Unlocking Russian Pronunciation
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Unlocking Russian Pronunciation
A Supplementary Multimedia Mini-Course in Phonetics Based on Famous Russian Songs
$38 hard copy / $19 digital rental for 180 days
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Unlocking Russian Pronunciation is a comprehensive multimedia experience designed to facilitate the development of speech that sounds authentically Russian. It can be used as a supplement in Russian language courses at any level and the flipped learning environment poses no instructional burden for teachers. Special features include:
Textbook and Extensive Video Library
Full Answer Keys
Detailed Instruction on Every Topic
Expert Coaching on Phonetic Nuances
Phonetics topics are introduced in the context of songs but singing is completely optional. Unlocking Russian Pronunciation © 2019 ACTR is available from Kendall Hunt, where teachers can request a faculty review copy. Check it out!
More About Unlocking Russian Pronunciation
What is it?
Unlocking Russian Pronunciation is a comprehensive multimedia experience designed to facilitate the development of speech that sounds authentically Russian.
Over the course of ten lessons, Unlocking Russian Pronunciation helps students:
Reset their default mouth position
Move from basic knowledge of Cyrillic to mastery of the rules of phonetics
Learn seven well-known Russian songs (although singing them is completely optional!)
How can it be used?
The book and the accompanying online videos together comprise a flipped classroom learning experience that can minimize the burden of phonetics instruction for Russian language teachers. The book and videos together can also function as a stand-alone phonetics course for students studying Russian independently.
Unlocking Russian Pronunciation consists of:
A book available from Kendall Hunt that serves as a textbook/workbook/reference manual and contains exercises, answer keys, and login information that provides unlimited access to the accompanying videos
A set of online video lessons corresponding to each of the topics presented in the book
A set of online videos providing detailed talk-throughs of the lyrics of each song
A set of online videos containing performances of the songs, featuring lyrics and guitar chords displayed in real time
Resetting Your Default Mouth Position
Russian Letters and How to Transcribe Them
How Hard and Soft Sounds Work Together
Consonants That Are Always Hard or Always Soft
The Effect of Emphasis (Stress) on Vowels
Type I Reduction: о/а
Type II Reduction: е/я
Special Rule for Grammatical Endings and Particles
How Singing Changes Pronunciation
Voiced and Voiceless Consonants
Devoicing at the Ends of Phrases
Regressive Assimilation in Consonant Clusters
Renegade Letters г and ч
Prepositions That Lose It (Stress)
Signs of Separation: ъ, ь
How to Pronounce -ться and -тся
How to Pronounce -ее and -яя
Special Russian Words
Unstressed же, ше, це
Exceptional Consonant Combinations
Secret Phoneme ж’ж’
Secret Phoneme Voiced х
Review: "Best Russian Pronunciation Resource on the Market"
As a long-time student and lover of the Russian language, if I could give this course a six-star rating, I would. I wish it had existed when I first began learning the language 20+ years ago. In my view, this course should be a mandatory part of every first-year Russian course wherever it is taught. It does two things, in particular, that I have not seen done before and that, together, make it hands down the best Russian pronunciation resource on the market, essential for beginners and advanced learners alike.
First, it presents the rules of Russian pronunciation in a way that is clear and accessible to even beginners. One of the beauties of the Russian language is that the pronunciation of words is very regular and predictable once you know the rules. There are other books on the market that cover this, but they are impenetrable to all but advanced learners and the very determined. This course, which includes both a book with exercises and video explanations, presents the rules more clearly than any other book I've seen. And if you are new to the language, I could not recommend more strongly learning these rules right from the beginning. Once you know them, you should know how to correctly pronounce almost any word you encounter. And as you're learning new words, you might as well learn how to pronounce them correctly the first time, so you don't have to re-learn them later.
Second, the video course teaches the mechanics of correct pronunciation. Knowing where to make the right sounds (which is what the transcription system helps with) is only half the battle. Learning how to make the sounds is the other half -- and the more difficult half for most English speakers. Kira's Russian pronunciation is the best I've ever heard from a non-native speaker (if you don't believe me, check out her Russian Word of the Day podcast). And, unlike any native speaker I've ever met, she can "translate" her know-how to English speakers, explaining how to make the right sounds by comparing and contrasting proper Russian pronunciation with how we make analogous sounds in English (for example, the difference between the "y" in words like "yes" and the й sound at the beginning of Russian vowels like я and е). Video lesson 3 alone is worth the price of the entire course.
In short, if you are serious about improving your Russian pronunciation and sounding more authentic, get this course. You won't regret it.
On behalf of Russian learners everywhere, спасибо большое, Kira, for putting this together and sharing your exceptional talent with the rest of us.
(This review was sent to me after I asked a customer if I could use a few words of thanks from an email. I'm very grateful! – Kira)
How will Unlocking Russian Pronunciation help me sound more Russian?
This course will teach you how to reset your default mouth position and it will help you take your phonetics to the next level, whether you are a complete beginner or an advanced non-native speaker of Russian. We will use a transcription system that make the subtleties of Russian pronunciation very clear. The system is a hybrid version of several I’ve come across over time; I used this particular system with my Russian students at Swarthmore College with considerable success – and with linguistics students who were not even taking Russian! All they needed was one extra session with me to learn the alphabet, and they were off and running. And, of course, the videos will help you incorporate everything you learn into your own speech.
Do I have to sing?
No! Simply speaking the song lyrics will help you improve the quality of your spoken Russian. However, a performance of each song is included in the accompanying online videos, and guitar chords are provided online and in the Appendix of the book, in case you’d like to give it a go. The songs here are in fact quite well known, and Russians will likely be delighted if you are able to sing them at gatherings around a campfire or at a kitchen table when you are visiting. I have found that singing these songs for Russians makes it possible to form instant bonds with new friends – music is a wonderful thing! But ultimately it’s up to you.
Is it ok to skip around in the book?
If you’re using this book on your own, you could begin right away with the “Song Lyrics & Chords” section in the Appendix and the Spoken Lyrics videos on this site. But if you want to reach a “what-do-you-mean-you’re-not-Russian?!” level of mastery, I’d circle back and delve into the main body of the text. I would read first, then watch the videos that go with the lesson, then complete the exercises, check my work, and finally, especially, practice what I missed. The explanations will help you acquire a conscious command of phonetics rules, and the exercises will support the development of the automaticity that fluency demands. There’s another reason not to neglect the more “academic” portions of this book: the information here is extensive and lies beyond the scope of many Russian language courses as they have traditionally been taught in the US. I hope you come to believe that you are sitting on a gold mine!
Are there other resources you recommend?
Yes! I have a created a host of other resources to help you to improve your Russian pronunciation, from podcasts to video libraries to a master class to individual evaluations. Definitely check them out!
I also recommend that you invest in a phonetics textbook such as Зву́ки. Ри́тмика. Интона́ция. Уче́бное посо́бие, published in 2018 by Ири́на Влади́мировна Одинцо́ва, currently available from various online stores based both in the US and in Russia. Зву́ки и интона́ция ру́сской ре́чи, first published in 1969 by Еле́на Андре́евна Брызгуно́ва, is also an outstanding resource, and if you search you may be able to find the original or more recent editions online.
But the most important piece of advice? Go to Russia and other countries where you can study with native speakers of Russian in an immersion environment with the support of wonderful on-site specialists in phonetics. It's the experience of a lifetime and you will not be sorry!
Can I use this book in conjunction with any Russian language course?
Yes – it was designed to complement instruction at any level. The ten lessons of Unlocking Russian Pronunciation could be assigned over the course of a year or a single term. I have created a sample syllabus and other materials that are available for teachers. The sample syllabus makes it clear that students are responsible for studying, practicing, and checking all of their own work. It also suggests some optional practice and assessment activities for you to conduct as the instructor, but the materials were designed to benefit students without any additional input or interaction from you.
Can I use this book alongside other instructional materials on pronunciation?
Absolutely. Many Russian language textbooks provide instruction on pronunciation early on, and many teachers have found online videos they like to use to get students speaking right away. If this is the case for you, go ahead and use that material as you have in the past. Just let students know that they will be revisiting these topics in greater detail as they work through Unlocking Russian Pronunciation, and that the answer keys are written as though students have had no access to other information.
How often should I assign a lesson?
I recommend assigning one lesson per week for ten weeks, although you may want to assign lessons more frequently in the beginning to facilitate the development of good habits.
Are answer keys included?
Full answer keys to every exercise are provided within the book, and students are encouraged to check their work and practice what they miss. Consequently, students retain full control over and responsibility for their mastery of the material, and the use of the book poses no burden for teachers in terms of grading.
What about assessments?
I would recommend asking students to transcribe a few words taken straight from an answer key every day in class for a little while, once they have worked through Lesson 2. I wouldn’t grade these mini-assessments at first, I’d just treat it as a game or a daily challenge – whatever students find fun. I might transcribe words incorrectly and let my students find the mistakes. On a written test, students could be asked to transcribe a few lines from a song. If you wish to assess student pronunciation itself, a goal-setting approach could be useful. See the forms in the URP Teacher Pack for inspiration...or just use them wholesale.
Will the transcription system take a lot of time and effort to absorb?
These materials are designed to make your job easier, not harder! It may take you ten minutes to get the hang of the transcription system, but the videos really do walk you through it step by step. You could even assign some lessons to a few advanced students as a flipped classroom learning experience, and ask them to teach you how it works the first time around. Extra credit!
Can I skip around in the book?
The answer keys are written as though students are proceeding through the lessons in order, so it might be difficult to skip around. You probably could, but I think it would be easier not to!
Does it matter whether students read the book or watch the videos first?
I have written the book as though students are reading first and then watching, but either way might be fine. In fact, it might even work to assign only the videos and the written exercises, leaving the explanations in the book to serve primarily as a quick reference when needed. However, it’s critical that student spend significant time checking their answers against the answer keys in the book and practicing what they missed. Sometimes students think they’re done once they’ve completed the written exercises. If this is where their efforts end, they are missing out on a huge portion of the value of these materials.
What if I disagree with some of your transcriptions, or prefer to use other symbols?
If you prefer to transcribe certain phenomena differently, feel free to override my explanations! Transcription is more of an art than a science, and there is no need for rigidity in any approach to anything as fluid and organic as a living language. Besides, different systems of transcription serve different purposes. One system may be more suited to fully describing the intricacies of pronunciation, while a simpler system may be more helpful to second language learners. In the end, you are the expert and you have the final say in your classroom.
Copyright & Ethics
The book Unlocking Russian Pronunciation © 2019 ACTR is available from Kendall Hunt at www.kendallhunt.com.
This website and all embedded videos © 2019 Kimberly DiMattia, except for images contained within the videos attributed to other creators. No part of this site, unlockingrussianpronunciation.org, including all embedded videos, may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.
Site background image © sundaemorning/Shutterstock.com
Current photo of the author © Joe DiMattia
1990 photo of the author © Lauren Beth French Stout
1992 photo of the author © Phil Fedchak
1999 photo of the author © Hmm...random passerby in St. Petersburg!
One More Thing
Please do buy the book, and please don't share the video password. If someone asks you for it, just say, "I can't, we gotta be loyal to Kira!" If you "accidentally" used a shared password without buying the book, please do go and purchase it as soon as you can. Thank you for your support! <3 Кира