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CONSONANT SOUNDS Most of the 24 American English sounds occur in other languages, so there are only a few sounds that most non-native speakers will actually need to learn to make. Sometimes the problem is not because the speaker doesn’t know how to make a particular sound but it is because the spelling is misleading. If you learned to read English before you learned to speak it, for example, you might pronounce the letter d in “education” as a D sound rather than a J sound. Consonant sounds are described by 1) where (place) they are produced (both lips, tongue tip on teeth, etc.) and 2) how (manner) they are produced (complete stop, etc.) All consonant sounds can also be described as 3) voiced or unvoiced. When air passes by the vocal folds and causes them to vibrate, sound is produced. A consonant that is made this way is called a voiced sound and the vibration can be felt by putting your fingers on the front of your throat. When air passes by the vocal folds without vibrating them, the sound of exhaled air gives the consonant sound an unvoiced quality. When you put your fingers on the front of your throat, you won’t feel any vibration. CONSONANT SOUNDS B CH D F G H J K L M N NG P R S SH T “Flap T” TH THH V W
X Y Z ZH SILENT CONSONANTS VOICING CH The CH consonant sound can be difficult to pronounce for many non-native speakers. Often it is confused with SH. You may be surprised to know that there are many words spelled with T that are pronounced CH, such as “situation” and “signature.” Instructions to make this sound: Does your tongue press the roof of your mouth inside your top teeth quickly and firmly? It may help to try to begin this sound by putting your tongue in the same position you use for a T sound. Common problems: Using an SH sound, so "chair" sounds like "share." Common spellings: CH as in “chair,” TCH as in “watch,” T as in “nature,” C as in “cello” Misleading words: “chef,” “Chicago,” and “brochure” are pronounced with a SH sound; “chorus,” “stomach,” and “echo” are pronounced with a K sound chair chose kitchen such watch a child's chair chose a career a kitchen cabinet such a charming girl watch the tennis match
Chuck was chosen to be the research chairman. Which teacher's signature is on the check?
F The F consonant sound can be difficult for some non-native English speakers, especially Filipinos and some Vietnamese. Most commonly it is confused with P. The F sound is a steady flow of air, unlike the P. Instructions to make this sound: Do your top teeth touch your bottom lip as the air passes out of your mouth? Does your upper lip remain at rest? Common problems: Using P, so "fine" sounds like "pine" Common spellings: F as in “four,” PH as in “phone,” FF as in “staff,” GH as in
“rough” find few caffeine if fifty find it fast a few friends without caffeine if I could fifty pennies
The conference offered five different sessions. Will they finish the film before February first? H The French have difficulty pronouncing the American H sound. Also, some European and Middle Eastern speakers pronounce it more strongly than native Americans. It is simply exhaled air. Instructions to make this sound: Do you hear the sound of air as it passes smoothly through your mouth? You don't want to hear any contact or vibrating sounds. Common problems: Not pronouncing it at all. Common spellings: H as in “had,” WH as in “who” Misleading words: “honest,” “herbs” have a silent H he hear has behavior neighborhood is he here can't hear him he has it on her best behavior a house in the neighborhood
I heard him say, "Home is where the heart is." Headlines said the hijacker held one hundred hostages. J The J sound can be difficult for non-native English speakers. The many ways of spelling it may confuse you. Did you know the letter D is sometimes pronounced J, as in “educate,” “procedure,” and “soldier”? Instructions to make this sound: Does your tongue press the roof of your mouth firmly inside your top teeth? Common Problems: Using a CH, so "jeep" sounds like "cheap." Using a ZH, so
"jet" sounds like "zhet." Using a Y, so "jet" sounds like "yet." Common Spellings: J as in “jam,” G as in “gym,” DGE as in “ledge,” D as in “educate.” Misleading Words: “beige” is pronounced with a ZH sound jeans jacket wages badge vegetable cheap jeans a genuine leather jacket wages and fringe benefits a manager's badge a vegetable garden
John suggested I register my new Jeep. Is Jim eligible for that job in geology?
L The L sound is very challenging for many non-native speakers (and some native speakers, too!). Some people confuse it with R. It is especially difficult to pronounce at the end of a word (“wall”) or at the end of a syllable (“ultra’) for some speakers. They tend to round their lips and the L sounds like a W. Instructions to make this sound: Does the front of your tongue touch the ridge behind your upper front teeth? Be sure the corners of your lips do not pull in—it may be helpful to pull them back as if you are smiling. Also, be careful your lower lip does not move upward at all. Common Problems: Using a W, so "late" sounds like "wait." Using an R, so "late" sounds like "rate." Using a N, so "low" sounds like "no." Common Spellings: L as in “lake,” LL as in “dollars” Misleading Words: “walk,” “talk,” “salmon” have a silent L line long eleven well girl the telephone line a long while ago eleven o'clock well, I will call the lovely girl
Let's elect a capable and responsible leader. School children learn to dial 911 when in trouble. L-BLENDS
L is a difficult sound for some people and it can become even harder to pronounce when it is next to another consonant sound. When it is with another consonant, it is called an “l-blend” because the two sounds blend together. Common Problems: Using a W, so "plate" sounds like "pwait." Using an R, so "glass" sounds like "grass." Common Spellings: PL as in “please,” BL as in “black,” CL as in “climb,” GL as in “glass,” SL as in “slip” play class fly help salt told let’s play bridge an English class fly like an eagle help yourself salt and pepper told an old joke
Black clouds gave way to pleasant blue skies. N Most people don’t find N too difficult to pronounce. Sometimes it gets mixed up with L, though. Touch your nose when you make this sound. You should feel some vibration. Other times, it gets mixed up with NG. N is made with the tongue tip raised in the front of the mouth; NG is made with the tongue back raised in the back of the mouth but both of these sounds are nasal so you will feel vibration when you touch your nose while making these sounds. Instructions to make this sound: Does the front of your tongue press flatly and strongly against the roof of your mouth behind your upper front teeth? This is a nasal sound. Common Problems: Using an L, so "night" sounds like "light." Using a NG, so "thing" sounds like "thin." Common Spellings: N as in neat, NN as in “funny,” KN as in “knife,” GN as in “gnaw,” PN “pneumonia” Misleading Words: “column” and “hymn” have a silent N name never business then hundred a new name now or never business know-how then and now more than a hundred
Non-native speakers omit many final sounds I wonder when they can answer that one question. NG NG occurs only at the ends of words or at the end of a syllable within a word. If it is mispronounced, it is 1) because an N is substituted so make sure the back of your tongue is raised, not the front of your tongue, or 2) because a G is added at the very end and there is no G sound in the NG sound. (Most Americans don’t know how to pronounce this sound at the beginning of a word, but if you want to be able to pronounce Vietnamese names like Nguyen and Ngo correctly, just practice making this sound and you can learn to say these names quite well.) Instructions to make this sound: Are you raising the back of your tongue to touch the roof of your mouth? You shouldn’t hear a G sound at the end. Common Problems: Using an N, so "thing" sounds like "thin.” Adding a K or G at the end, so “thing” sounds like “thingK” or “thingG.” Common Spellings: NG as in “sing,” N as in “bank” thing during long bringing didn’t win a thing during the spring a long, long string bringing something
He sang the wrong song while recording. She had trouble finding her missing wedding ring. P The P sound is not usually too difficult a sound to make. Both lips need to come together. It’s just air, no sound, so you should not feel any vibration when you put your hand on your throat. Instructions to make this sound: Do your lips press together and release the air with a pop? Common Problems: Using a B, so "push" sounds like "bush." Common Spellings: P as in “play,” PP as in “happy” Misleading Words: “pneumonia,” “psychology,” “receipt” have a silent P
pay parking opinion company purpose
please pay the bills no parking permit popular opinion company policy a special purpose
I hope the paper was proofed prior to publication. Those people are Filipinos from the South Pacific. R The R sound is very challenging for many non-native speakers (and some native speakers, too!). Instructions to make this sound: Is your tongue raised high in the center of your mouth? Or is your tongue tip curled back to the center of your mouth, not touching the roof. There is no vibrating motion of the tongue-just a smooth movement. Common Problems: Using an L, so "rate" sounds like "late." Common Spellings: R as in “ring,” RR as in “worry,” RH as in “rhyme,” WR as in “wreck,” L as in “colonel” read rent very arrive they’re our farther read the paper raise the rent it’s very realistic arrive early Friday they’re near here it’s our turn move farther forward
Can you determine the square root of forty-four? Ron’s voice was hoarse and his throat was sore. R-BLENDS R is a difficult sound for many people and it can become even harder to pronounce when it is next to another consonant sound. When it is with another consonant, it is called an “r-blend” because the two sounds blend together. Common Problems: Using an L, so "present" sounds like "pleasant." Not pronouncing the R so “present” sounds like “peasant” and “girl” sounds like “gull” Common Spellings: PR as in “practice,” BR as in “bring,” CR as in “crime,” GR as in “grass,” TR as in “try”
present fresh crowd hard warm work
a birthday present fresh fruit three’s a crowd a hard surface some warm weather work long hours
Three racecar drivers survived the wreck. Turn right at the corner of Warner and First Street. S S isn’t a difficult sound to learn for most non-native speakers. It’s just air, no sound, so you should not feel any vibration when you put your hand on your throat. Instructions to make this sound: Is the tip of your tongue almost touching the back of your upper front teeth as the air passes over it? Common Problems: Using a Z so “sue” sounds like “zoo.” Using an SH so “sue” sounds like “shoe.” Common Spellings: S as in “say,” SS as in “pass,” C as in “circle,” SC as in “science,” PS as in “psychology” Misleading Words: “is,” “ways,” “reason” are pronounced with a Z sound; “debris” has a silent S sale sell beside campus yesterday it’s on sale sell at a loss beside myself a university campus yesterday was Sunday
The message said we must seek safety soon. Los Angeles, Dallas, and St. Louis are big cities. S-BLENDS When S is with another consonant, it is called an “s-blend” because the two sounds blend together. Hispanics and Iranians are accustomed to adding a vowel sound before the S. Remember to start with S, not a vowel sound. Common Problems: Using a vowel sound before the S, so “state” sounds like “estate.” still still strong
stop sports slowly street
stop and start sports scores speak slowly a parking space on the street
They acted as a school sponsor. These students are on scholarships. SH SH is the “be quiet” sound—it’s the sound some people use to tell a child to be quiet. The corners of your lips come in. You should not have them pulled back as if you are smiling. Instructions to make this sound: Are your lips rounded as your tongue points toward your front teeth? If you put your finger in front of your lips to tell someone to be quiet, this is the sound you make. Common Problems: Using an S, so “she” sounds like “see.” Using a CH so “shop” sound like “chop.” Common Spellings: SH as in “short,” SS as in “tissue,” TI as in “nation,” SU as in “sure,” CI as in “racial,” CH as in “chef,” SCI as in “conscious.” Misleading Words: “question” and “suggestion” are pronounced with a CH sound; “equation” is pronounced with a ZH sound sheet sugar information finish rush a second sheet of paper show me the sugar share your information finish the championship rush to go fishing
She washed and polished her Chevrolet. Shall we assume the commission negotiated efficiently? Spoken American English differs from British English in several ways. One difference is that sometimes the letter T (or letters TT) in the middle of a word aren’t pronounced like a T. This sound is called a “flap T” because the tip of the tongue just taps the ridge behind the upper front teeth. It sounds more relaxed than a T—more like a D. So, here in the United States, a “party” often sounds like a “pardy” and “citizen” might sound like “cidizen.” Instructions to make this sound: Your tongue quickly taps the ridge behind your upper front teeth. It sounds more like a D than a T. It usually occurs after a vowel, F, R, N and before another vowel when the following syllable is not stressed.
Common Problems: Using a T sound instead of a flap T. later little letter water quarter ninety later at the meeting little about marketing writing a letter the waiter brought water quarter inch in diameter eighty or ninety percent
We’re invited to a party on Saturday. You’ll find some butter and lettuce in the refrigerator. TH The TH sound is often the hardest consonant for many non-native English speakers to learn. They may say a T, F, or S instead. The TH occurs in English and Castilian Spanish, but can you think of other languages with this sound? It's an important sound--it is the difference between "three" and "tree," "death" and "debt," "with” and “whiff," "thumb" and "some." Practice putting your tongue very lightly against the back of your top front teeth and blowing. The air should flow freely. Instructions to make this sound: Does the air flow over your tongue? You should be able to prolong it for 2 seconds. Your tongue can be between your upper and lower front teeth but should not stick out beyond your teeth or your tongue can be behind your top teeth. Common Problems: Using a T, so "thin" sounds like "tin." Using an F, so "thin" sounds like "fin." Using an S, so "thin" sounds like "sin." Common Spellings: TH as in “three” Misleading Words: “Thailand,” “Thomas,” “thyme” are pronounced with a T, not a TH; “clothes” and “asthma” have a silent TH theme thick something with south month the third theme through the thick wall something for nothing with them north or south on the thirtieth of the month
Thank you both for thinking of me on my birthday.
I thought the theater was open Thursday, the ninth. THH THH is an especially troublesome sound for most non-native speakers because it does not occur in most other languages. Practice putting your tongue very lightly against the back of your top front teeth and blowing. The air should flow freely. Put your hand on the front of your throat and feel the vibration. Instructions to make this sound: Is your tongue between your upper and lower front teeth but not protruding too far? Does the air flow over your tongue? Common Problems: Using a D so “they” sounds like “day.” Using a Z so “then” sounds like “Zen.” Common Spellings: TH as in “that,” THE as in “breathe” Misleading Words: “clothes” has a silent TH these there those either weather smooth these brothers here or there those others either one rainy weather a smooth cloth
They gathered together in southern California. Their father went further away than their brother. V The keys to a good V sound are: 1) do not let your lips come together or it may sound like a B sound and 2) do not let the corners of your mouth come in or you may make a W sound. It may help to smile while you are practicing V. Instructions to make this sound: Are your top teeth touching your bottom lip as the air passes out of your mouth? Your lips should not be rounded. Common Problems: Using a B so “very” sounds like “berry.” Using a W so “vine” sounds like “wine.” Using an F so “view” sounds like “few.” Common Spellings: V as in “veto,” F as in “of” visa value vote request a visa of no value better vote in November
available give favorite
what’s available to give or receive my favorite flavor
Vincent gave Kevin a very good evaluation. We’ve been invited to five parties that evening. W For many people, W gets mixed up with V. Remember to keep your lips pushed out away from your front teeth and make sure the corners of your lips come in to make a circle. Instructions to make this sound: Are your lips pushed forward, away from your teeth, and rounded? Common Problems: Using a V so “wine” sounds like “vine.” Common Spellings: O as in “one,” W as in “want,” WH as in “where,” U as in “quit” Misleading Words: “two,” “write,” “sword,” “answer” have a silent W we went why between equipment we won went somewhere why wait between 12 and 1 o’clock with our equipment
The weather was warm when I went to Milwaukee. It requires a quarter which equals twenty-five cents X X can also be considered not one, but two sounds. It can be K + S as in “box” or G + Z as in “exhibit.” Instructions to make this sound: You should hear two distinct sounds. In some words, they are the K and S sounds and in other words, they are the G and Z sounds. Common Problems: Not pronouncing the first sound: K or G, so “six” sounds like “sis” or “exist” sounds like “izist.” Not pronouncing the second sound: S or Z, so “six” sounds like “sick” or Common Spellings: X as in “mix,” KS as in “walks,” CC as in “accept”
Misleading Words: “luxury,” “sexual” are pronounced with K and SH or G and ZH. fix economics checks sixteen example exactly fix it next week explaining economics wrote six checks sixteen or sixty an expert’s example exactly according to specs
Next week’s exam will include x-rays. The executive needs an exact copy of the exhibit. Y Y is a nice easy sound—there’s no contact between your tongue tip and the roof of your mouth. If you touch the roof of your mouth, you may make a J sound. Instructions to make this sound: Does your tongue start flat and high in your mouth, moving downward as you lower your jaw? Be sure your tongue tip stays down and does not touch the roof of your mouth. Common Problems: Using a J sound so “yellow” sounds like “jello.” Not pronouncing the Y sound so “year” sounds like “ear.” Common Spellings: U as in “United States,” Y as in “young,” I as in “senior” year yesterday yes yard United States continue next year curious about yesterday yes, a few beyond the yard popular in the United States
The mayor of New York visits Yosemite annually. Do unions usually negotiate regularly? Z If you have trouble with the Z sound it is because you are using S instead. The difference between them is that you should feel vibration for Z when you put your hand on your throat. It is especially difficult for Hispanics. Instructions to make this sound: Is the tip of your tongue almost touching the back of your upper front teeth as the air passes over it? Common Problems: Using an S sound so “zip” sounds like “sip.” Using a J sound so “zone” sounds like “Joan.” Adding a D sound before the Z so “zoo”
sounds like “dzoo.” Common Spellings: Z as in “zoology,” S as in “is,” ZZ as in “fuzzy,” X as in “Xerox” zero zipper zone easy his does close to zero zip the zipper zone or zip code isn’t it easy keys to his house does it or doesn’t it
He has recognized the Japanese businessman. Haze causes decreased visibility, doesn’t it? ZH If you have trouble with the ZH, here is some good news. It occurs in spoken English less than any other consonant sound! Make the “be quiet sound”: SH and then put your hand on the front of your throat and make some sound so you feel the vibration. Instructions to make this sound: Are your lips rounded as your tongue points toward your front teeth? Common Problems: Using an SH sound so “usual” sounds like “ushual.” Using a J sound so “version” sounds like “virgin.” Common Spellings: S as in “measure,” G as in “regime,” Z as in “seizure” Asia vision measure usually prestige she’s from Asia has unusual vision measure the potential usually pleasurable a position of prestige
Our decision is to make the occasion casual. They watch television for pleasure and diversion. SILENT CONSONANTS Because many non-native speakers often learn to read English before they hear it spoken, they sometimes pronounce letters that native speakers know are not pronounced—“silent.” What letters are silent in these sentences? See you on Wednesday. The honors ceremony lasted an hour. Shall we walk and talk?
Really, I would if I could. I love the Hawaiian Islands! We ate gourmet food at the buffet. Write two answers. VOICING Many pairs of consonant sounds in American English are made in the same place in the mouth and in the same manner. They are different in only one way—one sound is voiced and one sound is not voiced. In these pairs of words, there is only one difference. The first word of each pair has a sound (in parentheses) that not voiced so you won’t feel any vibration when you put your fingers on the front of your throat while making this sound. The second word of each pair has a sound that is voiced (in parentheses) so you will feel vibration when you put your fingers on the front of your throat while making this sound. Remember, this is the only difference between these two words. pack trite chunk piece few (P) (T) (CH) (S) (F) back tried junk peas view (B) (D) (J) (Z) (V)
Vowel sounds are often difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce. One explanation is that there are five vowel letters in English (A, E, I, O, U) but fifteen vowel sounds and there may be no clear relationship between the printed letter and its sound. Some vowels have as many as 10 different spellings! Think about these words: "cough, bough, dough, rough, through"--the same "ough" spelling, but five different pronunciations! Vowel sounds are made by slight changes in the position of the tongue and lips and tensing or relaxing the muscles of the mouth. One important characteristic of American English vowels is the "open" quality that is the result of the position of the tongue. You may be working on tongue position and movement in order to improve your accent. By prolonging or lengthening some vowel sounds, many words will sound more American. Perhaps the single most important factor in modifying vowel sounds is the ability to hear the sounds correctly. Vowels are generally more difficult to master than consonants. In addition to the problems created by spelling that are explained in the first paragraph, vowel sounds are made by slightly changing the size, shape, and tension of the muscles of your mouth and lips. A very small change can result in an entirely different sound. Vowel sounds can be described as high, mid, or low. When the tongue or jaw moves up, it is a high vowel; when the tongue or jaw moves down, it is a low vowel. When the tongue stays in the middle, it is a middle vowel. Vowels may also be described as front, central, or back. When the tongue is raised or arched in the front of the mouth, it is a front vowel; when the tongue is raised or arched in the center, it is a central vowel; when
the tongue is raised or arched in the back, it is a back vowel.
EE I AY EH AE UH U OO O A UR AI OW OY
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