Sounds – phonetics ɑː,æ,dʒ,ə,ei,I,i,oʊ,ʃ,tʃ,u,ʊ,ʌ,z,ʒ

OK, to pronounce the /ɑ/ sound, you should focus on the correct position of your jaw and tongue. Open your mouth as wide as possible. Relax your lips and allow them to rest in a neutral position. Flatten your tongue and place it very low in your mouth. Your tongue should be in the center of your mouth. The tip of your tongue should be touching the back of your bottom front teeth. Remember, the /ɑ/ is a very open sound, so your mouth should be open as wide as possible. Let’s try saying it: /ɑ/, /ɑ/, /ɑ/. [Pronunciation Exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word if you want to. Let’s begin. • aunt • block • Bob • bottle • box • calm • chop • clock • cob • cod • cotton • crop • dock • doll • dot • drop • flock • flop • fond • fox • got • gotten • honk • hop • hot • job • John • knob • knock • knot

Let’s learn how to pronounce this sound the right (American) way. OK, to pronounce the /æ/ sound, you should focus on the correct position of your tongue and jaw. Open your mouth as wide as possible, slightly spread your lips, and tense them. Tense your tongue, flatten it, and push it forward. Your tongue should be positioned very low in your mouth. The tip of your tongue should be touching the back of your bottom front teeth. Remember, the /æ/ is a very open vowel sound, so your jaw should be very low and your tongue should be very flat. Now, let’s try saying it: /æ/, /æ/, /æ/. [Pronunciation exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this: [abstract]. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word if you want to. Let’s begin! • act • add • am • an • and • angle • ankle • ant • apple • as • ash • ask • asks • at • babble • back • backed • backpack • backs • bad • badge • bag • band • bang • bank • bass • bat • batch

Remember, the /dʒ/ is an affricate sound, so it’s important to completely stop the air in your mouth and then immediately release it with friction. Now, let’s try and merge the /d/ and the /ʒ/ sounds together: /dʒ/, /dʒ/, /dʒ/. Here are a few typical mistakes that people make when pronouncing this sound. 1. The most common problem is that non-native English speakers devoice the /dʒ/ consonant, especially when it occurs at the end of words. Often, people don’t realize that they pronounce the voiceless /tʃ/ sound instead. 2. Another common problem is that many non-native English speakers involuntarily confuse the /dʒ/ and the /ʒ/ sounds. This happens when people don’t stop the air before making the /ʒ/ sound. Be careful as this may make your foreign accent stand out. [Pronunciation exercise ] • gel • gym • jar • jaw • jeans • jet • job • John • join • joke • judge • juice • jump • June • just • adjust • agency • angel • budget • danger • education • energy • imagine • major • origin • oxygen • pigeon • region • religion • magic • age • arrange • average • badge • baggage • bridge • cage • change • charge • edge • huge • image • lounge • page • stage

As usual, let’s begin with some phonology. Stay calm, it’s not complicated :). The /ʒ/ belongs to a category of consonant sounds called the fricatives. This is the largest group of consonants in American English: it consists of nine different sounds! So, why are they called the fricative consonants? All these sounds are made by partially blocking the air moving through your mouth, which creates audible friction. Speaking about the /ʒ/ consonant, – this sound is made by partially blocking the air flowing between the blade of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. The /ʒ/ sound is incredibly rare. It’s present in less than 1% of English words. You know, it’s okay if you think that this sound isn’t worth the trouble learning it. But you’ll have to avoid using words like “usual,” “casual,” “decision,” and “television.” It’s your decision, of course, but we kind of like these words. So, let’s find out how to make the /ʒ/ sound. Slightly open your mouth and round your lips. You may push them out a little. Now, focus on your tongue. Arch your tongue and raise it to the roof of your mouth, but don’t touch it. Make sure there’s a small gap between them. Next, release a stream of air over your tongue. When the air flows between the blade of your tongue and the roof of your mouth, it’ll create lots of noise. Something like this: /ʒ/. The /ʒ/ is a voiced sound, so don’t forget to add your voice. Remember, the fricatives are continuous sounds and this is also true for the /ʒ/ sound. So, let’s try and stretch it out. Ready? /ʒ-ʒ-ʒ-ʒ-ʒ/ Awesome. Want to try it one more time? /ʒ-ʒ-ʒ-ʒ-ʒ/ Here are a few typical mistakes that people make when pronouncing this sound. Number 1. The most common mistake is that many non-native speakers devoice the /ʒ/ sound. Usually, people don’t realize that they pronounce the voiceless /ʃ/ sound instead. Remember, this may work for other languages, but the American /ʒ/ should never be devoiced in words. By the way, don’t forget to lengthen the vowel before the /ʒ/ sound! Remember our Vowel Length rule? The /ʒ/ is a voiced consonant, so the vowel sound before the /ʒ/ is typically longer than before its voiceless counterpart, the consonant sound /ʃ/. Number two. Another problem is that some people involuntarily stop the air before making the /ʒ/ sound. As a result, they end up pronouncing a different sound, the /dʒ/ consonant. While this is a nice sound, you shouldn’t pronounce it instead of the /ʒ/. Why? Because this can lead to misunderstandings! [Pronunciation exercise] • beige • camouflage • closure • conclusion • division • garage • leisure • massage • measure • occasion • pleasure • precision • prestige • sabotage • television • treasure • usual • version • vision

In this context, we’re going to talk about the American vowel sound /ə/, as in the word “ago.” You can also hear this sound in words like “above,” “person,” “parent,” or “action.” Please, note, that we’ll be using a special phonetic symbol — /ə/ — for this sound. The /ə/ sound is one of the two most frequently used vowel sounds in American English. In fact, one in every five words has the /ə/ sound. If you want to pronounce it like an American, keep watching. OK, to pronounce the /ə/ sound, you should focus on relaxing your tongue and lips. Slightly open your mouth, relax your lips, and leave them in a neutral position. Place your tongue in the middle of your mouth and relax it. Remember, the /ə/ sound is very relaxed, so your tongue and lips should be relaxed when you pronounce it. Let’s try saying it: /ə/, /ə/, /ə/. [Pronunciation exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word if you want to. Let’s begin. • ability • above • abrupt • absence • absent • abyss • academic • accident • accurate • accusal • achieve • achieve • across • action • actual • adapt • addition • address • adequate • adjust • administration • adopt • adult • advance • affect • afraid • Africa • again • against • agency

OK. To pronounce the /eɪ/ vowel, you should focus on the correct position of your lips and tongue. Partially open your mouth, spread your lips wide and make them tense. Raise the middle of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and push it to the front. The tip of your tongue should be down, just behind your bottom front teeth. Remember, the /eɪ/ is a tense sound, so your lips and your tongue should be very tense. Your jaw should be partially lowered. Now, let’s pronounce this sound: /eɪ/, /eɪ/, /eɪ/. Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word, if you want to. Let’ begin. [Pronunciation exercise] • able • ace • ache • age • aid • aim • ate • babe • baited • bake • baked • base • basis • bathe • bay • behave • beige • blade • blame • blaze • bracelet • braided • brain • brake • brave • break • cable • cage • cake • came

The /ɪ/ is one of the two most frequent vowel sounds in American English, but it exists in less than 20% of world languages, so many people may distort it or replace with the /i/ sound, as in the word “be”. Let’s find out how to make this sound. OK. To pronounce the /ɪ/ sound, you should to focus on the correct position of your tongue. Slightly open your mouth, spread your lips and relax them. Raise your tongue high in your mouth and push it to the front. The tip of your tongue can be lowered just behind your bottom front teeth. Remember, the /ɪ/ is a relaxed sound, so your tongue and lips should be relaxed, and your tongue should be at the front of your mouth. Now, let’s try saying it: /ɪ/, /ɪ/, /ɪ/. [Pronunciation exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word if you want to. Let’s begin. • big • bit • chin • chip • click • clip • drink • drip • film • fish • fit • fix • hid • him • hint • hit • kick • kid • king • kiss

The /i/ is the third most frequently used vowel sound in American English, so pronouncing it correctly is important for your American accent. Let’s find out how to make this sound. Ok. To make the /i/ sound, you should focus on the correct position of your lips, tongue, and jaw. Open your mouth a little, stretch your lips as wide as you can, and make them tense. Raise your tongue very high and push it to the front of your mouth. The tip of your tongue should be lowered just behind your bottom front teeth. Remember, the /i/ is a tense sound, so your lips and tongue should be tense. Your tongue should be at the front of your mouth. Let’s try saying it: /i/, /i/, /i/. [Pronunciation exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word, if you want to. Let’s begin. • bead • beam • bean • beat • cheap • cheese • clean • cream • each • eve • feel • feet • flea • free • meal • meet • peak • people • piece • please

OK, to pronounce the /oʊ/ sound, you should focus on the correct position of your jaw, lips, and tongue. Partially open your mouth. Round your lips and make them tense, then pull them in a tighter circle. Pull your tongue back and tense it. Remember, the /oʊ/ is a tense sound, so your lips and tongue should be very tense. Your jaw should be partially lowered. Let’s try saying it: /oʊ/, /oʊ/, /oʊ/. [Pronunciation exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word if you want to. Let’s begin. • blow • boast • boat • bold • bolt • bone • both • bowl • broke • chose • close • clothes • coach • coal • coast • coat • cold • colt • comb • crow • don’t • dope • dough • doze • drove • euro • float • flow • foam • fold.

Speaking about the /ʃ/ consonant, – this sound is made by partially blocking the air, flowing between the blade of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Slightly open your mouth and round your lips. You may push them out a little. Now, focus on your tongue. Arch your tongue and raise it to the roof of your mouth, but don’t touch it. Make sure there’s a small gap between them. Next, release a stream of air over your tongue. When the air flows between the blade of your tongue and the roof of your mouth, it’ll create lots of noise. Something like this: /ʃ/. Remember, the fricatives are continuous sounds and so is the /ʃ/ consonant. Let’s try and stretch it out. Ready? /ʃ-ʃ-ʃ-ʃ-ʃ/ Excellent. How about one more time? /ʃ-ʃ-ʃ-ʃ-ʃ/ Here are a few typical mistakes that people make when pronouncing this sound. 1. Some Spanish speakers confuse the /ʃ/ and the /tʃ/ sounds. As you may have already guessed, it leads to misunderstandings. Make sure that you don’t stop the air before making the /ʃ/ sound because that’s exactly how the /tʃ/ sound is made. 2. Another problem is that some non-native English speakers replace the /ʃ/ with the /s/ consonant, especially when it occurs at the beginning of words. The /ʃ/ gets distorted when you move the tip of your of your tongue too close to your alveolar ridge. 3. And finally, always keep in mind the Vowel Length rule! The /ʃ/ is a voiceless consonant, so vowel sounds before the /ʃ/ are typically shorter than they are before voiced consonants. [Pronunciation exercise 1] • blush • bush • dish • finish • fish • leash • publish • push • shake • share • shine • short • shut • shy • wash [Pronunciation exercise 2] • associate • chef • Chicago • commercial • especially • financial • gracious • grocery • machine • ocean • official • social • special • species • sufficient [Pronunciation exercise 3] • action • completion • condition • construction • corporation • definition • dictionary • election • emotion • fiction • function • intuition • location • patient • tradition.

To make the /tʃ/ sound, you need to merge the stop /t/ with the fricative /ʃ/ into one sound. First, slightly open your mouth and push out your lips. Now, focus on your tongue. Place the tip of your tongue on the alveolar ridge behind your upper front teeth. Just as you do to make the /t/ sound. This way you stop the air. Now, to release the air, arch your tongue so it’s near the roof of your mouth. The same way as you do when you make the /ʃ/ sound. Make sure that you don’t touch the roof of your mouth and there’s a small gap for the air stream. When you release the air through this gap, it’ll flow with lots of noise: /tʃ/. Does that sound like a lot? Don’t worry, let’s watch it again in slow motion. Remember, the /tʃ/ is an affricate sound, so it’s important to completely stop the air and then immediately release it with friction. Now, let’s try and merge the /t/ and the /ʃ/ sounds together: /tʃ/, /tʃ/, /tʃ/. Here are a few typical mistakes that people make when pronouncing this sound. 1. The most common problem is that many non-native English speakers confuse the /tʃ/ and the /ʃ/ sounds. This happens when people don’t stop the air before making the /ʃ/ sound. Be careful as this may lead to misunderstandings. Compare: “shop” – “chop” “cash” – “catch” Remember, the /tʃ/ consists of the /t/ stop sound and the /ʃ/ fricative. You have to first stop the air and then release it with a strong friction. 2. As always, keep in mind the Vowel Length rule! The /tʃ/ is a voiceless consonant, so vowel sounds before the /tʃ/ are typically shorter than they are before voiced consonants. Compare: “badge” – “batch” “ridge” – “rich” [Pronunciation exercise 1] Let’s begin. • chance • chicken • choose • church • attach • bench • each • lunch • much • peach • porch • touch • which • catch • ketchup • kitchen • match • stitch • switch • watch [Pronunciation exercise 2] • question • feature • furniture • fortune • creature • culture • digestion • century • mention • adventure • mixture • situation • nature • capture • future [Pronunciation exercise 3] Next, we suggest you practice words in which the letters ‘ch’ are actually NOT pronounced as the /tʃ/ sound. So, if you pronounce them as /tʃ/, it’s a mispronunciation. • ache • choir • chemical • machine • Christmasschool • character • technique • stomach • orchestra • psychology • headache • technical • chef.

OK, to make the /u/ sound, you should focus on the correct position of your jaw, lips, and tongue. Open your mouth a little and push your lips out, making a small, tense circle. Pull your tongue far back in your throat and tense it. Raise the back of the tongue toward the roof of your mouth. Remember, the /u/ is a tense sound, so your lips and tongue should be tense. Your tongue should be pulled back in your mouth. Let’s try saying it: /u/, /u/, /u/. [Pronunciation exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word if you want to. Let’s begin. • blew • bloom • blue • boom • boots • broom • chew • choose • cool • crew • dew • do • doom • due • flew • flu • food • fool • fruit • glue • google • goose • grew • group • hoop • juice • June • knew • loop • loose.

OK, to pronounce the /ʊ/ sound, you should focus on the correct position of your jaw, lips, and tongue. Slightly open your mouth, round your lips, and relax them. Pull your tongue back in your mouth and relax it. Lift the back of your tongue toward the roof of your mouth. Remember, the /ʊ/ is a relaxed sound, so your tongue and lips should be relaxed, and your tongue should be pulled back. Now, let’s try saying it: /ʊ/, /ʊ/, /ʊ/. Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word, if you want to. Let’s begin. [Pronunciation exercise] • book • brook • bull • bush • cook • could • crook • foot • full • good • hood • hoof • hook • look • looked • looks • poor • pull • pulls • push • pushed • put • shook • should • stood • sure • took • wolf • would • wool.

OK, to make the /ʌ/ sound, you should focus on the correct position of your lips and tongue. Open your mouth a little, relax your lips, and put them in a neutral position. Place your tongue in the middle of your mouth, not too high or too low. Note that the /ʌ/ vowel sound is used in stressed syllables, but your lips and tongue should not be tense. Your tongue should be in the center of your mouth. Let’s try saying it: /ʌ/, /ʌ/, /ʌ/. [Pronunciation exercise] Now, let’s practice this sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word if you want to. Let’s begin. • blood • blush • brush • bubble • buckle • bud • bug • bulb • bulk • bum • bump • bun • bunch • bundle • bungle • bus • but • butt • button • buzz • club • come • couple • crumb • crumble • crush • crust • cub • cuddle • cup.

Now, focus on the position of the tip of your tongue. Raise the tip of your tongue to your alveolar ridge, but don’t touch it. Make sure there’s a small gap between them. Now, release a stream of air over the tip of your tongue. When the air flows between the tip of your tongue and the alveolar ridge towards your upper teeth, it creates a lot of noise. Something like this: /z/. The /z/ is a voiced consonant, so don’t forget to add your voice. Same as all the other fricatives, the /z/ is a continuous sound, so you should be able to stretch it out, like this. Let’s do it together. [Pronunciation exercise 1] • blaze • breeze • buzz • cozy • crazy • doze • freeze • jazz • lazy • prize • realize • size • sneeze • squeeze • zebra • zero • zinc • zip • zone • zoom [Pronunciation exercise 2] • busy • cousin • daisy • deserve • design • desire • easy • music • newspaper • observe • pleasant • poison • presence • raisin • reason • resort • season • Thursday • Tuesday • visit

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