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For the love of vodka, Russian voices are prejudiced to sound stereotypically harsh, aggressive and monotonous. Still, it is spoken by 265 million people worldwide. The Russian voice holds significance not only in the corporate world but also in the scape of media and major international organizations. Such include the WHO, the UN, and CIS.
There is a Russian saying that goes “Если вы говорите с человеком на языке, который он понимает, сказанное достигнет разума. Если вы говорите с ним на его родном языке, ваши слова достигнут сердца.” Simply translated into English, it means “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” The way to a consumer’s conversion is indeed through his or her heart. This quote holds much wisdom especially in the world of branding and marketing.
If you are in search of the perfect Russian voice for the purpose of dubbing, voice overs or audio ad creation, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re looking to hire the right Russian voice actor or to emulate a Russian accent in English, we’ll point you in the right direction. We’ll discuss what it takes to sound authentically Russian!
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Why You Need a Russian Voice
The answer is simple, speaking the local language can instill trust and sincerity whether it’s personal or business communication. Unlike most countries, many Russians are loyal to their language and do not speak English. Russia is a difficult language to learn too, hence the demand in the market. Thus, if you really wish to buy the hearts of your consumers, you will need a Russian voice.
The realm of Russian speakers is 27 times larger than that of the French. There are 154 million native speakers and 17 countries other than Russia that speak the language. They are Azerbaijan, China, Belarus, Estonia, Isreal, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. One-third of the Russian population speaks English. Even so, communication is psychologically deemed more effective and trustworthy when in one’s native language, or in an accent that is familiar.
The Corporate World
Let’s talk about some important statistics concerning the 137.5 million native speakers in Russia. Research has shown that approximately three-quarters of locals are interested in trying new products, and 49% of local consumers choose foreign products over local brands. In addition, marketing through social networks is proven to have a 47% penetration rate. Consumers also place more preference on the brand, quality, and longevity of products in comparison with the price when it comes to purchases. These positive factors make Russia a great option when it comes to new market penetration. But with only a third of the population well versed in English, knowing the language plays a great role when it comes to localization.
The Entertainment Industry
When movies cross linguistic borders, there’s always a solution of dubbing, subtitling or voice overs. However, in Russia, most of the entertainment industry involves local language only. Dubbing is a predominant must, thus contributing to the demand for Russian voices.
How to Do a Russian Accent in English
Trevor Noah, the whizz of accents once joked that “Everything the Russians say sounds dangerous and menacing.” Funnily, he denotes that this only applies to when they speak in English in a Russian voice. Whether you’re dubbing a soviet civil war movie or doing a voice over for an audio ad, the first step to a good accent is listening. Listen to the pronunciation of letters and the cadence of tone and make some notes to the patterns. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Roll that “R”
Words with the letter “R” in them are pronounced with a trill. Here’s a quick way you can practice. Place the tip of your tongue against the palette behind you’re the back of your upper teeth. Then practice making the sound “rrrrrrr” or “trrrrr” by creating vibrations under your tongue when you do so. Even short words like “every” or “berry” require a short roll of the “R”s. Try not to roll them for too long to prevent sounding fake and exaggerated. The more you practice the more natural you will sound.
2. Lengthening the “U”
The letter “U” is usually extended and replaced with an “oo” sound. For example, instead of pronouncing the word “hunt” as “hah-nt”, it’s said “hoo-nt”. Another example is the word “run”. Say it by extending the letter “U” so it sounds like “rrrr-oon”. Yup, don’t forget to roll the letter R while you’re at it.
3. The Guttural “H”
You know how the French roll their letter “R”s at the back of their throat to make somewhat of a guttural sound? A similar technique is used to say the letter “H” in a Russian accent. Try saying it with a “Kh”, almost like rolling some phlegm right at the back of your throat. This makes the word “house” to become “khouse”. This is what gives the accent its signature rough-sounding stereotype.
4. Say “I” with “Eee”
Freely exaggerate words with the letter “I” by extending it till it sounds like “Eee”. For example, the word “kill” is said “keeel” and “dig” is pronounced “deeeg”. So the sentence “Will you kill a pig?” is pronounced “Weeel you keel a peee-g?”.
5. Interchange “W” with “V”
This one is pretty easy to master once you get used to remembering it. In a Russian accent, the letter “W” with a sharp sounding “Veee” so that the letter “we” becomes “vee”. Vice versa, the letter “V” is said with a “W”. The sentence “Which violet will you wear?” will hence be transformed into “Vhat woilot veel you vear?”.
6. Say “Th” and “T” with “D”
Words containing “T” is cut short and simply pronounced with a “D”. For example, is the word “clot” is pronounced as “clod”. Remembering this little trick will significantly thicken your accent.
7. Love the “L”
The Russian accent has a signature way of pronouncing the letter “L”. The light “L” in English is usually used before a vowel such as the word “line”. Unlike the English language that has a light “L” and a hard “L”, Russians pronounce all “L”s hard. The back of your throat has to constrict to do this while saying the “L”.
8. Drop “the” and “a”
Grammatically, Russians usually omit these two words that we use in English. For example, the sentence “This is the country with a flag” is simply said “Dis ees country vit flag”. Both the words “the” and “a” are skipped.
9. Say “E”s as “Yee”
Soften the normal way you say the letter “E” and replace it with a “yee” instead. So the word “led” is “lyed”. An example of a sentence is “My leg is better”. It is said “My lyeg ees byetter” in a thick Russian accent.
10. Drop the “H” in “Th”
Simply ignore the “H” that follows a “T”. Russians are usually confused about this and “Th” can be said two ways. For example, “This” is either pronounced “Zis” of “Dis”. The sentence “Get to the number three” is said “Gyet to ze number trrr-ee”.
Just like all major languages, the Russian language has its own dialects too. They mainly originate from three regions. The northern, central and southern. There are of course some differences in the pronunciation of each dialect. Moscow lies in the middle of the north and south dialects. Its dialect is also considered standard Russian, which is what every student will first learn, and all Russians will understand.
If you aim to record a voice-over or audio ad that will be broadcasted to a large geographical area, standard Russian is a good way to go. If you, however, plan to specifically localize your product for a certain area, it is then important for you to understand which places speak what dialect. Here’s a link where you can learn more about differentiating Russian dialects and their regions.
Hiring a Reliable Russian Voice
If you are penetrating new markets, it is most probable that you will need to hire a translator for official paperwork and a Russian voice to do your audio ads or voice-overs. Many nuances can be lost in translation. Thus hiring a reliable Russian voice actor can be a challenge especially if you do not speak the language. It is hard to know if the content you want translated has been done so in the right context.
There is a Russian proverb that says “Болтуна язык до добра не доведёт”. Translated, it means a fool’s tongue runs before his feet. Make sure your money is in the right place when you hire a Russian voice for your projects lest it is detrimental to your brand’s image. Here are some tips to help you find the right Russian voice, whether in the native language or in an accent.
Listen to Sample Clips
It’s not just about the language, it’s also about the voice qualities. That’s what makes Morgan Freeman stand out from other voices. You most probably already have an idea of the type of voice you are looking to hire. Is it male or female? What age range of voice are you looking at? What other attributes do you require? (lively, energetic, guttural, low pitched?) If you are struggling to find the words, here is a good guide that might be able to help you voice your demands. Before officially casting a voice actor, always listen to samples of their sound clips. They might just inspire you to go in another and more appealing direction.
Hire Native Speakers Only
Native speakers understand colloquialism, nuances, and culture. Thus, hiring a native speaker ensures better localization. Language is just one element of localization. If you are set on effectively marketing your product, you will need someone who understands the demographical interests and speak the same appeal to your segment. You do not want to hire one who simply translates the language, but who can also add “Russian-ness” that can resonate with your market.
Choose One With Awesome Recommendations
Before you literally put your money where the mouth is in outsourcing, ask for testimonials and recommendations. Voice quality and accent aside, there are many other soft factors to consider when outsourcing. Such include the timely handover of your project and reliable language skills. Anyone can take a document and do a translation into Russian with Google. But it takes a good linguist to do a non-literal translation of certain nuances that do not make sense in a new language. You don’t want to be left high and dry at the end. As you might be unfamiliar with the language, the best way to judge the quality of work is to let others speak for it. Plain translation, ads or voice over, here’s one to consider that comes with recommendations from many accomplished projects.
Pick a Competitive Rate
Affordability is an iffy topic. The industry presents rates of $50 to $350 for a 30-second ad. With the huge range of prices in the market, how can you tell the good ones from the bad? Outsourcing to someone affordable but who also guarantees good quality is, of course, the best case. This means meeting your deadline, good recording quality, and reliable vetted translation. Again, we highly recommend you trust those with recommendations! A reasonable 30-second ready-to-use audio ad that includes original content and a voice recording costs approximately $200. While a voice over project starts from $60 depending on the voice actor you choose. Here’s where you can find a good platform at this rate to outsource your project to.
To End It All Off
We’ll end this article with some laughs and the inspirational impression of a Russian voice done by Trevor Noah here. Russian is known to be somewhat of a challenge to pick up. Whether you’re learning to perfect your Russian accent or hiring a Russian voice, don’t play the risky Russian roulette! Follow our advice for a shoo-in killer audio ad or voice over!