Sun, 10 Dec 2023

What does Russian sound like to foreigners

21 Sep 2023, 18:55 GMT+10

Gangsterish, catty and even presidential.

We asked our followers, colleagues and acquaintances, for whom Russian is not their native language, what Russian sounds like to them. The answers turned out to be very diverse: someone mentioned the melody of the language, while others recalled mafia scenes from action movies.

The language of the mafia & presidents

Vanya from Serbia is studying at the philological faculty and is learning Russian. She doesn't even remember her first impressions of the way Russian sounds, but told us about her sister's reaction: "Once, I was wearing total black and, just for fun, was saying something in Russian, trying to imitate the sound of Russian speech. And my sister looked at me and said: 'If I didn't know you, I'd think you were in the mafia!'"

A shot from 'GoldenEye' by Martin Campbell, 1995/Eon Productions Ltd.

Lana, Vanya's fellow student, replied that Russian is not like most languages, it's special: "It's like a presidential language, the most important of all languages."

In the comments section of our English Telegram channel, 'Oliver' replied that, in his youth, he heard Russian only in movies like 'James Bond', where it always sounded rude and evil. But, when he got to know Russians personally, he realized that the Russian language is quite different - poetic and beautiful.

Calm & deep

According to 'Jacques', a follower of our French Telegram channel, Russian even calms him down: "Every night, I turn on a Russian audio to fall asleep. The Russian language sounds like a lullaby."

'Nąrðrażima Sïnïstra Jeżżebelle', a subscriber to our German Telegram channel, replied that Russian is a melodic, idiomatic, beautiful-sounding language of the heart and soul: "No other language can express the breadth of human emotions as deeply and accurately as Russian. Only poetry can pick up and convey the art of the Russian word."

'Andrei 1 2 3', commenting in our English Telegram channel, says that the sound of Russian depends on the speaker. For him, Russian sounds "wise, calm and soft" in the speech of director Nikita Mikhalkov, whereas it is "frivolous, charismatic and colossal" in Vladimir Vysotsky's poetry and songs.

Whiny like Polish

Michael moved to Russia from London about 20 years ago. For him, Russian sounded like Polish at first: "My mom is Polish and I studied some Polish as a child. So, to me, it sounded very similar to the soft, whiny pitch Polish often comes across as. Also, Russians often speak in a higher pitch."

Computer game baddies

Nick from China has been studying Russian for two years. He first heard Russian in the computer game 'Red alert' and found the way it sounded as "bold and strong". Besides, Nick disagrees with Michael - he thinks Russians have low-pitch voices.

Russia Beyond

Russian obscenities also have their own charm

'tbd_tbd_tbd', commenting in our German Telegram channel, writes: "For me, it is one of the most beautiful-sounding languages, if the speech is not interrupted by constant cursing, which, however, also has its own charm and cannot compare to any other language I know. If you want to experience the beauty of this language, you should study Russian poetry in its original language."

Separately, many of our Japanese Twitter followers agreed that Russian reminds them of feline sounds: "Sometimes, Russian sounds like a cat's meow," one wrote. "Russian sounds something like 'nya nya sya sya', which reminds of a cat. It sounds cute, cool and beautiful," another weighed in.

Russia Beyond (Legion Media)

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