The Most Difficult Word To Pronounce In The Russian Language

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No, it’s not “hello” (Zdravstvuite). And as you’ve probably already learned, saying “hi” is much simpler (Privet!), but NOT appropriate in many situations.

There are some longer words that are difficult.  For example, it is said that if a foreigner has been found guilty before God, he will live on the street known as Шарикоподшипниковская (Sharikopodshipnikovskaya) when he moves to Moscow.  But that street name phonetically is not a high challenge.  The issue here is the memorization of a seemingly endless stream of letters.  Learning to say “Sharikopodshipnikovskaya” is kind of like learning “Pi” to the 25th digit.

But it is the shorter words that often create the largest challenge.  For example, the word “for” in Russian is “dlya”.  Yes, it is unfortunate, but the Russian language hasn’t quite caught up to its English counterpart in outlawing consecutive consonants.  And the kicker here is that “dlya” is one syllable.

Here, now you trying saying “dlya”(remember, one syllable):

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I’m happy to say that after 19 years of living in Russia, I can say the word for “for”, in Russian.  But I still feel like an idiot when I saw the word for surgeon “khirurg” (difficulties with rolling the “r’s”) and furniture “myebyel'” (2 syllables, plus sneaky “soft sign” at the end), so I often cheat by saying “doctor performing surgery” or name the actual furniture items “the shkaf”, etc.  It’s cheating, but it makes me feel better about myself.

But I recently stumbled across a word that is hand’s down the most difficult word to pronounce in the Russian language.  And yes, it is short, and yes, it does not follow American law for consecutive consonants.  It is the Russian word for “haze” or “mist”.  The word is “мгла” (mgla).  And if you want to say “in the haze” you need to say “vo mglye” (the ending of every Russian word changes, depending on the weather, you see).  So, there it is. Practice pronouncing “mglye”.  It is one syllable, so do NOT say, “emglay”.  No one will know what you are talking about.  Just say “mglye”, and then let me know how it goes…

As a bonus track for my Russian speaking frineds, here is a video I made a couple years ago, having some fun with my difficulties with Russian pronunciation.  Enjoy!

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