How to pronounce Russian Ц sound

Russian [ц] quite often seems difficult to foreigners, as many languages don’t have this sound. Do you have the same problem? Let’s try to figure out the secret of Russian [ц]!

ц sound

[ц] sound is the result of sounds [т] and [с] pronounced together. And the main problem here is to say them simultaneously so that it was [ц] and not [тс]. Shall we try?

Articulation

Put the tongue in the position as shown in the picture above. Touch the lower teeth with the tip of your tongue, and press its back to the alveoles behind the upper teeth. Breath out and use the air flow break the contact with alveoles. The tip of the tongue stays fixed to the lower teeth:

And now try to do the same, but faster and more intensively:

To make the sound a bit more distinctive, say it with the vowel. With [а] for example:

If it doesn’t work, you can also try to pronounce the combination [тс] with the increasing speed:

And now add the vowel to make [ц] sound sharper:

Exercises

  • ца: цаца, цапля, царь, царица
  • цэ: цех, цент, цель, цезарь, церковь
  • цы: цена, цирк, цикл, цифра, цыган
  • отец, конец, перец, певец, молодец
  • ц: цвет – цвета, цветок – цветы
  • учиться, ложиться, встречаться, встречается, детство

Did you notice, that we read syllables ця, цю, це, ци as [ца], [цу], [цэ́]/[цы], [цы]? We do it because Russian [ц] is always hard.

We also often (not always) pronounce combinations тс and тьс as [ц]. But, in imperative, for example, ться sounds [т’с’а]: встреться.

How do you feel about Russian [ц] now?

Preparing this article, I used the books:

  • Брызгунова, Елена Андреевна. Практическая фонетика и интонация русского языка : Пособие для преподавателей, занимающихся с иностранцами. – Москва : Изд-во Московского ун-та, 1963. – 306 с.
  • Звуки. Ритмика. Интонация : учеб. пособие / И. В. Одинцова. – 4-е изд. – М. : Флинта : Наука, 2011. – 368 с. – (Русский язык как иностранный)