English Pronunciation Pod 10


Saturday November 15th, 2008

The Vowel /ə/

This podcast teaches you how to pronounce one of the most common vowels in English /ə / also known as the “schwa”. Special Training exercises will help you master this essential sound that so you sound like an American speaker.

   In today’s podcast, we’re going to learn how to pronounce a very important and common vowel in English : the vowel /ə/, also known as the “schwa”. The schwa, /ə/, appears in thousands and thousands of words in English. /ə/ is also the sound that Americans often use if the vowels is unstressed. (reduced vowels).
*** The /ə / in unstressed syllables, as a reduced vowel will be discussed in future podcasts.

The focus of today’s lesson is:

  • learning how to pronounce /ə/ correctly like a native speaker.
  • practicing /ə / in words, expressions and American idioms.

How to articulate / ə / correctly:

tongue: relaxed, central (neutral position). Tip of tongue is gently touching lower front teeth). Don’t move or flex your tongue.

lips: relaxed, neutral

jaw: relaxed, neutral

Exercise: Listen and repeat /ə /.

You might recognize this sound as the sound Americans make when they’re trying to think of or remember something.
Example:” Did you remember to pay your bill?”
“Uhh, /ə/ I think so… ”

Most languages don’t contain this neutral, relaxed sound, so many pronunciation students find this sound very challenging at first. Mastering this sound takes a lot of practice and repetition, but with practice and repettion you will develop the coordination to make this sound while keeping your tongue relaxed.

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /ə/ :

study… but… luck… love… money… Monday… mother… what… does… young…

As you can see the”schwa”, /ə/, can be spelled in a variety of ways. Future podcasts will focus on the most common and exceptional spelling patterns of /ə/ . The focus of this week’s podcast is to learn how and practice positioning your tongue correctly to pronounce /ə/.

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following American expressions and idioms
which contain

My plans are up in the air. ? (not definite, undecided)
He’s really under the gun. (under pressure to meet a deadline)
That guy is out to lunch. (not aware of basic things , not in touch with reality)
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. (don’t judge somebody or something by its appearance)

Today’s podcast is just an introduction to /ə /. Your goal for now should be to produce the sound accurately, keeping your tongue neutral and relaxed. Most languages don’t have this vowel sound so it can be challenging for many students to produce this neutral sound.
But with practice and repetition you will eventually develop the muscle memory to produce this sound accurately.
It’s all about training!

Looking for more training materials? I recommend  Best Accent Training mp3s!

Any questions, comments or suggestions ? Contact us at:  contact@englishpronunciationpod.com

Thank you and see you next time!