hometeacherenglishbasic skillspronunciation

pronunciation

english pronunciation is actually much easier than it often appears. it has relatively few vowel sounds and some basic consonants but the difference between vowels is generally ignored by most modern english speakers. where there used to be a huge difference, everyday english is spoken with many of its vowels shortened and standardized into a neutral uh sound. differences between consonants have also become less significant over time and much of english speech in the real world is actually understood by context and expectation rather than actually hearing the words, as surprising as that may appear.

vowels

english has several simple vowels and a few possible combinations as they are put together in words. these will be represented by a, e, i, o, u, ih, uh and aw. there was once a difference between uh and eh but this has disappeared in modern speech. (i use uh to represent this neutral vowel sound because eh is often written as an exclamation or question – pronounced e.) the largest problem you are likely to encounter pronouncing english is that there is absolutely no standard pattern to go from english spelling (even modern english spelling) to phonetics so the spelling often has no relationship to the vowel or consonant sound you need to make to say the word. all vowels in english are bright, spoken at the front of the mouth. english as a language is very bright. if you are pronouncing words at the back of your mouth or in your throat, you are speaking an older version of english – english spoken in shakespeare’s time – when there were many more vowel sounds and bright/dark vowels were a function of the language. thankfully, english is far easier to speak now than it has ever been the past! here are some examples of where you can pronounce each of these sounds in common words you already know. remember these vowels are not spelled the same way every time and often don’t even use the letters of the vowel sounds in the words!

a

  • apple, answer, application, father, chance, plan, exam, black, quota, data

e

  • air, age, praise, bake, cake, grape, shake, lake

i

  • bee, tree, knee, flea, see, party, seek, equal, dream

o

  • ocean, open, old, over, owe, occasion, goes, road, go, moment

u

  • school, duty, truth, movie, clue, shoe, blue, through, who

ih

  • it, into, infant, intake, gift, lift, building, window, history, miniature

uh

  • early, burn, learn, were, earth, work, world, never, over, water

aw

  • author, office, cost, dog, talk, soft, draw, always, off

consonants

english has four groups of consonants, what i refer to as groups p, z, b and h. how to divide them into these groups is somewhat arbitrary but i find this makes it easier to find similarities in how they sound. this has little to do with how words are spelled, much like with the vowels, though there is a little more regularity with consonants.

p / t / th / v / f

  • people, private, point, page, polite, copy, happy, speak, group, shape, type, up
  • time, teacher, tonight, take, tomorrow, trouble, practice, retire, intense, lost, left, sweet, wait
  • then, this, though, thanks, think, thousand, author, ethics, tooth, north, month
  • voice, value, vote, very, vice, video, never, obvious, develop, love, save, creative, above
  • friend, face, finish, fast, follow, fort, foreign, physical, sphere, left, specific, laugh, graph, life

z / zh / j / s / sh / ch / k

  • zoom, zone, zoo, zebra, zenith, xylophone, busy, music, visit, disaster, cause, because, analyze, recognize
  • pleasure, vision, casual, measure, decision, usual, illusion, garage, massage, beige, assuage
  • jungle, jump, joint, job, genius, joy, journal, general, budget, magic, energy, original, charge, huge, strange, image
  • silence, small, search, sample, some, style, serious, best, answer, cancel, question, mystery, nice, piece, chance
  • short, shoe, shape, show, shut, shine, machine, issue, ocean, special, motion, fish, push, wish, finish, publish
  • chair, chip, choose, chisel, change, chapter, chocolate, fortune, nature, virtual, inch, torch, witch, stretch
  • kick, cat, climate, key, keep, communicate, account, act, second, success, delicate, bank, black, quick, technical, music

b / d / g / m / n / ng

  • baby, back, bird, break, below, beyond, body, number, neighbor, habit, globe, job, tribe
  • dog, dance, dig, desk, down, describe, dictate, define, middle, candy, adult, video, bird, end, send, remind
  • goal, glide, glad, greet, ground, garden, guess, begin, signature, signal, program, dog, egg, fatigue
  • move, many, measure, match, mail, medicine, empty, smart, flame, ultimate, calm, dream, system
  • name, note, neighbor, knee, net, national, funny, cancel, once, count, animal, rain, hidden, mine, cartoon
  • pink, thanks, drink, bank, finger, function, single, hang, king, bring, sing, wrong, spring, during

h / l / r / w / y

  • home, hand, how, hear, who, hi, history, have, behave, alcohol, inherit, behind, ahead
  • lost, last, list, let, love, laugh, listen, library, help, child, black, blue, believe, girl, will, feel, circle
  • ring, reach, room, reward, ready, radio, friend, bring, hero, secret, describe, appear, engineer, year, hire
  • one, while, white, once, window, wild, woman, whisper, quick, away, language, liquid, quiet, swim, twelve
  • yet, yellow, young, your, yell, year, yes, yesterday, onion, beyond, junior, behavior
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