I'll try now to explain.
Let us take the word Berlin (name of the capital of Germany). It is pronounced [bɜːˈlɪn] or [bɝːˈlɪn] (I followed this link). In any of two cases, the first vowel is long but unstressed, and the second one is short but stressed.
I wonder how to pronounce correctly such words, how to evidentiate that the second vowel of the word carries stress but is short. In Russian, we almost always make the stressed vowel two or even three times longer that any unstressed; it's the longest sound in the word. In English, however, as I know, you cannot change the length of a vowel as you want. It may lead to wrong pronunciation or even change of the word's meaning.
I tried to ask a similar question at another site. I think I didn't receive a very good answer there; all that I understood is that English unstressed vowels are diffuse. I would appreciate a clearer answer.

  • When you talk about a vowel being "long" or "short", do you mean just how much time you spend saying it, or do you mean "long" in the special sense sometimes used in English (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)? For emphasis, native speakers of English will absolutely spend more time on a vowel (making it longer), but will not make it "long" in the special sense explained at the link.
    – Deolater
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 14:04
  • I speak mainly of vowels marked with a colon, or, more exactly, with two little opposite triangles. Maybe diphthongs can also fall in this category.
    – Alexander
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 14:12
  • I'm a native speaker, but I don't have much of a grasp of IPA, so I probably can't help. Off the top of my head, however, I cannot think of any words that would change meaning or become unrecognizable if you just pronounced a vowel more slowly.
    – Deolater
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 14:27

1 Answer 1


In Russian, you do a lot more than make it longer ;)


Write as: Pro to'go ko'torogo (lyubila)

Read as: Pra ta'vo ka'torava (lyubila)

In the case of Berlin: I suggest 2 changes to the sound:

  • make it longer (as you already suggested);
  • pronounce it louder (of course, louder as compared to the other sounds).

It should sound like "blin / блин" (= pancake) but with detached "b": b-lin / b(a)-lin. The quality of "i" is the same in both words.

  • Thanks a lot! Sorry for the delay; my PC works really badly. I think pronouncing the I vowel in 'Berlin' louder than 'er' vowel is what I wanted to hear. Great thanks again.
    – Alexander
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 8:50
  • 1
    You are welcome :)
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 5:07

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