How to Say Hello in Russian
by Brent Van Arsdell
People ask me all the time, “How do you say hello in Russian?” We’ll here’s how to learn to say Здравствуйте, the Russian word for hello, in about five minutes.
First I’m going to teach you how to say it very slowly, then at normal speed.
Note that this page will teach you how to say the Russian word for “hello”, not the word for “hi”. The Russian word for “hi” is привет.
Learn Здравствуйте (Russian for Hello) From Back to Front
I had a Russian teacher record this word in a way that sounds strange but will help you learn it quickly. First she says it slowly one time. Then she starts at the end of the word and builds it up one syllable at a time working toward the front of the word. At the end she says Здравствуйте slowly twice.
Don’t open your mouth as much as you would when you speak English. Try to keep your jaw almost entirely closed.
First say the word out loud after the teacher, then say it at the same time as the teacher.
Notice: If the audio clips sound like Mickey Mouse (they play too fast and have a high pitch) upgrade your version of Flash to the current version or try a different browser like Firefox or Internet Explorer.
Здравствуйте (Hello in Russian) said Slowly
If you have a hard time with the rolled r’s in this slow pronunciation, don’t worry about it. The normal speed version doesn’t roll the r very much. However sooner or later you will want to learn how to roll your Russian R’s.
Here’s the normal speed pronunciation of Здравствуйте . The word is said twice with a space between it.
Здравствуйте (Hello in Russian) at Normal Speed
Don’t worry about getting it perfect, just keep your mouth mostly closed, and say the words out loud first after the teacher and then at the same time as the teacher.
If you want to have even more fun with this open up an audio recorder like Windows Media recorder on a PC or QuickTime Pro on a Mac and record both your voice and the teachers voice. Try to make your recorded voice match the teachers voice.
Why Closing Your Jaw Makes Talking Russian Easier
The most important thing you need to know to be able to say this Russian word (and have Russians understand you) is that you need to keep your mouth mostly closed.
Different languages have you open your mouth different amounts. Italian is a mouth wide open language. English is a mouth half open language. Russian is a mouth mostly closed language.
One time I was watching a Russian newscaster read the news on Moscow TV and he wasn’t moving his lips at all! This guy was talking clearly enough to be a famous TV broadcaster but he didn’t move his lips.
This key thing to saying hello and most other words in Russian is that you need to keep your jaw mostly closed and use your lips and tongue to make the sounds.
Put a fingernail in your mouth and bite down on it lightly. That’s the maximum width you should open your mouth to say Здравствуйте. Try this in front of a mirror to make sure you keep your mouth closed.
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i would like to say that i am Russian, so obviously i do speak the language pretty well, and when we speak we don’t open the mouths “just enough to put fingernail in it”, we open it normally, if not too wide.
with all due respect to your experience, this just sounds way too weird.
First thank you for your comments. I appreciate it. The next time you are trying to help a native speaker of English try to say hello in Russian, suggest that he or she close his teeth to be one fingernail width apart.
I bet your friend will sound much better in Russian.
This sounds weird to you because you naturally open your mouth the right distance for Russian words, because it’s your native language.
I haven’t talked to you in English, but most Russians will reduce their Russian accent in English when they open their mouth more.
Give it a try and see what your native English speaking friends say.
I agree with you Brent. All languages are very different from eachother, although they have some similarities. I speak French as my native language and I learned English in my school to what I would like to believe is close to fluent. For me being a native speaker of French, I can pronounce all the accents and conjugations very well, although for someone trying to learn French, they will have to speak it in a way that sounds very different and strange to a French speaker, but that’s beacause the English (this applies to people learning Russian) language has a completely different sound. Like Russian, English is very choppy and “sticcato”, while French is very smooth and connected. It is diiferent for everyone, so just trust the proffessionals.
Thanks for your comments Edmonde. Don’t you think of Russian as being smooth only in a slightly different way than French? If you listen to Russian spoken in entire sentences it sounds a lot smoother than the one word example does above. The Russian word for hello is indeed pretty choppy.
Hi everyone.The thing is that English language is not like anything else.I speak lithuanian as my native,my russian is very good without accent,also some polish and of course english.I am strugling to improve my english because there is no strongly pronuonced leters in that language that makes it diferent from any other language,so most of the times when i hear native english with some accents esspeciali scotish :) it just some kind of babling to me :).
I tried to teach my english friends russian,and they absolutely couldnt pronuocne anything.The thing is that you need to pronuonce some leters of the word sharply.Its not that smooth as english.I supose you noticed how russians speak english,like robots strong sharp leters.The only thing you need just practice until you will develop habbit to pronuonce some parts of the word sharp.It dosent mater how complete word will sound , you just have to make 2 parts of it right and russians will understand you.
P.s sorry for my english :)
This is good advice Valdas. Some Russian words are a lot more “sharp” than English.
Not done, the vast majority. In many English dialects mistresses vowels are reduced to schwa and consonants are often soft. This is why a language like German has a reputation for being harsh. Latin as well, to an extent. It has a lot to do with the harsh consonant spy do because those languages have clusters of distinct Consonant sounds while English tends to silence one when the words are imported.
This is why Russians (I know some) have this habit of stressing consonants when speaking English. They will say “whaT aRR yoU doing” – trying g for dear life (and sometimes failing) to not roll their /r/ – while an American will say something similar to “whuhd uh yuh doin” with a soft T sound (which sounds similar to a d, because they will soften the vowel a excessively and it becomes schwa.
When Americans hear this it sounds like an artificial voice recording and it’s a red flag for pin pointing people with ESL.
This is extremely common with people who grew up speaking Slavic languages.
The ironic thing about the trilled /r/ is that our /r/ is a lot harsher than many trilled /r/ consonants, and as difficult for them to learn as theirs is for us.
Many English speakers trill on the English /r/ sound when it’s actually a different consonant in other languages. The difference is not just the trill. The entire sound differs. So it’s not just hard to trill the consonant, but also to disassociate our native “errrrrr” sound from it so that we can actually pronounce the russian words properly.