SHIP or SHEEP? -- some easy (and difficult) pronunciation exercises!

PREPARATION <em>(recommended)</em>

Review the vowels of English by visiting this website (British pronunciation):

Watch the videos and look closely at the speaker's lips. Are her lips round or spread wide? Does her jaw look high or low? Is the vowel long or short?


All vowels = lip shape <em>(round/spread)</em> + tongue position <em>(front/back of the mouth)</em> + jaw height <em>(open/closed)</em> + vowel length <em>(long/short) </em>



Listen to my recordings, and repeat after me*

Long recording (1:00, vowels and words):

Short recording (0:30, words only):

0: pin /ɪ/              5: want /ɑ/  
1: pen /e/            6: won’t /eʊ/
2: pan /æ/           7: bay /eɪ/    
3: duck /ʌ/           8: buy /aɪ/   
4: dark /a:/          9: boy /ɔɪ/   

Now you try! Here are some exercises, do whichever one(s) you like:

EXERCISE 1 (easy)
Read the words aloud, slowly and clearly.

Just focus on a few sounds if you like (eg. 0-3), or simply read them all (0-9).


EXERCISE 2 (easy)

Write a short, simple sentence using two or three words from the same colour. Post your sentence in writing, and post a recording of yourself reading it aloud.


EXERCISE 3 (medium)
1. Choose a colour

2. Write down a random 5-digit number using the digits from that colour

3. Record yourself saying the <em>words</em> next to the digits. For example, 01121 = pin pen pen pan pen.


EXERCISE 4 (hard)

Same as above, but use all ten digits, and give us a (fake) phone number. Here’s my recording, try to guess the digits:


EXERCISE 5 (hard)
I’ve written a diabolical tongue-twister using all ten words. Give it a try!
<em>Won’t the boy at the bay want to buy pins, pens, pans and dark ducks?</em>


Learners: Go to, record yourself, and post the link.

1. Tell us which exercise(s) you attempted.

2. What sounds you find easy/hard?

3. How does your first language affect your pronunciation of these sounds?

Feb 1, 2016 4:54 AM
Comments · 14

Calling all English native speakers! Please contribute your recordings as well, it would be great to get as many examples of accents as possible.

When you post, please indicate what variety of English you speak.


I speak New Zealand English. It's known for its weird pronunciation of /ɪ/, which can be pronounced as /e/ or /ʌ/ at times.


For instance, a New Zealander might pronounce "I picked up the icecream and licked it" as "I pucked up the icecream and lucked it". I tried my best to avoid this habit in my recordings! ;-)

February 1, 2016

I have tried for a hundred times lowering my jaw as much as possible, but my /æ/ stills sounds like /e/. I watched many videos and found that maybe my /e/ is too much like /æ/. But still, however hard I tried to make my mouth as narrow as possible, it just didn't work.

I made  a record of "bed/bad, beg/bag, had/head, better/batter, pet/pat, pen/pan", and reread the sentence.

Do I always need to make the unaspirated /t/? I thought if and when the following syllable is similar, the former syllable can be removed, just to make the two words sound like one. Like if you are reading the sentence in a fast pace? Because making that pause takes work and I want to be lazy~

February 2, 2016

Oh when you said "mocked" I thought you meant you laughed at it because you thought it was ridiculous. The more appropriate word would be "mimicked" :)

February 1, 2016
I will check out on BBC learning English~ And of course the second audio is spoken in a Chinese accent because it's me haha. I didn't make it clear. I mocked one British Youtuber in her video. So in that audio, the first guy was me and after it I recorded the initial one~   And... I actually didnt know there is a difference between /n/ and /ŋ/ and I guess I have always pronouncing /n/... I will check it out on BBC. It's late now... Thanks for you advice! 
February 1, 2016

Also I heard nothing with your pronunciation of "everything". A lot of native speakers replace /ŋ/ with /n/ in very informal speech, saying "everythin", "nothin", etc.


/ŋ/ --> /n/ is not standard, but I don't think it's a major issue. When it comes to non-standard language, I never recommend learners aim for it, but do learn to understand it, and remember that a mistake like "I got nothin left" is much less serious than "He like me" - they're equally understandable, but the second sounds far more unnatural in everyday speech.


Just please don't say "I got nothin left" in any English speaking tests ;-)

February 1, 2016
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