Monday, January 31, 2011

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 20: the dipthongs /aI/, /au/, and /oI/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 20: the dipthongs /aI/, /au/, and /oI/

The dipthong /aI/ is often represented by the letter 'i'. The sound /au/ is frequently represented by the combination 'ou' or 'ow', while /oI/ often appears as 'oi' or 'oy'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.



/aI/

The sound /aI/, like other dipthongs, is a combination of vowel sounds pronounced together as one syllable. /aI/ is a combination of the vowels /æ/ and /I/. Play the sound recording below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /aI/ sound:

wide
hide
height ['gh' is silent in this word]
time
fight ['gh' is silent in this word]
light ['gh' is silent in this word]
wine
bike



/au/

The dipthong /au/ is combination of the vowels /æ/ and /u/. Play the sound recording below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /au/ sound:

now
how
loud
sound
proud
found
trout
clown



/oI/

The dipthong /oI/ is combination of the vowels /o/ and /I/. Play the sound recording below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /oI/ sound:

boy
toy
noise
poise
hoist
void
foil
spoil





The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Next lesson coming soon...


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Monday, December 20, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 19: introduction to the dipthongs

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 19: introduction to the dipthongs

In addition to the 12 vowel sounds of English, there are also several 'dipthongs' that are important to learn. Three of these are essential to speaking and understanding English, while the others are important to improving speech and accent reduction.

A 'dipthong' is really a complex sound with two vowel sounds pronounced in a row. The sounds are pronounced together quickly as one sound instead of two separate vowels. There are three dipthongs in English that are essential to learn because they are what linguists call 'phonemes'. Phonemes are meaningful distinctions. If you change the pronunciation of a phoneme, you usually change the meaning of a word. For example the word 'host' has a different pronunciation and meaning from the word 'hoist'. The other dipthongs are not meaningful distinctions, but simply variations in pronunciation. These dipthongs are, however, still important for learning English pronunciation. Many English words are commonly pronounced with dipthongs instead of simple vowel sounds. This will become clearer in the following lessons on dipthongs.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /.

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Next lesson: the dipthongs /aI/, /au/, and /oI/ -->>


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Friday, December 3, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 18: the vowels /ʌ/ and /ɔ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 18: the vowels /ʌ/ and /ɔ/

The vowel sound /ʌ/ is often represented by the letter 'u'. The sound /ɔ/ is frequently represented by the combination 'ou' or 'au' (often followed by a silent 'gh').

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.



/ʌ/

The vowel sound /ʌ/ is an open-mid back vowel. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /ʌ/ sound:

hum
hut
cut
bud
shut
luck
cuff
stuff



/ɔ/

The vowel sound /ɔ/ is also an open-mid back vowel. It is distinguished from the /ʌ/ sound by being a 'rounded' vowel. It is pronounced with the lips rounded. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /ɔ/ sound:

caught
fought
bought
brought
cause
caution
ought
author

Note that in some regions of the U.S. it is common to pronounce the /ɑ/ sound [see Lesson 17] the same as the /ɔ/ sound. These speakers would pronounce the words 'cot' and 'caught' exactly the same. There seem to be various sources on the Internet instructing learners that these two sounds are the same. This speech variation, however is not considered to be standard U.S. English pronunciation. Since this portion of the course is teaching you the fundamentals of U.S. English sounds, we suggest you learn the difference now. That way, you will be better prepared to move on to more advanced tasks like accent reduction.

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Next lesson: introduction to the 'dipthongs' -->>


Creative Commons License
This work by ESLport.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

*ESLPort.com is not the original author of the vowel sound recordings used herein. They are used with permission and licensed under the Creative Commons attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. They were obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel#Audio_samples. The original author does not endorse ESLPort.com or its use of this recording.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 17: the vowels /o/ and /ɑ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 17: the vowels /o/ and /ɑ/

The vowel sound /o/ is often represented by the letter 'o' or the combination 'oa'. The sound /ɑ/ is also often represented by the letter 'o'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.



/o/

The vowel sound /o/ is a close-mid back vowel. Unlike the previous vowels covered, /o/ is a 'rounded' vowel. It is pronounced with the lips rounded. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /o/ sound:

comb
home
lone
coat
boat
load
chose
clothes
nose



/ɑ/

The vowel sound /ɑ/ is an open back vowel. It is not rounded. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /ɑ/ sound:

cot
hot
Tom
lot
rod
lost
boss

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Next lesson: the vowels /ʌ/ and /ɔ/ -->>


Creative Commons License
This work by ESLport.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

*ESLPort.com is not the original author of the vowel sound recordings used herein. They are used with permission and licensed under the Creative Commons attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. They were obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel#Audio_samples. The original author does not endorse ESLPort.com or its use of this recording.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 16: the vowels /u/ and /ʊ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 16: the vowels /u/ and /ʊ/

The vowel sound /u/ has several spelling variations in English, including 'oo' and 'ou'. The sound /ʊ/ is often represented by the letter 'u' or the combination 'oo'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.



/u/

The vowel sound /u/ is a close back vowel. It is pronounced a little farther back and higher. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /u/ sound:

choose
news
whose
who
through
coupon
chew
do
duke
fluke



/ʊ/

The vowel sound /ʊ/ is a close-mid, central-back vowel. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /ʊ/ sound:

look
put
could
should
would
wood
good


The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Next lesson: The vowels /o/ and /ɑ/ -->>


Creative Commons License
This work by ESLport.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

*ESLPort.com is not the original author of the vowel sound recordings used herein. They are used with permission and licensed under the Creative Commons attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. They were obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel#Audio_samples. The original author does not endorse ESLPort.com or its use of this recording.

Read more....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 15: the vowels /æ/ and /ə/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 15: the vowels /æ/ and /ə/

The vowel sound /æ/ is commonly represented in English as the letter 'a', but like all vowels in English, there are quite a few spelling variations. The sound /ə/ is the vowel sound in many unstressed syllables in English.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.



/æ/

The vowel sound /æ/ is an open/open-mid front vowel. It is pronounced in the middle to lower front part of the mouth. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /æ/ sound:

bat
cat
at
cap
map
mat
bag
tag
back
rack



/ə/

The vowel sound /ə/ appears in many unstressed syllables in English no matter the spelling. Syllable stress is a more advanced topic that we will not cover in this lesson, but you should at least practice pronouncing it here. When you move on to more advanced topics you will be familiar with the sound. The /ə/ sound is a mid central vowel. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /ə/ sound:

[place stress on the underlined syllable]
possible
condense
about
account
written
upon


The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Next lesson: The vowels /u/ and /ʊ/ -->>


Creative Commons License
This work by ESLport.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

*ESLPort.com is not the original author of the vowel sound recordings used herein. They are used with permission and licensed under the Creative Commons attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. They were obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel#Audio_samples. The original author does not endorse ESLPort.com or its use of this recording.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 14: the vowels /e/ and /ɛ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 14: the vowels /e/ and /ɛ/

The vowel sound /e/ is commonly represented in English as the letter 'a' or the combination 'ai', but like all vowels in English, there are quite a few spelling variations. The sound /ɛ/ commonly appears as the letter 'e'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.



/e/

Linguists call the vowel sound /e/ a close-mid front vowel. It is pronounced in the middle to upper front part of the mouth. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /e/ sound:

lane
pane
pain
make
lake
take
rain
main
gain
rate



/ɛ/

The vowel sound /ɛ/ is like /e/ but it is pronounced a little lower in the mouth. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /ɛ/ sound:

pen
pet
get
men
wreck
left
nest
wet
bet


The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 15: The vowels /æ/ and /ə/ -->


Creative Commons License
This work by ESLport.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

*ESLPort.com is not the original author of the vowel sound recordings used herein. They are used with permission and licensed under the Creative Commons attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. They were obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel#Audio_samples. The original author does not endorse ESLPort.com or its use of this recording.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation Lesson 13: the vowels /i/ and /I/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 13: the vowels /i/ and /I/

The vowel sound /i/ is commonly represented in English as the letter 'e' or the combination 'ea', but like all vowels in English, there are quite a few spelling variations. The sound /I/ commonly appears as the letter 'i'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.



/i/

Linguists call the vowel sound /i/ a close front vowel. It is pronounced more in the upper front part of the mouth. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /i/ sound:

English
green
scene
bean
mean
lean
meet
meat
beet
beat



/I/

The vowel sound /I/ is like /i/ but it is pronounced a little lower and further back in the mouth. Play the sound recording* below to get a better idea of its pronunciation.

Practice repeating this sound a few times. Then, practice the following words containing the /I/ sound:

pin
bin
win
if
with
lift
width
finish
wit
sit


The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 14: The vowels /e/ and /ɛ/ -->


Creative Commons License
This work by ESLport.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

*ESLPort.com is not the original author of the vowel sound recordings used herein. They are used with permission and licensed under the Creative Commons attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. They were obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vowel#Audio_samples. The original author does not endorse ESLPort.com or its use of this recording.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 12: Introduction to the vowels

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 12: Introduction to the vowels

The English language has a fairly complex system of vowels. There are 12 main vowel sounds, but their pronunciation can vary in different contexts and in different geographic areas. This basic course will keep things simple and merely introduce you to the 12 basic vowel sounds. To further simplify things, we will only cover vowel pronunciation in standard U.S. English. We will not cover the multitude of variations that exist in the different U.S. regions or in different countries.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /.

The difference between vowels and consonants, of course, is that there is generally no stoppage of air when pronouncing the vowel. Also, vowels are always pronounced while the vocal chords are vibrated (voiced).

Linguists generally distinguish vowels by certain criteria that roughly correspond to the location and manner of pronunciation: front vs. back, open vs. close, and rounded vs. unrounded. Charts are often used to map vowels according to these features. The 12 English vowel sounds are charted below:



Unlike the consonants, it is extremely difficult to learn how to pronounce vowels with just a description. For that reason, in the lessons that follow, sound recordings are included with vowel descriptions. It is suggested that for each lesson you listen to the sounds and practice repeating them rather than focus solely on the mechanics of pronunciation.

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 13: The vowels /i/ and /I/ -->


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Friday, October 1, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 11: the sounds /l/ and /ɹ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 11: the sounds /l/ and /ɹ/

The /l/ sound in English is most often represented by the letter 'l', while /ɹ/ commonly appears as 'r'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /.

Remember, consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless). (check out the links to the right to review previous lessons)

/ɹ/ is the kinds of sound that linguists call an 'approximant'. See Lesson 10 for more details about pronouncing approximants. Approximants begin with a restriction of airflow which is released somewhat at the end of pronouncing the sound.


/ɹ/

The /ɹ/ sound is a lot like the /j/ sound from Lesson 10 except it is pronounced with the tongue curled up toward the post-alveolar or alveolar point of articulation. Practice by pronouncing the /j/ sound a few times and then try to pronounce it moving the tongue forward a little and curling the tip of the tongue up. Another way to practice is by pronouncing any vowel sound for an extended period while curling the tip of the tongue up toward the post-alveolar or alveolar point of articulation.
Examples:

word/syllable initial:

run

red

round

rather

race


word internal:

former

farm

work

break

tree


word final:

far

more

were

near

sure



/l/

The /l/ sound is a lot like the /ɹ/ sound except it is what linguists call a 'lateral'. It it pronounced at the alveolar point of articulation like the sounds /n/, /t/, /d/, /s/, and /z/ from previous lessons. Practice by pronouncing the /ɹ/ sound a few times and then try to pronounce /l/ by moving the tip of the tongue up to touch the alveolar point of articulation, while letting the sound flow around the sides of the tongue (hence the name 'lateral').


Examples:

word/syllable initial:

lesson

love

low

lab

last


word internal:

follow

hollow


word final:

well

fall

sell




Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples, check back for more examples and later lessons:

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 12: Introduction to English vowels -->


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Thursday, September 30, 2010

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 10: the sounds /j/ and /w/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 10: the sounds /j/ and /w/

The /j/ sound in English is most often represented by the letter 'y', while /w/ commonly appears as 'w'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /.

Remember, consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless). (check out the links to the right to review previous lessons)

/j/ and /w/ are the kinds of sounds that linguists call 'approximants'. Their pronunciation is very similar to that of the 'affricates' discussed in Lesson 9. Like the affricates, approximants are not uniform throughout their pronunciation. Unlike affricates they do not begin with a complete stoppage of airflow but rather a restriction which is released somewhat at the end of pronouncing the sound.


/j/

The /j/ sound is a lot like the /dʒ/ sound from Lesson 9 except instead of a 'post-alveolar' point of articulation /j/ is pronounced entirely at the palatal point of articulation. Practice by pronouncing the /dʒ/ sound a few times and then try to pronounce it without touching the tip of the tongue to the post-alveolar area.


Examples:

word/syllable initial:

yet

yes

young

you

yard



/w/

The /w/ sound is a lot like the /j/ sound except instead of a 'post-alveolar' point of articulation it is pronounced at the 'velar' point of articulation like the sounds /k/ (Lesson 2), /g/ (Lesson 3) and /ŋ/ (Lesson 8). Pronounce /w/ at the velar point of articulation while 'pursing' or rounding the lips. Practice by pronouncing the /dʒ/ sound a few times and then try to pronounce /w/ by completely relaxing the tongue and rounding your lips.


Examples:

word/syllable initial:

why

when

where

Washington

water


word internal:

bowl

howl


word final:

how

row

now




Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples, check back for more examples and later lessons:

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 11: the sounds /l/ and /ɹ/ -->


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 9: the sounds /tʃ/ and /dʒ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 9: the sounds /tʃ/ and /dʒ/

The /tʃ/ sound in English is most often represented by the letters 'ch', while /dʒ/ commonly appears as 'j', 'g', or the letters 'dg'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /.

Remember, consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless). (check out the links to the right to review previous lessons)

Affricates:

/tʃ/ and /dʒ/ are the kinds of sounds that linguists call 'affricates'. Their pronunciation is very similar to that of the 'fricatives', particularly /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ discussed in Lesson 6, but it is more dynamic. Unlike the fricatives, affricates are not uniform throughout their pronunciation. They begin with a complete stoppage of airflow, followed by releasing, but still restricting airflow.



//

The /tʃ/ sound is very close to the /ʃ/ sound in Lesson 6, with the same post-alveolar point of articulation and voiceless quality, but it begins with a complete stoppage of airflow at the post-alveolar point of articulation. Looking at its IPA symbol might suggest that the stoppage is similar to the /t/ sound, but /tʃ/ is pronounced more at the post-alveolar point of articulation. Practice by pronouncing the /ʃ/ sound for an extended period of time while stopping and releasing airflow.


Examples:

word initial:

chip

chart

chop

check

word final:

catch

rich



//

The /dʒ/ sound is analogous to /tʃ/ except it is voiced. Here again, the stoppage is made entirely at the post-alveolar point of articulation. Practice by pronouncing the /ʒ/ sound from Lesson 6 for an extended period of time while stopping and releasing airflow.


Examples:

word initial:

jury

job

jewelry

Janet

word final:

edge

judge



Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples, check back for more examples and later lessons:

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 10: the sounds /j/ and /w/ -->



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Friday, April 17, 2009

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 8: the sounds /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 8: the sounds /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/

The /ŋ/ sound in English is most often represented by the letters 'ng', while /n/appears as the letter 'n' and /m/ as the letter 'm'.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /.

Remember, consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless). (check out the links to the right to review previous lessons)

Nasal consonants:

/m/, /n/, and /ŋ/ are 'nasal' consonants and are all 'voiced'. They are produced by passing air through both the mouth and nose at the same time and stopping airflow through the mouth at a given 'point of articulation'. All three have points of articulation covered in previous lessons.

/m/

The /m/ sound is a 'bilabial' nasal consonant like /p/ and /b/ (see Lessons 1 and 3 for more information). Is is pronounced by stopping airflow through the mouth by putting both lips together, while continuing to let air flow through the nose.

Examples:

word initial:

meet

Monday

market

mail

word final:

him

Tom


/n/

The /n/ sound has an 'alveolar' point of articulation like /t/ and /d/ (see Lessons 2 and 3 for more information).

Examples:

word initial:

neat

nose

no

nail

word final:

bin

pan


/ŋ/

The /ŋ/ sound has a 'velar' point of articulation (see Lessons 2 and 3 for more information).

Examples:

word final:

sing

nothing

song

ring


Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples, check back for more examples and later lessons:

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous pronunciation lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 9: the sounds /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ -->


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 7: the /h/ sound

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 7: the /h/ sound

The /h/ sound in English is most often represented by the letter 'h' when it occurs by itself and not with any other consonants. Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions.

Remember, consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless). (check out the links to the right to review previous lessons)

Fricatives:

These are produced with a restriction, but not a complete stoppage, of airflow

The /h/ sound is one fricative that we have not covered yet. Some other voiceless fricatives are covered in Lessons 4, 5, and 6. This sound is explained separately, because it involves an entirely new 'point of articulation' that we have not yet discussed: 'glottal'.


/h/

Linguists call the /h/ sound a 'voiceless glottal fricative'. It is the only English phoneme with a 'glottal' point of articulation, which is behind the 'velar' point of articulation (see Lessons 2 and 3 for more on velar consonants), lower in the throat. The sound is similar to when you speak at a whisper. Try whispering while pronouncing the word 'but' (one of the examples in Lesson 3). Now whisper it again and this time stop before you pronounce the 't' at the end (like 'bu'). Whisper again this time but not the 'b' at the beginning, only the vowel (like 'u'). The /h/ sound most closely resembles this vowel sound (covered in a later lesson), but pronounced at a whisper.



Examples:

word initial:

he

hat

hut

home

hail

Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples, check back for more examples and later lessons:

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 8: the sounds /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/ -->


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Friday, October 24, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 6: the sounds /ʃ/ and /ʒ/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 6: the sounds /ʃ/ and /ʒ/

The /ʃ/ sound in English is most often represented by the letters 'sh'. The /ʒ/ sound occurs less frequently in speech. It is pronounced almost the same as /ʃ/ except it is voiced.

Remember, consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless). (check out the links to the right to review previous lessons)

Fricatives:

These are produced with a restriction, but not a complete stoppage, of airflow

The sounds /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ are two fricatives that we have not covered yet. Some other voiceless fricatives are covered in Lesson 4, while Lesson 5 reviews the other voiced fricatives. These two are explained separately, because they because they involve an entirely new 'point of articulation' that we have not yet discussed: 'post-alveolar'.


/ʃ/

Linguists call the /ʃ/ sound a 'voiceless post-alveolar fricative'. The 'post-alveolar' point of articulation is just behind the 'alveolar', the point for /s/ and /z/. Try pronouncing the /s/ sound for an extended period and then move your tongue slightly backward away from your alveolar ridge. You will notice that the sound drops slightly in pitch and has a more sonorous or noisy quality to it.



Examples:

word initial:

she

shore

shell


word internal:

fashion

ashen

crushing


word final:

crash

wish



/ʒ/

The /ʒ/ sound is a 'voiced post-alveolar fricative'. This time, try pronouncing the /z/ sound for an extended period and then move your tongue slightly backward away from your alveolar ridge. You will notice that the sound drops slightly in pitch and has a more sonorous or noisy quality to it.


The /ʒ/ sound occurs less frequently and, for the most part, is not critical to conveying the meaning of a word (as the difference between, for example, /t/ vs. /d/ might be in the words 'time' and 'dime'). Nevertheless it is a variation pronounced by most U.S. English speakers in the middle of some words, like:

measure

azure

treasure


(keep in mind these words would be pronounced differently in UK English and some other varieties)

Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples, check back for more examples and later lessons:

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics. Try reviewing the previous lessons (see links to the right).

Lesson 7: the /h/ sound -->


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Thursday, October 2, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 5: /v/, /ð/, /z/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 5: /v/, /ð/, /z/

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms. However to give an adequate explanation of English consonants, Lesson 1 outlines some basic linguistic information.


For this lesson, let's start by reviewing some background information:

Consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless).

Fricatives:

These are produced with a restriction, but not a complete stoppage, of airflow

Voiced fricatives:

Consonants, including fricatives, pronounced while vibrating the voicebox are "voiced" while "voiceless" consonants are pronounced without vibrating the voicebox. If you are not familiar with this distinction, try holding your hand lightly over your voicebox while pronouncing. If you are pronouncing voiced sounds you will feel a vibration, voiceless sounds have no vibration and are almost like a whisper. All vowels are voiced, but consonants vary. In English, as with many other languages, voicing creates important distinctions between sounds. Take, for example, the first sound described in the following lesson: /v/. It is essentially the same as the sound /f/ except for voicing (click here for more on /f/).

The voiced fricatives in English are:

/v/, /ð/, and /z/



/v/ is a 'labiodental' consonant. In other words, it is pronounced by bringing the top teeth and bottom lips together to restrict airflow. It is most often represented by the letter 'v' in English words.

Examples:

word initial:

Vault

Very


part of a consonant cluster:

Swerve

Carve


word final:

Give

Gave

[note: the 'e' is 'silent' in these last 2 words]


The next consonant sound we will cover is often represented by the letters 'th' in English words. However, linguists often refer to pronounced sounds by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol [link to Wikipedia backgrounder]. The IPA symbol we are covering here is ð.

/ð/ is referred to as an 'interdental' consonant. In other words, it is pronounced by placing the tip of the tongue between the teeth, restricting airflow. It is essentially the same as the sound /θ/ except it is voiced (click here for more on /θ/)

Examples:

word initial:

They

This



Word internal:

Gather

Either



Word final:

Bathe

Sooththe


/z/ is referred to as an 'alveolar' consonant. In other words, it is pronounced by placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth, restricting airflow. Its 'point of articulation' is the same as that of /t/ and /d/ [links to previous lessons].
It is pronounced while voicing.

/z/ is most often represented by the letter 'z' in English words, but often, the letter 's' takes the /z/ sound, especially when forming the plural of some words (more about the pronunciation of plural forms in later lessons).


Examples:

word initial:

Zip

Zoo

Zebra


Part of a consonant cluster:

Jars

Words

Fans


Word final:

Buzz

Because

Is


Try practicing some of these English pronunciation examples.


Lesson 6: the sounds /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ -->



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Sunday, August 3, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 4: /f/, /θ/, /s/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 4: /f/, /θ/, /s/

The goal of this course is to present English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms. However to give an adequate explanation of English consonants, Lesson 1 outlines some basic linguistic information.


For this lesson, let's start by reviewing some background information:

Consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different 'points of articulation'. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless).

Fricatives:

These are produced with a restriction, but not a complete stoppage, of airflow

Voiceless fricatives:

Consonants, including fricatives, pronounced while vibrating the voicebox are "voiced" while "voiceless" consonants are pronounced without vibrating the voicebox. If you are not familiar with this distinction, try holding your hand lightly over your voicebox while pronouncing. If you are pronouncing voiced sounds you will feel a vibration, voiceless sounds have no vibration and are almost like a whisper. All vowels are voiced, but consonants vary. In English, as with many other languages, voicing creates important distinctions between sounds. Take, for example, the first sound described in the following lesson: /f/. It is essentially the same as the sound /v/ except for voicing (more on /v/ later).

The voiceless fricatives in English are:

/f/, /θ/, and /s/



/f/ is a 'labiodental' consonant. In other words, it is pronounced by bringing the top teeth and bottom lips together to restrict airflow. It is most often represented by the letter 'f' in English words, but can vary (I plan to cover some of the particular difficulties with English spelling variations in later lessons, but for now, let's focus on the basics).

Examples:

word initial:

Fall

Fact


part of a consonant cluster:

Friday

Fly


word final:

Giraffe

Graph

Laugh


The next consonant sound we will cover is often represented by the letters 'th' in English words. However, linguists often refer to pronounced sounds by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol [link to Wikipedia backgrounder]. The IPA symbol we are covering here is θ.

/θ/ is referred to as an 'interdental' consonant. In other words, it is pronounced by placing the tip of the tongue between the teeth, restricting airflow. It is pronounced without voicing.


Examples:

word initial:

Thought

Thursday



Part of a consonant cluster:

Fourth

Fifth



Word final:

Bath

With


/s/ is referred to as an 'alveolar' consonant. In other words, it is pronounced by placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth, restricting airflow. Its 'point of articulation' is the same as that of /t/ and /d/ [links to previous lessons].
It is pronounced without voicing.

/s/ is most often represented by the letter 's' in English words.

Examples:

word initial:

Seven

Saturday

Sunday


Part of a consonant cluster:

Start

Screen

Sled


Word final:

Bass

Cross


Lesson 5: /v/, /ð/, /z/ -->




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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 3: /b/, /d/, and /g/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 3:
/b/, /d/, and /g/

The goal of this course is to present English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms. However to give an adequate explanation of English consonants, Lesson 1 outlines some basic linguistic information.

Voiced stops:

The 'voiced stops' in English are exactly like the 'voiceless stops', except they are pronounced while vibrating the vocal chords. Also, the voiced stops are never 'aspirated' like the voiceless stops sometimes are. (see Lesson 1 for more information).


The voiced stops in English are:

/b/ /d/ and /g/



/b/ is pronounced with voicing by closing the lips together, restricting airflow (this is similar to /p/, but with voicing).

Examples:

word initial:

Ball

Basket

But

part of a consonant cluster:

Bring

Brake


word final:

Tab

Grab


/d/ is pronounced with voicing by touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth, restricting airflow (this is similar to /t/, but with voicing).

[Note: In some languages, like Spanish, speakers tend to pronounce /t/ and /d/ by placing the tip of the tongue directly on the back of the teeth. If you are used to pronouncing these sounds that way, that's fine, but for advanced practice try backing up to just behind the teeth. You will sound more like a native speaker that way.]

Examples:

word initial:

Day

Dog



Part of a consonant cluster:

Drop

Old



Word final:

Had

Food


/g/ is pronounced with voicing by touching the back of the tongue against the back of the soft palate, restricting airflow. (this is similar to /k/, but with voicing).

Examples:

word initial:

Gear

Gum

Garden


Part of a consonant cluster:

Gray

Green

Glad


Word final:

Bag

Big


Lesson 4: /f/, /θ/, /s/ -->



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Saturday, April 5, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation: Lesson 2: /t/ and /k/

U.S. English Pronunciation
Lesson 2: /t/ and /k/

The goal of this course is to present English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms.

The voiceless stops in English are: /p/ /t/ and /k/

Advanced Concept: Check out Lesson 1 to read about "aspiration" of English consonants


/t/ is pronounced without voicing by touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth, restricting airflow

[Note: In some languages, like Spanish, speakers tend to pronounce /t/ and /d/ by placing the tip of the tongue directly on the back of the teeth. If you are used to pronouncing these sounds that way, that's fine, but for advanced practice try backing up to just behind the teeth. You will sound more like a native speaker that way.]

Examples:

word initial (aspirated):

Tall

Top



Part of a consonant cluster (not aspirated):

Stop

Start



Word final (not aspirated):

Hat

Cat


/k/ is pronounced without voicing by touching the back of the tongue against the back of the soft palate, restricting airflow. Notice that spelling of the /k/ sound varies and can be represented by the letter 'k', the letter 'c', 'ck', and others.

Examples:

word initial (aspirated):

Keep

Key

Cat


Part of a consonant cluster (not aspirated):

Skill

Skate



Word final (not aspirated):

Week

Back

Work


Lesson 3: /b/, /d/, and /g/ -->



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Saturday, February 9, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation - Lesson 1: /p/

English Pronunciation
Lesson 1: /p/

The goal of this course is to present pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms. However to give an adequate explanation of English consonants, I will outline some basic linguistic information.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions.

Part 1: consonants:

Consonants in any language are the result of the brief stoppage or restriction of airflow in speech at different “points of articulation”. While one is speaking, the vocal chords are either vibrated (voiced), or not (voiceless).

With that in mind, I will introduce the consonants in groups that contain common features. This will make more sense later after you have seen some of the features.


Stops:

These are produced with a stoppage of airflow


Voiceless stops:

Consonants pronounced while vibrating the voicebox are "voiced" while "voiceless" consonants are pronounced without vibrating the voicebox. If you are not familiar with this distinction, try holding your hand lightly over your voicebox while pronouncing. If you are pronouncing voiced sounds you will feel a vibration, voiceless sounds have no vibration and are almost like a whisper. All vowels are voiced, but consonants vary. In English, as with many other languages, voicing creates important distinctions between sounds. Take, for example, the first sound described in the following lesson: /p/. It is essentially the same as the sound /b/ except for voicing (more on /b/ later).

The voiceless stops in English are:

/p/ /t/ and /k/

Advanced Concept:

"Aspiration"

Aspiration is a term used to describe a specific feature in English pronunciation of voiceless stops. It is not completely necessary to pronounce these consonants exactly as a native speaker, but mastering these sounds will result in reduced accent and speech that is closer to that of a native speaker.

In English, when a voiceless stop is at the beginning of a word or syllable and preceding a vowel, it is “aspirated”. This means that there is a slight delay in vibrating the vocal chords for the following vowel. This delay results in something that sounds kind of like a puff of air (hence the term “aspiration”). Aspiration does not occur when the voiceless stop is followed by another consonant (e.g. in the word /plan/), when at the end of a syllable or word as in /gap/, or as part of a consonant cluster as in /especially/ (the cluster /sp/ goes together as part of the same syllable in English and is not divided as it is in some languages, like Spanish for example).


Examples:

/p/

/p/ is pronounced without voicing by closing the lips together, restricting airflow


word initial (aspirated):

Paul

party


part of a consonant cluster (not aspirated):

plane

special


word final (not aspirated):

tap

stop


Try practicing some of these english pronunciation examples

Lesson 2: /t/ and /k/ -->



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Friday, February 8, 2008

U.S. English Pronunciation - Introduction

The goal of this course is to help you learn English pronunciation in simple, easy-to-understand terms, while at the same time giving you enough familiarity with technical linguistic concepts to move on to other, more advanced topics.

Why bother with pronunciation?

Perfect pronunciation is probably not a realistic goal for most second-language learners. However improving the way you pronounce words can help your speech be better understood by your listeners. Reducing a foreign accent can be beneficial, especially in formal/professional contexts. Of course, good pronunciation is no substitute for good grammar. Things like vocabulary and sentence structure are just as important, perhaps more so. Nevertheless, focusing on pronunciation might be worthwhile just to improve your speech a bit.

If you are just starting to study English, learning its 'phonological' or pronunciation rules can help in areas like learning new vocabulary words. Language learners, especially adults, seem to learn a second language differently from the way they acquired their first language. Young children learn a language through exposure and trial-and-error, without ever studying the rules or learning to read. Adult language-learners, on the other hand, tend to benefit from understanding a little about the mechanics of a language.

That's why you might learn, for example, how to conjugate a verb. Ultimately this process should become more-or-less automatic and you should not have to be thinking about verb conjugations in real-time conversations. The same goes for pronunciation. Once you get the basics down and practice enough, you should not have to think about pronunciation as much, if at all.

Keep in mind as you learn English pronunciation that English spelling is rather unpredictable with a multitude of exceptions and variations. The rules sometimes seem to lack a predictable pattern. Fortunately there are only a limited number of 'phonemes', or sounds. That's why these pronunciation lessons focus on the phonemes and try to give only non-exceptional spelling examples. This should make it easier for you to master the individual sounds as you progress and start to encounter variations and exceptions. Individual phonemes are represented by their International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol between forward slashes: / /

A blog format was chosen for this course to best allow posting of new lessons incrementally, as time permits. The first group of basic lessons will deal with consonants. After describing the consonants in thematic groups, there will be more examples, practice, and comparison/contrast. After that vowels will be covered. Then more advanced topics like the plural and past-tense forms will be covered. If you would like to be notified when new posts are added, you can subscribe to the RSS feed [see the link in the right sidebar], or just bookmark the site and check back periodically.

Lesson 1 -->



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