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Lesson 2a - Hello (formal)


Hello in Russian

The Russian word for 'hello' is one of the most common words used in Russia, but unfortunately one of the most difficult for new students to pronounce, because it is long and uses an unusual (for English) combination of letters.

When you come across difficult words like this we suggest you break the words down into syllables and sounds, and then try to learn the word in pieces. You may find it easier to start with the last syllable first, and then add more sounds and syllables until you can pronounce the complete word.

As an example, we will illustrate this technique with the Russian word for 'hello'.


Hello (formal)
Pronounced: zzdrast-wi-tyeh






This word is unusual because some of the letters in the formal spelling of the word are not vocalised. Usually in Russian (unlike English) there are no silent letters, but for this word you just have to remember how to pronounce it.

So let's learn to pronounce this word, syllable-by-syllable.

  • The last syllable is 'tyeh'. It sounds like 'tyer', but without vocalising the 'r'.

Say 'tyeh' a few times.


  • The middle syllable is 'wi'.

Say 'wi-tyeh' a few times until it sounds natural.


  • The first syllable здравст contains a silent letter: в. This is one of the very few occasions that a Russian word has a silent letter. Therefore, it is pronounced as здраст (zzDRAST)

zzDRAST rhymes with the English word 'thrust' (British pronunciation).

Say 'thrust' out-loud.

Now say 'DRAST' out-loud.

Repeat 'thrust' and 'DRAST' until you understand the similarities in their pronunciation.

To make 'DRAST' sound correct in Russian, don’t forget to use a slight 'rolling of the r' if you can.


  • Finally, we add a 'zz' sound to the beginning of DRAST to make it zzDRAST.

Try to blend the 'zz' sound with the first D. Say 'zzD' out-loud many times.

And now say zzDRAST out-loud, and repeat many times.

The first syllable is emphasised in 'zzDRAST-wi-tyeh', so zzDRAST is pronounced slightly stronger than the other syllables.


Practice saying 'zzDRAST-wi-tyeh' many times because it is an important word to know and understand. Say it slowly so you get the pronunciation correct. There is no necessity to speak quickly in Russian, but they will speak quickly to you!