You can’t expect depth in a 24-page A6 booklet, but we can at least demand clarity.
(1) The Japanese booklet mentions that Japanese has a handful of geminated plosives, as in もっと motto ˈmot:o ‘more’. They are like those of Italian or Finnish: articulated just like ordinary plosives, but with a noticeably longer hold phase (compression stage). Thus the duration of the plosive is approximately twice as long as usual. To its credit, the Guardian does not ignore the question of how to pronounce them, though it could have used better wording for its explanation.
A double consonant indicates that you should pause slightly before saying it, as you would in these English examples (say them out loud):In my judgment, to refer to a pause “after” the vowel is misleading, no matter whether you interpret “pause” in the musical sense of sustaining a note (fermata) or in the usual phonetic sense of a brief interruption in speaking. The pause surely comes during the consonant, not before it. ‘Headdress’ is not an apposite example, because Japanese does not have doubled d; but ‘bookcase’ is a good model for geminated [kː].
headdress (pause after ‘hea’ - not ‘head’)
bookcase (pause after ‘boo’)
(2) Full marks to the Hindi booklet for a valiant attempt to explain retroflex versus dental. However, I’m not sure that the novice would understand ‘unaspirated’ vs ‘aspirated’ when the explanation given is just that “the first is much less breathy than the second”. The crucial difference is a matter of timing: whether or not there is a delay between the release of the closure and the start of voicing. If there is a delay, you get an audible puff of air; if there isn’t, you don’t.
(3) I found the Russian booklet unimpressive. How does Russian work?
You'll be glad to know that Russian is a logical language and that all you need to make up your own sentences is an understanding of the patterns of the language.Yeah, right.
Russian words and phrases are given only in romanization, not in Cyrillic. Unfortunately the romanization is not a transliteration or a proper transcription, but a respelling (e.g. “ee as in street”), with all the inaccuracies and inadequacies that entails. Both х (IPA x) and ч (IPA tʃ) are represented as ch.
How do we pronounce the vowel transliterated y? “As in toy”. Try that on the pronoun ‘you’, romanized as vy. (You and I know it’s actually вы vɨ.) Worse, try “Let’s drink”, presented as ”Davai vyp’yem”. If I were learning Russian I’d much prefer to be given the proper spelling and phonetic transcription, which is давай выпьем dʌˈvaj ˈvɨpʲjɪm. (I don’t actually know Russian. Thanks to commentators for corrections now implemented. By the way, please let’s not repeat the debate over how to represent Russian a in pretonic syllables: I’ve followed Jones & Ward in writing ʌ.)At least there’s an audio clip.