Pronouncing “Asks” Correctly

she asks a questionFor the word “asks” like in the sentence “She asks a question” or “He asks a question”,  (when the subject of the verb is third person singular) I recommend  to make a brief stop between /as/ and /ks/.

Practice it this way

/as (brief stop) ks/

/as ks/

“she asks a question”

Listen to the audio here.

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Pronouncing “mountain” like an American

mountainMany of my students are not pronouncing “mountain”, “kitten” or “rotten” correctly.  ESL learners, and especially those speaking Asian languages, are pronouncing the “hard t” and in all these words.  In  “mountain”, they are pronouncing -tain like “gain”, or “pain”.   Their words come out sounding like this

  • mountain   [moun tain]
  • kitten   [kit ten]
  • rotten   [rot ten]

But this is not how Americans do it.  So here are some instructions on pronouncing these words the American way.

In American English, when you say a word that has a /t/ + a vowel + an /n/, this vowel is diminished.  Also the quality of the /t/ is changed.  We pronounce the /t/, and don’t release it (we say the beginning of the /t/ but don’t finish it).  The tongue is already up in the front of mouth so we leave it there, up against the alvealor ridge (the bumpy spot behind the upper teeth), and go right into the /n/ sound. The words will sound like this:

  • mountain   [mount  n]
  • kitten  [kit  n]
  • rotten   [rot  n]

Listen to the words here.

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Click on the free worksheet here for more practice words and sentences.

 

3 Rules of -ed: Audio Lesson

Hear the lesson “Pronouncing -ed Endings – 3 Simple Rules”

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PronouncingEdEndings

Regular past tense in English is always spelled -ed.

But it can be pronounced one of 3 different ways based on the word’s ending SOUND.

Most students make the mistake of using the first ending for all -ed words.

When the word ends with the sound /t/ or /d/ we pronounce -ed  /id/:

  • wanted = [wantid]
  • rented = [rentid]
  • needed = [needid]
  • decided = [decidid]

When the word ends with an unvoiced sound (the vocal chords are not vibrating) like /p/, /k/,  /f/, /s/, /ch/ and /sh/ we pronounce -ed /t/:

  • stopped = [stopt]
  • looked = [lookt]
  • laughed = [laft]
  • kissed = [kisst]
  • watched = [watcht]
  • pushed = [pusht]

Finally, when the word ends with a voiced sound (the vocal chords are vibrating) like /b/, /g/,  /v/, /z/, /j/, /zh/, /th/, /m/, /n/, /ng/, /l/, /r/ or any vowel sound we pronounce -ed /d/:

  • robbed =  [robbd]
  • begged =  [beggd]
  • loved =   [lovd]
  • closed =   [klozd]
  • managed = [managd]
  • breathed = [breethd}
  • dreamed =  [dreemd]
  • learned = [lernd]
  • banged = [bangd]
  • called =   [kalld]
  • bored = [bord]
  • played =  [playd]

 

 

 

B/V – How to Pronounce Them

Spanish speakers often have a hard time making B and V different!

minimal pairs b/v ESL accent reductionTo make B

  1. start with lips pressed together
  2. then pop lips apart
  3. while vibrating the vocal chords

B is is never held out for a long time.  You say it, then move to the next sound.

To make V 

  1. the upper teeth bite the lower lip
  2. then push out air
  3. while vibrating the vocal chords (you should feel a buzzing feeling)

V is always held out for a longer time.

Try practicing these B/V minimal pairs:

  • berry  very
  • base   vase
  • bent   vent
  • boat  vote
  • best   vest
  • ban  van
  • bat   vat
  • curb   curve
  • beg  Bev
  • Gabe  gave

Listen to the B and V words.

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“Watcha doin?” Reduced Forms

Reductions n EnglishAmerican English speakers do not say every word perfectly in conversation.  We frequently reduce forms (making words shorter and simpler.) This is not lazy, it is normal and expected in conversational English.

“What are you doing?” becomes “Whatayadoin?” or even “Whatchadoin?”

Learn the reduced forms of English and you’ll improve your listening and speaking.

Here’s a worksheet we used in ESL class that my students really appreciated.

ReducedForms

EKS Marks the Spot – How to Pronounce X

My early ESL students got stuck on “mixer” and “mixing” today.  X can throw you off.  Here’s another way to look at the sounds in these words:

correct pronunciation of Xmixer = mik + ser or miks + er

mixing = mik + sing or miks + ing

Just think of KS and those sounds should carry you through.  Here are some practice words:

  • six (siks)
  • mix (miks)
  • tax (taks)
  • taxi (taksi)
  • next (nekst)
  • extra (ekstra)

Keep up the good work learning English!

 

 

 

 

How to pronounce the soft G/J in Orange Juice

orange juiceMy ESL student had a hard time communicating with a waitress at a restaurant.  She tried to order orange juice.  Her soft G or J sound was the culprit. As a Korean, her soft G or J sound was more like an American ZH sound (like in measure).  This problem also happens for Russian, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin speakers because they use a sound similar, but not precisely like the American English soft G or J.

Soft G and J are pronounced the same in English. Remember English spelling is pretty difficult, with many different ways to spell words with the same sounds.  Wish it weren’t a problem, but it is!   Soft G is in words like giant, giraffe, age, and large.  J (pronounced the same way) is found in words like juice, jack, major, and reject.

If this a problem for you, try adding the /d/ sound right before:

d + zh  = j

Here are practice words that already have a /d/ sound in them.  By practicing these words, you can shape your /zh/ sound to be more like a /j/:

  1. edge
  2. hedge
  3. pledge
  4. wedge
  5. dredge
  6. budge
  7. drudge
  8. fudge
  9. nudge
  10. smudge

Listen to -dge words here.

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When you see other words with soft G or J, imagine there is a /d/ there and make that sound. It will sound more American.

Now let’s get back to orange.  The /n/ before the soft G sound makes it a little tricky, so go slow. Pronounce each sound carefully. And remember to add in the/d/ sound right before the soft G.

oran + d + ge  = “orandge”.

Want to practice this harder sound combination?  Here are some words with the same ending as “orange”:

  1. avenge
  2. challenge
  3. lozenge
  4. revenge
  5. scavenge
  6. orange

Listen to the “-nge” word list here.

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I hope that helps!  What sounds are you having trouble with?  Let me know and I’ll post the techniques to make your pronunciation more understandable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The OW in Scouts and How to Get it Right

When teaching my ESL students, we’ve discovered the OW sound is causing trouble!

Our reading lesson was on Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts. girl scoutsIn this case the sound is spelled OU.  But there is also another way to spell it – OW. Sorry, here’s where I apologize for English’s atrocious pronunciation and/or spelling! 🙂

The sound OW has a special name.  It’s called a diphthong (“dif-thong”).  This is when two two adjacent vowel sounds are pronounced in a syllable. The OW in scout is actually the sound /a/ (“ah”) pronounced first, followed directly by /u/ (“oo” like in boot)

OW = “ah”+”oo”

When I teach this sound I tell my students to make this sound “change in your mouth” .  Also think about getting cut, scraped or bumped.  We say “ouch!”  This is the sound we’re going for.ouch bandaid

Here’s some practice words with the sound OW:

  • Girl Scout Boy Scout
  • loud cloud proud
  • mouth south
  • ouch couch pouch
  • house mouse louse
  • sound pound found
  • ounce bounce pronounce

To challenge yourself, try reading the Girl Scout passage outloud. And keep up the good work learning English!  I’m PROUD of you!

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts

 

Yes to Routines & No to Surprises

daily scheduleOne important characteristic of autism (also called autism spectrum disorder) is that children generally do well with routine, and do not like surprises.   This is an area of skill called flexibility.   Individuals with autism can have very poor flexibility.

Parents can help their son or daughter with autism by making sure you have a predictable daily routine at home.   That means meals are served at the same time each day, and regular weekly routines, like your child picking up his room, should be a regular scheduled activity.   Do not surprise your child by asking him to pick up his room on Thursday after school if he usually does it at a different time.  Teachers can support children by following a posted routine and giving advance warnings for changes, like assemblies or fire drills!  Support your child/student with a posted list or visuals.  Individuals with autism often feel so much of daily activities (usually school where there are more social activities to navigate than at home) are unpredictable, so they will take comfort in predictable routines.

The best way to manage the surprises, or changes, to your child’s schedule is to  follow a routine, and give him plenty of notice so he can get used to any changes.  It may help to mark irregular appointments (like a dentist appointment) on a family calendar where your child can see it.  Have your child review the calendar with you so he feels prepared for these “surprises”.

April Fools – How to pronounce “fools”

pronouncing long O with LListen to “April Fools” here.

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Because “fools” has a long vowel followed by an “L” the vowel has a special quality in American English.  There is a sound added to the vowel. So say it this way:

“Foo”   (foo)

“Foo – uhl”   (fool)

“Foo – uhl – z”   (fools)

This is a good example of a “vowelized L”.  American English speakers add a sound right before the “L”.  Try to do the same in these words too:

school  < skoo – uhl

rule  <  roo – uhl

tool < too – uhl

Now you’re on your way to sounding more American, and that’s no April Fools!