “bat” and “bet,” they sound nearly identical. While you learn how to speak English you will undoubtedly benefit from not only reading as much English as possible, but reading aloud. Thereby giving you a chance to hear your own voice when you are in rhythm and articulating everything clearly. It also helps to repeat words with two contrasting sounds in quick succession. Thus, when you encounter a word like “bat”, open your mouth wider than normal to enunciate the vowel sound . Pronounce the short /e/ in “bet” with your mouth only open slightly.
Listening to the distinction between each vowel helps in practicing correct English pronunciation and intonation.
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