In this breakdown, we'll be focusing on a few samples chosen by director Johnnie Hobbs for the short film Yuri, written by Johnnie Hobbs and Aviv Rubinstien.
Russia is the largest country in the world by area ("Russia").
Russia has the third largest immigrant population in the world (Kirk).
Famous Russians of African descent include: Alexander Pushkin, the famous poet, whose grandfather was kidnapped from his home in sub-Saharan Africa as a child and brought to Russia ("Gannibal"); Brian Idowu, a professional footballer who is Nigerian and Russian ("Brian Idowu"); and Greta Onieogou, an actor on All American and Heartland, who is, like Idowu, Nigerian-Russian through her parents but moved to Canada at a young age ("Greta Onieogou").
For this character, let's work with an oral posture that features:
Active tongue, frequently contacting the back of the teeth
Low velum, particularly for /h/ sounds
Equator tongue that easily retracts
Lip corners that advance and retract easily
- Jaw opening is relatively small
Try it on the phrase "Hello, it's nice to meet you."
Oral Posture analysis created with the help of Alexandra Martinez.
Notice the quality of voice that these speakers have in common. One speaker uses upward inflection more frequently, and the other uses downward more frequently. Feel free to play with both. Spend some time in active mimicry with the later parts of the recordings when they are forming their thoughts and chooing their words.
“I was born in Moscow in 1997."
Notice the falling inflection at the end of the phrase.
"My students understand me, or maybe they are very kind."
Notice the time he takes between the words in the second part of the phrase.
"I-I-I could not dream about this life."
Although much of this person's speech has upward inflections, notice how quickly he's trying to get to the thought at the beginning of this sentence.
For this section, words are primarily grouped by the stressed vowel sound. My wonderful Assistant Accent Coaches, Alexandra Martinez and Destyni Williams, have sorted all of the words currently used in Yuri's dialogue so that you can look up if a word will use a particular target sound.
Many of the lists on that page are not referenced below. Those words will be close to your own pronunciation, and will be brought into the world of the accent through oral posture. If you have any questions, or run into a particular word, we can discuss it in our sessions, or you can always shoot me an email!
FLEECE and KIT words, as well as their unstressed counterpart, happY, will target a similar sound. Think KIT vowel in So-Called General American, and then think it a little closer to the FLEECE vowel.
need, deep, clean, please, mean, me
build, rid, listen, still, everything, napkin
funny, lady, sorry, body, only, cookie
You still need deep clean Hiroko.
I also not body build. This common misconception.
TRAP and BATH words target a sound similar to the vowel in SCGA DRESS.
that, napkin, bag, thank, slacks, and
trash, half, can't, path, assumptions
Bag of half eaten cookie.
Ass-umptions are mismanaged expectations.
I am ass.
Note: for the word aunt let's plan for you to say it however the person playing Sophie pronounces it.
LOT words will target a very similar sound to SCGA LOT. I'm listing them here so we can practice with oral posture, and differentiate these words from CLOTH and THOUGHT words (below).
not, hot, compliment, common, on, body
When I compliment slacks?
You may notice that the target IPA symbol looks similar to the symbol for LOT, above. It's for a good reason - your tongue is aiming for the same exact position. The only difference is a little bit of lip rounding.
softer, sorry, Austrian
water, taught, call
She taught to control everything inside body to bench 150 kilos.
FOOT and GOOSE words will target a fairly similar sound.
good, bully, cookie, looking
move, undervalue, babushka, you, too
But we don't forget how good cookie make us feel.
I not wish to undervalue you in hard time.
Words that include the stressed /er/ sound in SCGA will vary slightly depending on spelling. Since there are only a few in the script, I've recorded some individual target sounds for these words.
serve, jerk, purpose
If serve no purpose?
For unstressed /er/ sounds, like at the end of the word letter, feel free to target the same sound you use in your own speech. With oral posture as our filter, this will be in the ballpark of the sound.
CURE words will start by targeting a very rounded SCGA GOOSE sound, and then going to rhoticity.
Your presence is a present.
NORTH and FORCE words will be similar to SCGA, but with a slightly lower tongue (more space in the mouth).
story, Shwarzenegger, course
Schwarzenegger is Austrian bodybuilder.
Unstressed words: for, or. This or that. Do this for you.
Ending /d/ [t]
In words that end in a voiced /d/, let's target an unvoiced /t/.
build, asked, forward, offend, hard
I asked to forward training email.
Retracted /l/ [ɫ]
We discussed this as part of oral posture, but just a reminder about the retracted /l/.
kilos, listen, weight-lifting, undervalue, slacks, compliment
When I compliment slacks?
Ending /ing/ [ɪŋk]
This is a very subtle shift.
unsuspecting, weight-lifting, everything,
...placed on unsuspecting victim.
Polegche! Lighter! [pɑˈʎɛgt͡ʃɛ]
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Hvatit! Enough! [ˈhv̞ɑtɪt]
Rousskaya? Are you Russian? [ˈruskaɪ̯ə̆]
Russian language recordings created by Konstantin Lavysh.
Kirk, Ashley. “Mapped: Which Country Has the Most Immigrants?” Www.telegraph.co.uk, 21 Jan. 2016, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/12111108/Mapped-Which-country-has-the-most-immigrants.html.
Wikipedia Contributors. “Abram Petrovich Gannibal.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Dec. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abram_Petrovich_Gannibal. Accessed 27 Mar. 2022.
---. “Russia.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Jan. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia. Accessed 27 Mar. 2022.