Dark L & Light L in English

Dark L Light L English PronunciationL at the beginning of an English word is sometimes called “Light L”.

  • like
  • lake
  • low
  • love
  • lean
  • let

Here we touch the bumpy spot behind the top front teeth with our narrow pointed tongue.  A good way to learn this L sound is the sing any song and substitute the word “La” for each syllable.  Imagine Happy Birthday but with “La”s.

L is at the end of an Englsih word is sometimes called “Dark L”.

  • pull
  • bill
  • wool
  • feel
  • mail

Here we don’t point the tongue but we spread it out, so it touches on the bumpy spot and sides of the top front teeth. For Dark l some folks position their tongue just a little behind Light L

Hope  this helps, and keep up the good work speaking English!


Apps for Pronunciation

pronunciaton appsMy students and I talked about some apps for helping English Pronunciation.  I like the following (compatible to iPad, iPhone and pc, and all free or cheap) :

K12Phonemes (free) Learn the sounds of English with sounds and words, plus a nice video of a real person speaking.

Sounds of Speech  ($3.00) This is from the Iowa Phonetics project.  You’ll see and hear sounds of English with a video illustration of the mouth saying the sounds/words.  The app is $2.99.  You can access the program for free with your laptop by going to the University of Iowa Phonetics home (available on a computer or laptop only, not a tablet.)

Dragon Dictation (free) Set it to American English. and the Dragon Dication computer program will try to recognize and turn your spoken sentence into printed text.  See how well you’re pronouncing English!

If you have a pronunciation app to share,  I’ll like to hear it.

(post updated 5/24/16)



“Love” and the Schwa

Love and the Schwa English PronunciationLearn to use the English schwa sound and you will improve your English pronunciation!

Schwa sounds like “uh” and is the relaxed central vowel (made with the tongue relaxed in the middle of the mouth and the jaw held open to the middle position.)  It is spelled several different ways, so you’ll need to memorize it sometimes.  We hear it in the words nut, luck, tug and sudden.  Here it is spelled like expected with a “u” (schwa is also called short U). But it’s spelling varies as in the words love, mother, was and the. For more understandable English, learn these common words and pronounce mother, love, was and the with the “uh” sound.

  • mother = muh ther
  • love = luv
  • was = wuz
  • the = thuh

We also reduce weak syllable vowels in multisyllabic words like poLICEman  or PREsident.  We use the schwa sound:

  • policeman = puh LICE man
  • president = PRES uh dent

See my free printable on practicing words with the schwa sound.

Pronouncing American T in “Water”

Pronouncing T in Water T between 2 Vowels American EnglishThere are many ways to pronounce American T.  Unlike British T, which is often fully pronounced, we reduce American T much of the time.  Today I’m posting on how to pronounce T in WATER.  We use a fast D, or reduced T.  It’s going to sound more like a D. We use this between 2 vowels (better), before an L (little) or after an R (party).

Move your tongue up to touch the alveolar ridge, or bumpy spot behind the upper teeth, but do not release the puff of air.  It’s going to sound like a fast D. (We do release the puff of air when T is at the beginning of words like ten and take.) Here are some practice words.

water = wader

better = bedder

Twitter = Twidder

little = liddle

party = pardy

city = ciddy

meeting = meeding



The Most Important Vocalic R in English

Vocalic R English PronunciationVocalic R in very simple. It is the R sound that follows a vowel. Some examples of Vocalic R are found in words like air,  for, ear, car, her, fire, hour, and pure.  R is strongly pronounced in American English, but not so much in British English.

R is a difficult sound. Many American children have trouble learning to make R.  The trick is to pull the tongue into the back of the mouth, flattening it and pushing the sides up against the left and right teeth.

Here are some words for practicing the vocalic R:

are car star far jar

ear fear near dear steer here

or pour more door store

ire fire wire mire sire buyer

air care pair fair bear share

er her sir purr were first

our hour power tower

ure pure cure endure

But the most important one is “er“.  The spelling can vary so rely on your listening, to pronounce this sound.  It is the most frequent of the Vocalic Rs, so practice this one a lot!

Here are some challenging “er” words – earth, early, earn, sir, her, dirt, bird, word, work, purse, first, Thursday, serve, birth, church, merge, urgent.


The AW Sound

The AW SoundI’ve been using the Compton PESL (Pronouncing English as a Second Language) textbook and CDs for my students, and I’m disappointed to see there is no AW sound included in the book or on the audio.  This is a challenging sound, especially to Asian speakers, so I decided to compile my own list of AW words and sentences.  I thought it would be easy.

Making the list, it turns out, has been pretty hard, since the spelling “aw” is only one of several ways to spell AW words. Check these out:

  • aw words like awful and awesome
  • au words like August and author
  • oa words like Broadway
  • ong words like song and belong
  • al words (with a silent L) like walk and talk
  • o words like moth and lost

AW is pretty tricky and be careful on the U.S. east coast or west coast where the pronunciation of AW in words like dog and talk varies by region!

I really have to chuckle at English spellings – sometimes it’s so crazy!  Here’s my comprehensive free printable handout of AW words and sentences.

Hope this helps!  And keep up the good work speaking English.