One of the most basic rules one must learn when beginning to study Russian is those of Russian pronunciation. "Soft" Russian vowels are formed by combining an English 'y' with the corresponding "hard-indicating" vowel. As an example, to produce a correct Russian я you should say 'y + a' as if they are one whole (ya). It is important that one should remember when a soft-indicating vowel (such as "я") follows a consonant (as in "мясо"), it does in fact have the sound of the corresponding hard vowel (the [a]-sound of "a" for "я"). The effect of the "softness" is achieved because of the way you pronounce the consonant letter (soft [m']+[a] instead of the hard [m]+[ya]).