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English pronunciation — the basics

English pronunciation

Ensuring that you pronounce correctly ought to be your principal objective alongside using correct grammar. English pronunciation is rather irregular, especially concerning vowel sounds. Therefore, to pronounce English words correctly you should pay close attention to the phonetic script (IPA) by connecting the sound to a symbol to thus help you better remember how to pronounce words in English.

Connecting a word to an appropriate symbol will make it easier for you to remember how to pronounce any given word.

Furthermore, another approach and a somewhat more natural method (which you should do as well) is just to immerse yourself in the language and listen to the language being spoken whenever possible.

By doing our course, you will improve your English pronunciation significantly by obtaining a solid understanding of the vowels, and consonants as well as overcoming common pronunciation mistakes in the language.

Let’s take a quick peek at a few of the types of issues we will be covering in this course concerning vowels, consonants and common mistakes – all of which we will help you with.

Vowels are problematic in English pronunciation

  • Jake lives in Spain.
  • Our lives are important.
  • We saw the football match live.1

Vowel examples — analysis

In the words lives (third-person singular of ‘live’), lives, which is the plural form of the singular noun ‘life’, and live, (which as an adverb means ‘the actual time of occurrence’), there are two sounds for the letter ‘i’ – both /ɪ/ and /aɪ/.

This is one such example in English in which one letter (in this case (‘i’) can have more than one sound. In this course, we’ll show you these vowel sounds and get you familiarized with the correct vowel for each word.

Some irregularities when it comes to English consonants

  • I hope2 I can work Monday to Friday.
  • Measure the site, please.3
  • My cousin is singing.4  

Consonant examples – analysis

  • I hope I can work Monday to Friday.

The sounds /p/, /t/, and /k/ are aspirated in English, that is, we produce these sounds more explosively.

Producing these sounds the correct way is vital if you want to be properly understood. For example, if you don’t aspirate these sounds, hope, work and to might be heard as /hobe/, /worg/, and /duː/.

  • Measure the site, please.

Notice how the letter ‘s’ has three sounds here? /ʒ/ from measure, /s/ from site and /z/ from please? This is something we will need to work on.

  • My cousin is singing.

Here, the letter ‘n’ has two sounds, /n/ in cousin, and /ŋ/ in singing. Distinguishing between these two sounds, especially when using gerunds is one such issue we will address.  

Some common mistakes when it comes to English pronunciation

Some common mistakes in English pronunciation include that of the “ed” suffix, the pronunciation of the “r” and the “sts” word pair. Here’s a sneak peek.

There are three ways to pronounce the pasts of regular verbs in English: /t/, /ɪd/ and /d/. What’s more, you will learn the rules concerning this, so stay tuned!

  • We talked on the phone.
  • Kasandra interpreted the text incorrectly.
  • Samuel allowed5 me to see his room.
  • We talked on the phone: ed = /t/.
  • Kasandra interpreted the text incorrectly: ed = /id/.
  • Samuel allowed me to see his room: ed = /d/.

Another common mistake in English pronunciation

Pronunciation of “r” at the final position

  • I’m an interpreter of several languages.
  • I’m an interpreter6 of several languages.

Common mistakes – analysis

Pronunciation of “r” at the final position

  • I’m an interpreter of several languages.
  • I’m an interpreter of several languages.

To pronounce or not to pronounce the ‘r’ at the end? Rhotic (the pronunciation of the /r/) and non-rhotic accents are both correct, as different regions will use one or the other – this is exactly what we mean when we say: don’t pay any attention to your accent!

Concentrate on perfecting your pronunciation as that’s what’s important.  We hope to see you in the following chapters – stay tuned!