Signs in Russian
Russian language has two unusual letters. They called hard sign and soft sign (твёрдый знак and мягкий знак for Russian). The hard sign looks like a ъ, and soft sign looks like a ь.
The hard sign
The hard sign designate sound [j](the letter й in Russian), though most people think that it doesn't designate sound. They think that it only separates the first part of the word from the second. This letter always comes after letters е, ё, ю, я and always after consonants. In Russian words it stands between the root and the prefix. For example, the word подъезд (etrance). The transcription of this word is [podjézd]. If there was not the hard sign, it will be подезд [podézd]. As can be seen, there is a deference. Later, we return once more to the hard sign.
The soft sign
The soft sign softens the preceding consonant and itself don't designste the sound. But sometimes it combines its pronunciation and hard sign's pronunciation. For example, the word семья (family). The transcription of this word is [sem'já]. If there wasn't the soft sign, it will be семя [sem'á] - seed. If it combines its pronunciation and hard sign's pronunciation it is called separating. If it doesn't combine, it is called softening.
Other pronunciation of the hard sign
In the words that came to Russian language from foreign languages hard sign's pronunciation is the same as separating soft sign. For example, the word адъютант [ad'jutánt] - adjutant. In this word the hard sign doesn't stand between the root and the prefix.