English Pronunciation (1)

Introduction, and list of lessons


Introducing pronunciation

Everybody loves a foreign accent; it's charming and exotic, so please don't lose it. Just make sure people can understand you. Can you say these phrases?

"The Earth is the third planet from the Sun." "new clothes"
"The weather here is very variable." "big problem"
"Good food is really important." "chocolate banana"
"Old hotels often have big rooms." "fried rice"
"We need to introduce a new production system." "grey squirrel"

If you can say all of these, then your English pronunciation is almost perfect! However, there's usually something to work on. Can you say "James Bond"? If somebody asks you on the telephone, "How do you spell that?", can you? And do you know how to say 2019, 15:50, +0044 (0)78430982, 1/10, 4¼ and 28.3%?

Research on business English found that only 25% of misunderstandings are from incorrect vocabulary, and only 10% are from incorrect grammar. The other 65% are from incorrect pronunciation.

I like to teach pronunciation, and I do it more than most teachers.

There are five parts to English pronunciation:

  • Unfamiliar sounds (ship and sheep, good and food, cup and cook, this and Earth)
  • Stress in words (import-nt project)
  • Stress in sentences ("What d'you want t- do t-day?")
  • Intonation. English is a singing language.
  • Unfamiliar words (basic, bear, plough, awry)
  • 1) Ship, sheep, schwa and more

    Ship or sheep thumbnail

    Everybody who learns English has a small problem with ship and sheep; with the two th sounds (the Earth); with v and w (very well); and with really, thirteen and thirty.

    If you're from France, Microsoft and weather may be a problem. If you're from Hungary, it's not easy to hear the difference between boot and boat; if you're from Spain, it's v and b (see mini-lesson); if you're from Japan, it's l and r; if Arabic is your first language, it's p and b (see mini-lesson).
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    2) Stress in words

    When you say "volunteer", do people hear "frontier"? Maybe you're not stressing the right syllable. The word but has one syllable; the word butter has two syllables. In most words in the English language, when there are two syllables, one is stressed more than the other.

    "London is an amazing place."
    "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
    "I said Lond-n's 'n aMAZing place."
    "Yes, it is!"

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    3) Stress in sentences

    In every sentence in the English language, the important words are stressed and the unimportant words almost disappear.
    "Do you want to go to see the new movie?"
    "Are you OK? You sound like a robot."
    "D'y- want t-see th- new movie?"
    "Yes, I'd love to! What time is it on?"

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    4) Intonation

    When you speak English, your voice needs to go up and down a lot.
    If you don't do this, people may think you are bored, or even angry.
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    5) Unfamiliar words

    In some languages, when you read a word, you know how to say it. In Spanish, for example, the spelling (orthography) tells you exactly how to say the word. English is not one of these languages. So how do you say a word that you've never heard? The International Phonetic Alphabet could be the answer.
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    List of pronunciation lessons

    Subject: Student level: Lesson:
    Pronunciation (1) A1-C2 Introduction, and list of lessons.
    Pronunciation (2) A1-B1 Saying the English alphabet.
    Pronunciation (3) A1-B2 Ship, sheep, schwa and more.
    Pronunciation (4) A2-B2 Stress in words.
    Pronunciation (5) B1-B2 Stress in sentences.
    Pronunciation (6) A1-C2 Intonation.
    Pronunciation (7) A1-C2 International Phonetic Alphabet.
    Pronunciation (8) A1-C2 Nicholas's IPA Machine.