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Thread: Listening practice for beginners

  1. #1
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    Listening practice for beginners

    Hello all, after much lurking here I'd like to introduce myself. I'm from the UK and I have just started learning Russian. I've wanted to learn it for a while, get some Russian penfriends and exchange e-mails and international chit-chat. Reading and writing Russian is therefore my main priority. I live out in the provinces so am most unlikely to meet a real Russian anytime soon (pity!).

    I am currently chewing my way through "Colloquial Russian" by le Fleming and Kay. I'm learning a lot of grammar fast but really struggling with remembering the vocabulary, because I don't know how to pronounce it. The book comes with optional extra CDs, but I'm on a budget of about tuppence ha'penny here (that gives my age away) and I can't really afford them. I also don't really want to download software, because our PC is old and creaky and I don't want to scare it.

    I found a site with news bulletins in slowly spoken Russian and I can't make head nor tail of it. Clearly it is spoken completely differently from how I imagined. Even with the transcript I can't make out a word of what's being said. Are there any sites with really, really slow (classroom slow) Russian on? MP3s of "the cat sat on the mat" spoken at half speed, perhaps?

    Thanks in advance!

    skyblueteapot.

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    Не балуй!

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    Aha! Thank you.

    I'd seen the link recommended in this forum before, but because of the way the files are organised I hadn't noticed the mp3 files, just the pdfs.

    skyblueteapot.

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    Почтенный гражданин Volk's Avatar
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    Try this audio dictionary also:

    https://www.seelrc.org:8443/russ/login.jsp

    It doesn't take long to register and when you want to check the pronunciation of words from books or wherever you can look them up here.
    Please correct any Russian language mistakes I make.

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    great link, I was actually looking for something like that yesterday. too bad now I know how horrible my pronunciation is with some sounds now

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    Wow, that talking dictionary is a good idea.

    Taking it a stage further, does anyone know of a link where you can type in a phrase, sentence or paragraph and hear it read out? I use ReadPlease for French and German (sounds like a robot but it generally gets the pronuncation right...as far as I can tell) but the free demo version doesn't stretch to Russian.

    skyblueteapot.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by skyblueteapot
    Wow, that talking dictionary is a good idea.

    Taking it a stage further, does anyone know of a link where you can type in a phrase, sentence or paragraph and hear it read out? I use ReadPlease for French and German (sounds like a robot but it generally gets the pronuncation right...as far as I can tell) but the free demo version doesn't stretch to Russian.

    skyblueteapot.
    I wouldn't recommend this kind of progs (at least for russian) since they often stress wrong syllables and the inflexion is horrible. So I think the voice dictionary and audiobooks are the best choice. You don't want to sound like a broken robot, do you?

    Anyway, here are some links where you can download "Govorilka" and necessary voice engines. This program can read text and to record it in .mp3 or .wav file, so you can listen to it later. You can also just type anything in the program workspace and listen to it.

    You need to install all the following soft for G. to work propely.

    1) GOVORILKA: http://www.scancanet.narod.ru/Govorilka145rus.zip (480 kb)

    2) SpeechAPI: http://activex.microsoft.com/activex/co ... pchapi.exe (825 kb)

    3) Diagolo voice engine (russian): http://www.vector-ski.ru/vecs/govorilka/digalorus.zip (7.4 Mb)
    It's demo version with 15 days limitation. To get round this limitation download and run CRACK for Diabolo.
    CRACK for Diabolo: http://www.scancanet.narod.ru/digalocrack.zip (16 kb) (please don't sue me, I just repeat what was written on the source site )

    You can use any other voice engine with support of russian languauge if you have it.

    You can also download additional pronounsation dictionaries: http://www.scancanet.narod.ru/slovar.zip (about 30 kb) and here http://www.vector-ski.ru/vecs/govorilka/dic.htm.

    INTERFACE IS IN RUSSIAN!
    But it uses standart windows icons and hot keys (a sheet of paper for creating a new document, a folder for opening a file, CTRL+S for saving a file, etc.)
    Run the program, choose in еру "голос" ("voice") field Digalo Russion Nicolai, open the text and press the green arrow or F5 to begin reading.
    The second field "Воиспроизв." allows you to choose between two options: to listen to the text or to record it to the file.

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    Re: Listening practice for beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by skyblueteapot
    I found a site with news bulletins in slowly spoken Russian and I can't make head nor tail of it. Clearly it is spoken completely differently from how I imagined. Even with the transcript I can't make out a word of what's being said
    just curious: how did you imagine it would sound, and in what way is the real thing different from your expectations?

    Your case is one where I would actually recommend trying Pimsleur, at least the first part. It's a bit expensive, but many libraries carry it, and there is always P2P

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    I understood from my book that stressed and unstressed syllables sound very different in Russian, and I'd read all the descriptions of the different vowel sounds, but there's no substitute for actually hearing them, is there?

    The other thing that I was doing in my head as I read was reading each word as a separate entity. Not only does that not happen in practice in any language (native speakers generally run words together) but it seems particularly impossible in Russian. You get words that are a single consonant (б, с etc) and then you get really chewy consonant combinations in the middle of words. When I listened to the slowly spoken news on http://www.gwu.edu/~slavic/webcast/ I realised that they were running the little words together and putting breaks into the middle of long words to avoid tongue dislocation.

    And don't get me started on all the descriptions of ы that I've read. None of them gave me any idea how it was really said.

    I'm keeping an eye on eBay for second-hand CDs on how to speak Russian. Something will come up eventually. Of course, with eBay you have to know exactly what you're looking for. P2P eh? What's that?

    Regards,

    skyblueteapot.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by skyblueteapot
    I understood from my book that stressed and unstressed syllables sound very different in Russian, and I'd read all the descriptions of the different vowel sounds, but there's no substitute for actually hearing them, is there?
    Well, I guess there isn't, but descriptions should help a bit too. E.g. the unstressed o/a is very close to the first vowel in "computer" (so called schwa), for example (I am simplifying things a bit, as it will depend on the position of the unstressed vowel too, but it is too early for you to worry about that imo). "i" as in "it" is a good proxy for "bl", especially if you can make it a bit longer. (edit: I was assuming you were speaking AmE, but since you are from the UK, this advice might not apply).

    You can use that news site to check your pronunciation.

    I would definitely warn against any automatic reading programs -- they probably sound just as unnatural as you, and you should not use them as guides.

    I guess one big mistake a lot of English-speaking people make when they try speaking Russian is trying too hard, it gets especially funny when people try pronouncing long names. The unstressed vowels get reduced because we do not care about them too much and place little effort there, and same goes for the consonant clusters where consonants often get dropped.
    And always remember that written Russian is not exactly phonetic (it's about as phonetic as French) -- that is, if you know the stress and the rules you can usually figure out how a written word is pronounced, but generally it will not be pronounced "as written".

    The other thing that I was doing in my head as I read was reading each word as a separate entity. Not only does that not happen in practice in any language (native speakers generally run words together) but it seems particularly impossible in Russian.
    You are right that every language runs words together, but I do not think Russian is particularly special here. You can read Russian text stopping after most words, it would sound unnatural but legible. Kids who are learning to read do that. Perhaps you are not too familiar with the alphabet, or are trying to guess the stress or something and that distracts you from reading further? Once you've been reading more this problem should disappear.

    http://www.gwu.edu/~slavic/webcast/ I realised that they were running the little words together and putting breaks into the middle of long words to avoid tongue dislocation.
    I listened to one file there. They do speak quite slowly and clearly, and almost naturally (more naturally than Pimsleur actors, for one). They actually do put pauses in between some words where in normal speech people wouldn't usually do so, but even regular newscasts do that sometimes to improve clarity.

    P2P eh? What's that?
    www.slyck.com
    http://btjunkie.org/search?q=pimsleur+russian
    http://www.emugle.com/search.php?q=pimsleur+russian

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