Pronunciation of “Ы”

This letter, ы, has absolutely no counterpart in English.

Every book I have read has a different way to pronounce this letter. One book says you should pronounce it as “uh-ee” said together quickly; another as the y in Larry.

Here's a method that comes very close to the actual sound in Russian:

  1. Put your lips in position to say “ee.” Your lips will be stretched horizontally and you’ll be smiling (that’s why photographers tell you to say “cheese.”).

  2. Keep your lips in the “ee” position.

  3. With the rest of your mouth, say “oo”.

  4. Out comes this weird sound , which is exactly the one you want.

Step three is the hardest part. When you say “oo” your lips just want to spring back to a round O shape out of habit. You may actually have to hold your lips in place with your thumb and index finger the first few times you try this.

If all of this is too hard for you, just pronounce it like the short “i” in the word “in”, or pronounce it as a very softly spoken “oi”; it's not accurate, but you will be understood.

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