Pronunciation Class Printables

English Pronunciation PrintablesNeed a printable packet of basic lessons for English Pronunciation?

Please visit my TPT store for my newest pack of English Pronunciation lessons. This lesson pack has 12 easy-to-teach lessons on English sounds, the melody of English and how English words change when used in sentences.  Developed over three years teaching ESL speakers of Spanish, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Viet Namese, Iranian, Russian, French and Hindi.

How to Pronounce “bottom”

How to Pronounce bottomYikes!   I checked the pronunciation of “bottom” on and it’s with a very British accent!   Beware. If you want to know the American English pronunciation, you’ll need a site or a friend who’s more American.

To pronounce “bottom” in the U.S., we use the same rule as in Syllabic L. We say [bah] and then [dum].  The first vowel is pronounced “ah”. The tt is reduced to a very soft D sound, just like in the word little [li dul] or water [wah der].  The last vowel is reduced to a short U sound, which is also called the schwa sound, and sounds like uh. Put the stress (longer, louder, and higher pitch) on the first syllable.

There are very few words that rhyme with bottom.  There is a Biblical city named Sodom.  This rhymes with bottom.  Also Hillary Clinton’s maiden name is Rodham. This rhymes too. Got them when reduced to got ’em will rhyme with bottom. In some places in the U.S. autumn rhymes with bottom.  But is some places in the U.S. autumn has a stretched-out beginning vowel pronounced like aw.

Here is the American English pronunciation:  bottom = [BAH  dum]

Sorry!! You just have to memorize this one!!

What to Teach First in Pronunciation

What to teach First in PronunciationQuestion:  I need to teach pronunciation to my ESL students, but I don’t know where to start.  What should I teach first?  Thanks, Vicki

Answer:  English pronunciation is a big topic, but let me give you some starting points that are pretty simple to teach, and will  make a difference in your student’s pronunciation right away.

Teach melody One of the most important things to teach first in English pronunciation is the melody, or intonation which is the rise and fall of English in phrases and sentences.  Now if you’re thinking that your beginning students don’t know enough vocabulary or grammar, that should be considered.  I would, however, start with teaching the melody in a name, address and phone number as well as other basic phrases.  If your students were in an accident, and needed to speak to first responders, or police, being able to tell their name and address would be crucial. Teach the rise and fall of names and addresses in a sentence.

My NAME is // liU yang.

My ADDress is // 2188 WALKer ct. // san joSE // CaliFORnia  // 95117 (Drop your intonation at the end.)

Some students may have difficulty learning the rise and fall of English.  Teach about stress (longer, louder, higher pitch) by using multi-syllable words. Computer, for example, would be hard to understand with the stress in the wrong place: COMputer?  compuTER? No, we say comPUTer.

Teach 6 mouth openings for English vowels English vowels are spoken with 6 jaw placements from very high [ee] to very low [ah].  Many languages do not open their mouths to the lower positions English speakers use.  Students need practice opening their mouths when they speak English. Try this exercise with the 6 positions.

  • Pete  (very high jaw placement – the mouth is nearly closed)
  • Pit
  • Pet
  • Putt (the mouth is open about mid-way, this is the most common sound in English, the schwa sound.)
  • Pat
  • Pot  (very low jaw placement – the mouth is open wide)


  • ee (very high – nearly closed)
  • i
  • e
  • uh
  • ae
  • ah (very low – open)

Learn more on the openings for English vowels here.

Teach the vowel sound “schwa” (sounds like ‘ah’) The most common sound in English, getting this sound right will make a difference quickly.  Since we reduce many vowels to the schwa, a lesson on reduction goes well with teaching the schwa. Learn more on the Common English Reductions here. Be careful because it can be spelled many different ways. Practice with these words up. cup, nut, the, was,  love, mother, above, son, police, president.  Here’s a free printable for practicing the schwa sound in words.

Teach the TH You can see this sound (tongue between teeth) so it’s easy to teach, and thank you is an early first English word, so your students will have lots of opportunity to practice. Students from some cultures will not want their tongues to show, so teach them to make the TH by the tongue touching the back of the top teeth. Practice words: thank, think, thin, thing, thumb, with, math both, teeth, mouth.  Learn more on teaching the TH here.

Best of luck, and have fun teaching!


How to Pronounce “McDonald’s”

How to Pronounce McDonald'sMy Japanese student told me she was having trouble pronouncing McDonald’s (McDonald’s is a fast food restaurant). She was making some common errors by trying to pronounce every letter, and also she had the stress on the first syllable, making it sound like MAC don alds.  I guess some people stress the Mc-, but I don’t.How to Pronounce McDonald's

Here are some tips to pronouncing it like an American:

Mc – say it like mik (with a short i sound)

Do – say it like dah – don’t make it an o sound!

nal – say nul (use the uh sound. That’s the schwa sound. It should sound like the word null)

d – drop it!  Don’t say d at all! We often drop out the d sound when followed by an s or z.

s – say z

Be sure to stress the DAH (second syllable).  Stress is making that part with louder, longer and higher pitch. Say it like this:

mik  DAH  nulz

Hope that helps!  Now I’m in the mood for French fries.

English Sounds App

K12 phoneme videosIf you want to review your English sounds, here is a great FREE app! K12 Phoneme Videos available for the iPad and IPhone.  You can see short videos of an American English speaker saying all the sounds of standard English.  I love this free app for practicing your English vowel and consonant sounds.

This app has a phonics foundation and the sounds are represented by common spellings.  It’s a little different from how I teach it in class but the sounds are the same.  (My approach is founded in IPA, International Phonetic Alphabet.) This app includes 2 extra R-controlled vowels [ar] and [or].  In class, I cover only [er]. Also the qu” sound is called ‘KW”  and the “x” sound is called “KS”.  Students, if you have questions, please let me know.

Note:  On this app be aware that they show the long /u/ sound with a /y/ as /yu/ in the word use, cute and music  – here they have added the /y/ but many words in American English with long/u/ do not have the /y/next to it.  Examples without /y/ are Luke, Sue, true, duty, nuclear, pollution. British new  has a /y/ – /nyu/.  American new does not – /nu/.



English Vowel Sounds

EngVowelSoundsAmerican English vowel sounds continue to be difficult for my students.  Getting English vowel sounds right will help you be understood better, and help you understand others better. Practice the English vowel sounds:

  1. (long e)  green tree
  2. (short e)  get ready
  3. (short i)  knit in
  4. (short a)  black cat
  5. (short o)  clock top
  6. (short u or schwa sound)  the pup
  7. (aw)  dog walk
  8. (oo)  cook book
  9. (long u)  new shoes
  10. (long o)  hold toes
  11. (long a)  they play
  12. (long i)  I’m fine
  13. (ow)  how loud
  14. (oy)  toy coin
  15. (er)  first word

Find the English Vowel Sounds printable here.  Keep up the good work learning and speaking English!


Is Love Pronounced Luv?

How to pronounce "Love"The different O vowel sounds are often confused by my ESL students.  Here are some ideas to remember them.

Hot has the short O sound [pronounced ah].  Open your mouth wide.  Your tongue is up and back

Love has the schwa sound [pronounced uh].  Open your mouth medium (Not as much as with the sound [ah]). Your tongue is lower now, more toward the middle. Good idea to memorize this sound because it’s the most common sound in English.

Listen to these word that are spelled with O and have the [ah] sound.

  • hot
  • not
  • hop
  • top
  • stop
  • sock
  • clock

/ah/ words

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These words have the /uh/ sound.

  • love 
  • above
  • mother 
  • brother
  • other

[uh] words

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The UH in Mother

motherMy ESL students say “Mother”  needs to be spelled “muh ther”!

When you see an O in English, you need to be careful.  There are times it will not be pronounced “o”.  We have many words that have an “uh” sound, called the schwa sound, when spelled with an O.   These words come up again and again, so I’ll review them here.  Memorize these words and you’ll be doing better in your learning English.

  • mother – muh ther
  • brother – bruh ther
  • other – uh ther
  • love – luhv
  • above – uh buhv
  • come – kuhm
  • won, one – wuhn
  • money – muhn ee

Listen to the list of words with the schwa sound.

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O says “uh”

pronouncing o in loveEnglish pronunciation is so capricious!   How unpredictable is it?  I know of at least 6 ways O and OO are pronounced.

Today one of  my students in China (we Skype) pronounced other like the short o sound in hop and not and clock!  Imagine trying to communicate your word that sounds like “ah-thur”.  Do you think you will be understood?

Be sure to pronounce the o vowel in these words like “uh”. Listen to the audio here.

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  • other – uh ther
  • mother – muh ther
  • brother – bruh ther
  • of – uhv
  • love – luhv
  • above – uh buhv
  • come – kuhm
  • won, one – wuhn
  • money – muhn ee
  • stomach – stuhm uhk
  • dozen – duhz in

This “uh” sound in English is called the “schwa” and it is very common!  So learn it and you’ll do well with pronouncing English and being understood.  Schwa can be spelled lots of other ways too, but that’s a post for another day.

Words that may fool you, in the first 100

Pronunciation Errors in the First 100 WordsEnglish words have been organized into most frequently used 100 – 1,000 words.  Learning the most frequently used words in English is a very simple quick way to improve your vocabulary.  In the first 100 words there are a few tricky pronunciations.

  • was, one, come and some all have the vowel sound /ə /  [uh]  like in up.  Also one is pronounced won and sounds like fun and ton.
  • said has the vowel sound /ɛ / [short e]  like in head and bed.
  • hisis, has and these all use /z/ at the end like in fizz.
Good luck with your pronunciation and keep up the good work!
See the 100 Most Frequently Used English Words here.