English Pronunciation Resource – Vowels

English Pronunciation VowelsPlease stop by my TpT store and see the latest addition to my English pronunciation resources.  I’ve added a vowel pack that will be a great supplement to teaching/learning the American English accent.

When an ESL student has a hard time being understood in English, it is often the vowels that cause the biggest problems. Relying on English spelling will cause problems because of all the exceptions to our spelling rules.

For example:

  • mother has the sound UH like in mud, not O, and it sounds like muther
  • minute (60 seconds) has its second vowel reduced to an UH sound or short I sound, not a U sound, and it sounds like minut or minit
  • feel has a long e that in influenced by the final L; it is stretched out and a linking Y sound is added in between, and it sounds like fee yul

Follow this guide to learn the exceptions and the special rules for pronouncing American English vowels. Practice words and sentences are included for each lesson, including:

  • English Vowels Overview
  • Jaw Placement for Vowels
  • Ee vs. I
  • Short I Words & Sentences
  • Ah vs. uh
  • “too” vs. “took”
  • Different ways to pronounce O
  • Stretched-out Vowels (Diphthongs)
  • L- and R-Controlled Vowels
  • Long vowels + L
  • Long Vowels + R
  • Confusing ER & OR Words
  • Reductions of Vowels

Reducing Words With i

Reducing Words With iReducing the right sounds and words make English more understandable to your listeners.  Reducing a vowel is a little bit like losing weight.  We want our size to be smaller and less noticeable.  When reducing a vowel in a word, we don’t fully pronounce that sound, but instead pronounce a more relaxed, quieter central vowel like “uh”.

What happens when you fully pronounce every vowel in “Silicon”  –  Silleee cone?  Silly Kon?  See  Lee Kon?  Do you understand that word?  I wouldn’t.  Students of English pronunciation need to reduce the weak vowels in words.  English is a stress-timed language.  We stress (louder, longer, higher pitch) the important words or parts of words.  Most everything else is reduced to the schwa sound (uh).

Words spelled with I are the worst!  Often we don’t pronounce I in weak syllables.  Be sure to reduce the i to an “uh”.

accident  =  accədent

amplify = ampləfy

animal = anəməl

Get the free printable handout here and start practicing to improve your English pronunciation today!

Word Reductions

word reductionsWhat are my Pronunciation students most surprised at?

That pronouncing each word carefully does not help others understand them.  And sometimes it even makes it worse!

It is often said that Americans talk fast. Americans do not talk fast. Americans link and reduce their words in connected speech. This only gives the impression of talking fast.

We tried to learn some reductions today.

Words like history and factory (3 syllables) are often reduced to [histree] and [faktree] – 2 syllables

Especially (4 syllables) is often reduced to [es pe shlee] – 3 syllables

Restaurants (3 syllables)  is often reduced to [res trontz] – 2 syllables

Pay attention to native speakers.  If you hear native speakers of English reduce multi-syllabic words, you have permission to do the same.

Linking is also very important.  Learn more about linking with this earlier post, and get the free printable handout on linking rules here.

American Thanksgiving

American ThanksgivingIn November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving.   I created this intermediate lesson for ESL students and teachers.

It includes major points of the story of the Pilgrims, the first Thanksgiving, how we celebrate Thanksgiving today, and expressing thankfulness to God for our blessings. Pictures accompany the text for ease of understanding. Use the lesson to begin a discussion on what your students are thankful for.

See my free printable for American Thanksgiving here.  All images on the printable are from Google Images.

Strong & Weak Syllables: Using the Schwa

Strong & Weak Syllables Use the SchwaWhen a word has 2 or more syllables, the vowel in the strong syllable, the stressed syllable, is fully pronounced. The vowel in the weak syllable, the unstressed syllable, is usually reduced. Most common reductions are to the schwa sound /ə/ which sounds like “uh”.

bacon             BAK ən

ribbon            RiB ən

animals          AN   ə   məlz

potato            pə  TAY  do

symbol           SYM  bəl

actor               AK  dər

doctor            DOK  dər

officer            OFF   ə   sər

president       PRE  zə  dənt

Hope this helps. Keep up your good work speaking English.

Short-cut to Pronouncing ED Endings

Pronouncing -ed endings shortcut

My pronunciation students wanted an easy way to remember -ed endings, so I told them to look for the T or D on the root word.  Here are some words with -ed endings:

  • added   aDD id
  • waited  waiT id
  • wanted  wanT id
  • drifted  drifT id
  • painted  painT id
  • needed  neeD id
  • graduated  graduaT id

If you see the T or D on the root word – USE “ID” and say it as a separate syllable.

Any other root word ending?  Put on a D sound. Do NOT say an extra syllable!

  • loved  lovd
  • called  calld
  • played  playd
  • kissed   kisd
  • brushed  brushd

It’s a quick trick to pronouncing clearer English.

Here’s a free printable Pronouncing -ed Endings Shortcut.

Learn more about pronouncing English -ed endings in my earlier post.

The Importance of Silence – Social Thinking

How can you help someone who talks too much?  I’ve been teaching social thinking to young adults with Aspergers and this is our lesson from this week.

People who talk too much often feel pressed to be speaking. They report that silence makes them uncomfortable and so talking (often about anything and everything) makes them feel better. Unfortunately their “too much” talking may be making others around them feel uncomfortable. If that’s the case and your friend, student or client wants to make a change, they may need a good reason to be quiet. Help them understand the value of silence in conversation with these simple ideas.

Examine pictures of how others feel with too much talkingtalk too much.  It may be a little dramatic, but a photo or illustration can help someone “see” something that may not have noticed before.  Facial expressions in real life are rapid and changing, so the “too much” talker may not even see how the other person feels. This extra cue can help someone see discomfort, annoyance or unhappiness.

Discuss quotes. Have you ever heard “Silence is Golden” ? How about “You have 2 ears and only one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” These chestnuts have been around for ages – and that’s because of the wisdom in them. Get your client to verbalize what these mean, and they will improve their understanding of how important silence is for good communication and good social skills.

Discuss the value of silence. Did you know that if one is silent in conversation, it allows others to complete their thoughts without rushing, others feel valued and their opinion of you improves! That’s something that we love, isn’t it? Think of the benefits of silence and have your client do the same. When a person knows that there are benefits, they may be more willing to change, when change is uncomfortable. Remember the person who talks too much is often uncomfortable with silence.

I’ve included the free printable that I used with young adults with Aspergers in a social skills group. Hope this might help you also.

Image above from Bing images.