For those attempting to learn English as a second language, the pronunciation of English vowels can be difficult. It can be challenging to determine when to use the right letter and how to pronounce it. But don’t worry! You can figure it out with some interesting and fun-filled strategies.
In this guide, we have incorporated eight entertaining suggestions and tools for you to practice English vowels and enhance your pronunciation. But, before getting straight into the strategies, it is critical for you to understand what vowels are.
Vowels are made up of the letters a, e, i o, u, and occasionally y. But have you ever thought about why those letters have vowels? They are the noises you make when nothing interferes with the sound or air leaving your mouth.
Say the letter “e” out loud. Try again by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth or in between your teeth. And now, shut your mouth and give it another go. When your lips or tongue are in the way, it’s challenging—almost impossible—to make that sound, isn’t it?
Consonants are the other letters in the English alphabet. Contrarily, the sounds of consonants are produced by positioning your tongue or lips in a specific manner. This prevents air from leaving your mouth when you speak, giving your voice a particular sound. All the sounds in a word are combined when vowels are positioned between consonants.
How to pronounce English vowels
A vowel typically produces its own sound (that is, the letter a makes a sound). Occasionally, though, a combination of other letters can produce a specific sound (like when the long a sound is made by the letters ei).
Each vowel can be pronounced in at least two ways: long and short. A long vowel is the name of the vowel (for example, long ‘a’ is ay like in the word say). A short vowel is a shorter sound, for example, short a sounds like ae from the word cat).
The location of a vowel within a word can have an impact on how you pronounce it. For instance:
- The only vowel in a word or syllable that ends in a consonant is a short vowel. For example bed, fish etc.
- The vowel that comes before the silent e at the end of a word is long. For example bake, rope, etc.
- Two vowels next to each other in a syllable typically have a long first vowel and a short second vowel. For example: grow, boat, pain, etc.
- One vowel at the end of a syllable is typically a long vowel. For example unit, paper, etc.
There are certain English spelling rules that you need to learn before analyzing the English vowels. It may seem difficult at the start, but once you start practicing you will develop your command of them in a few days.
6 strategies to master English vowels sounds
Here are some entertaining methods to learn English vowel sounds, enhance your knowledge of them, and facilitate your learning process:
The shadow technique is very useful for language learning.
Find a brief segment from your preferred movie, TV show, or even commercial. With subtitles on, you can do this on YouTube. You will simultaneously read, watch, and listen during this activity.
Watch the video at least two times. Initially, simply observe without speaking. Say the words aloud as you play the clip a second time. Match the audio’s intonation (the rise and fall of the voice), speed, and pronunciation as closely as possible.
Being able to speak clearly requires more than just a command of grammar and vocabulary. It’s also important to know how to say them. You can practice speaking quickly without pausing while maintaining accurate word pronunciation by speaking while using the clip.
An exercise sheet with words on it is called a pronunciation maze. Finding words with similar vowel sounds will allow you to fill out the sheet by starting at the top and ending at the bottom. You can easily search out ‘pronunciation mazes’ online.
Depending on where they are in the word and the letters around them, vowels have different sounds. A pronunciation maze can help you hear the distinction between bit and beat, for example, and it can help you become aware of vowel sounds.
You can start to recognize some patterns if you pay close attention, such as the fact that words with the middle letter ea typically sound similar. Therefore, you might be able to pronounce an ea word correctly the next time you see one without even knowing what it means.
Tongue twisters are a group of words that frequently repeat the same sounds, making them challenging to pronounce quickly. Here is a great collection of tongue twisters with a vowel theme.
Pick a tongue twister, then speak it aloud. At first, speak it slowly and concentrate on correctly pronouncing the vowels. Say the tongue twister as quickly as you can as you get more at ease.
Use your phone to record the tongue-twister being said by your English tutor or language partner slowly and then quickly. Practice using the audio. A YouTube video of a native speaker uttering the tongue twister might be another option.
Practice is the only effective method for learning. It is entertaining to practice saying certain sounds with tongue twisters. The more proficient you become at the tongue twisters, the more proficient you will become at correctly pronouncing the various English vowel sounds.
Mute the Sound
Find a movie clip or other brief video with people speaking in it. Mute the sound and turn off the subtitles before pressing “play.” Watch the video and try to decipher what the people are saying from the movements of their lips.
Although our mouths are where sounds are formed into letters and words, sounds are typically produced in the throat. When you speak, your mouth should be in a certain shape, and your tongue should be in the right place.
Understanding and repeating the same sounds can be facilitated by paying attention to the way mouths are shaped when people speak. You become more aware of mouth shapes and can learn how to pronounce the same sounds correctly by listening to people speak while the sound is off.
Although the u sound in the word rebuke and the oo sound in the word book may appear to be similar, you can tell the difference when hearing the words spoken aloud.
Read the Dictionary
When you need to look up new English words, you probably use a dictionary app or an online dictionary. The majority of online dictionaries have an audio button that you can use to hear the word spoken aloud. You can hear the word in both American and British English accents by selecting a different audio button in some online dictionaries, such as the Cambridge English Dictionary.
The pronunciation guide is another beneficial component of any dictionary, whether it be printed or digital. Although it might take some time, it’s important to comprehend the dictionary’s pronunciation guide. Any word in the dictionary can be pronounced using this guide. Apart from this, you can also download the English pronunciation app to look for the pronunciation of different words in English.
Using flashcards to learn English is also another very effective strategy. You can write down the meanings on the flashcards and keep on going through them until you memorize them.
Words with minimal pairs share the same pronunciation with just one minor difference, such as bus and buzz or sit and seat. Practice saying the words aloud or record yourself doing so while speaking clearly and emphasizing the sounds to make them sound larger and more significant than they actually are.
It can be challenging to distinguish between different vowel sounds at times. By practicing and using similar words, you can help yourself hear the differences more easily. You can better hear and feel the difference by amplifying the sounds.
Frequently asked questions about English vowels
Q. What is the most common English vowel?
A. The most common vowel letter is ‘e’ but the most common vowel sound is the sound /uh/ (like the sound someone makes when trying to think of a word).
Q. What are the four principles to classify English vowels?
A. Linguists classify vowels according to four pieces of information: tongue height, tongue backness, lip rounding, and tenseness.
Q. What is the strongest vowel?
A. The strong vowels are a, o, and e. When two strong vowels appear next to each other in a word, the result is two separate syllables with both vowels strongly pronounced.
If you want to learn English online, do explore italki today. The best English teachers available online will help you master the English vowel sounds along with all the necessary details about vowels and their application. Book your lessons and let the learning begin!
It will be simpler for you to learn new English words and acquire more language fluency if you learn the English vowel sounds and pronunciations. You will have fun while learning if you take the time to practice and learn with these exercises.