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Pronunciation solutions

Before you read about pronunciation solutions for vowel pronunciation problems, do you know what vowels are? If you don't, find out there HERE!

Pronunciation Solutions For Vowels

PHONEMES /i:/ and /ɪ/

Beach and Bitch

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions

i:

  • Close your jaw;
  • Raise your tongue to the highest point and bring it to the front side of your mouth;
  • Feel the sides of your tongue come into contact with your upper teeth and even with a portion of the gum above the teeth;
  • Spread your lips as in a smile.
  • Don’t leave a gap between your teeth (otherwise the word [seek] will sound like [sick] and [feet] like [fit] but don't let your teeth touch each other either;
  • Don’t relax your lips;
  • Don’t make this sound short (unless it occurs at the end of the word as in [lucky], [merry] etc).
  • Put both of your hands up with the palms facing the student and move each hand separately when comparing between /i:/ like [sheep] and /ɪ/ like [ship];
  • Use the “relax vs. tense your lips" concept to help the students understand the difference;
  • Use the “longer vs. shorter” concept using a rubber band;
  • Bear in mind that the difference between /i:/ and American /ɪ/ is easier to hear than that between /i/ and Australian /ɪ/;
  • Use the dental and tongue model to show the exact position of the tongue inside the mouth;
  • Use humor to show how embarrassing it would be to confuse [sheet] with [shit].
ɪ
  • Open your jaw slightly;
  • Relax your lips;
  • Lower your tongue until you feel the sides touching the teeth only.
  • Don’t tense your lips (otherwise the word [fill] will sound like [feel] and [hill] like [heal];
  • Don’t close your jaw.

PHONEMES /u:/ and /ʊ/

Pool and Pull

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
u:
  • Round your lips tightly;
  • Move your tongue up high and back;
  • Feel the back of your tongue come into contact with the upper teeth;
  • Feel the tip of your tongue resting in the bottom of your mouth on the soft fleshy area.
  • Don’t relax your lips;
  • Don’t spread your lips;
  • Don’t let the tongue body drop below the upper teeth.
  • Put both of your hands up with your palms facing the student and move each hand separately when comparing between /u:/ like [food] and /ʊ/ like [foot] or between [pool] and [pull];
  • Use the “relax vs. tense your lips" concept to help the students understand the difference;
  • To help the students produce /u:/, ask them to pronounce /i:/ and keep their jaw and the height of the tongue the same and to just move their lips gradually forward and circle them as in /w/. The result will often be successful and the students will produce /u:/ automatically. The reason is that /i:/ and /u:/ are roughly at the same height;
  • Use the dental and tongue model to show the students how far back and high the tongue is inside the mouth;
  • Use humor to show how embarrassing it would be to confuse [food court] with [foot court].
ʊ
  • Relax your jaw;
  • Round your lips slightly;
  • Move your tongue back but lower than upper teeth level;
  • Rest the tip of your tongue slightly behind and under the lower teeth.
  • Don’t tense your lips;
  • Don’t tense your jaw;
  • Don’t let the back of your tongue come into contact with the upper teeth.

PHONEMES /æ/and /e/

Bad and Bed

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
æ
  • Open your jaw significantly wide;
  • Spread your lips back slightly;
  • Position your tongue low at the front of the mouth;
  • Rest your tongue in the bottom of the mouth with the tip touching the bottom of your lower teeth or the gum under them.
  • Don’t let your tongue go back further than the hard area of the gum beneath the lower teeth;
  • Don’t make the sound short especially when it occurs between 2 voiced consonants like [bad] [mad] etc;
  • Don’t follow the English spelling.
  • Use a rubber band to illustrate the difference between /e/ and /ӕ/. Although both vowels fall into the “short vowel” category, the /ӕ/ is longer because of the wider opening of the jaw especially when it falls between 2 voiced consonants;
  • Use the dental and tongue model to show the exact position of the tip of the tongue at the bottom of the mouth as well as the gap between the teeth.
  • Put both of your hands up with your palms facing the student and move each hand separately when comparing between /ӕ/ like [bag] and /e/ like [beg] or between [had] and [head];
  • Use the “relax vs. tense your lips" concept to help the students understand the difference.
e
  • Open your jaw;
  • Relax your lips;
  • Position your tongue between the front and center of your mouth;
  • Bring the tip of your tongue into contact with the gum below the lower teeth.
  • Don’t make this sound long;
  • Don’t keep your jaw closed;
  • Don’t follow the spelling;

PHONEMES /ɑː/ and /ʌ/

Bought and butt

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
ɑː
  • Open your jaw wide;
  • Relax your lips and position your tongue back and very low;
  • Rest the tip of your tongue in the bottom of the mouth against the soft fleshy area of the gum.
  • Don’t keep your jaw closed;
  • Don’t keep your tongue at the front;
  • Do not follow the spelling;
  • Use a rubber band to illustrate the difference between /ɑ:/ and /ʌ/. Stretch the rubber band when you pronounce [boss] and relax it when you pronounce [bus];
  • Use the dental and tongue model to show how far back and low the tongue should be as well as the opening of the jaw with /ɑ:/;
  • Put both of your hands up with your palms facing up to the student and move each hand separately when comparing between a word that contains /ɑ:/ like [lost] and another with /ʌ/ like [lust] or [hot] and [hut].
ʌ
    • Open your jaw significantly;
  • Relax your lips and position your tongue at the center with the tip coming into contact with the bony area of the gum below the lower teeth.
  • Don’t make this sound long;
  • Don’t move your tongue to the front;
  • Don’t following the spelling.

PHONEMES /ɔː/ and /ɝ/

Bored and Bird

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
ɔː
  • Open your jaw slightly;
  • Round your lips a little;
  • Move your tongue back but a bit low.
  • Don’t bring the edge of your lips together tightly;
  • Don’t open your jaw too wide;
  • Don’t follow the spelling.
  • Ask the students to focus on the movement of your lower jaw when comparing between /ɔ/ in [bored] or [walk] and /ɝ/ in [bird] or [work]. Make sure you mention to them that when you say [bored] or [walk], your jaw drops significantly, while with [bird] or [work], your lower jaw doesn’t move much;
  • To help the students produce the /ɝ/, ask them to relax their jaw and lips first and release a short neutral sound, which is the schwa sound, and then ask them to stretch or lengthen this sound a little more while slightly rounding their lips and the result should be /ɝ/;
  • Bear in mind that when we usually move or round our lips, the tongue retracts automatically which helps the students produce /ɝ/ easily once they learn how to keep their tongue at the center and elongate a neutral sound.
ɝ
  • Keep your jaw almost closed;
  • Round your lips; move your tongue back and high for /r/.
  • Don’t spread your lips back;
  • Don’t open your jaw too wide.

PHONEMES /ə/

Person

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
 
  • Relax your jaw;
  • Relax your lips;
  • Tongue position could slightly change depending on the preceding and succeeding phoneme.
  • Don’t open or tense your jaw;
  • Don’t tense your lips;
  • Don’t follow the spelling;
  • This is the neutral sound we mentioned in the previous section. You can help your students understand this sound by describing it in several ways. You can definitely tell the students that the schwa sound is a short vowel that does not require any effort from the muscles ;
  • Ask them to recall the sound they make when they just wake up in the morning and struggle to get out of the bed;
  • Explain to the students that the reason that this sound is very short is that it’s very unnecessary and unimportant for the hearer to understand the meaning of the word;
  • Tell the students that when they pronounce a word containing a schwa sound like [computer], their voice is usually lower when they say [com] and [ter] (unless they are using a rising pitch), and louder when they say [pu];
  • Write a sentence on the board with many schwa sounds and read it slowly while showing them how your jaw and lips remain passive when you produce the schwa sound. The sentence could be [A tabəle for four, please, around seven if possibəle]. The schwa sound are highlighted and underlined;
  • It would definitely be a great time to talk about stress, as schwa sounds are hardly ever stressed.

PHONEMES /eɪ/

Day

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
 
  • First, open your jaw and spread your lips slightly back while making sure your tongue is low and at the front of your mouth;
  • Then, close your jaw to raise your tongue up until it comes into contact with the upper teeth and slide it forward to finish in the same position as /j/.
  • Don’t make this sound short;
  • Don’t move on to the succeeding sound before you open your jaw entirely;
  • Don’t follow the spelling.
  • Explain to the students that there are 2 stages for this sound. In the first stage, the jaw opens but in the second it closes;
  • Also explain to the students that vowel /eɪ/ is the result of producing 2 sounds without silence and those two sounds are /e/ + /i/;
  • The biggest challenge for most students is to pronounce /eɪ/ between consonants as in [bait] [name] [bail] etc;
  • The best way to solve this problem is by breaking it down step by step. Let’s take [bail] for example. As we explained in previous sections, it’s important to use common words like [yes] to help you with consonant /j/. Now ask the students to say [bayyyyes] and after that leave out [es] out and only keep the first [y]. Once they master this, they can add /l/.

PHONEMES /aɪ/

Bye

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
 
  • Open your jaw wide for the tongue to start low and then close it so that your tongue rises until it touches the upper teeth at which point you slide it forward to finish in the same position as /i/.
  • Don’t make this sound short;
  • Don’t place your tongue at the front (where the tip usually touches either the bony area of the gum or the back of the lower teeth;
  • Don’t move on to the succeeding sound before you close your jaw entirely;
  • Don’t follow the spelling.
  • Explain to the students that there are 2 stages for this sound. In the first stage, the jaw opens but in the second it closes;
  • Also explain to the students that vowel /aɪ/ is the result of producing 2 sounds without silence and those two sounds are /a/ + /i/;
  • Again, the biggest challenge for most students is to pronounce /aɪ/ between consonants as in [like] [fight] [tried] etc;
  • Let’s take the word [while] for example. Now use the word [yes] to help you with consonant /j/. Now ask the students to say [whyyyyes], then leave out [es] and only keep the first [y]. Once they master this, they can add /l/.

PHONEMES /ɔɪ/

Moist

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
 
  • Open your jaw slightly and round your lips;
  • Move your tongue back and keep it low;
  • Then close your jaw and feel the back lower and upper teeth slightly biting on the sides of the tongue;

,li>Tongue position finishes in the same position as /j/.

  • Don’t let your lips come together in a tight circle upon closing the jaw;
  • Don’t move on to the next phoneme before you close your jaw entirely;
  • Don’t open your jaw too wide;
  • Don’t following the spelling;
  • Explain to the students that there are 2 stages for this sound. In the first stage, the jaw opens but in the second it closes;
  • Also explain to the students that vowel /ɔɪ/ is the result of producing 2 sounds without silence and those two sounds are /ɔ/ + /i/;
  • Again, the biggest challenge for most students is to pronounce /ɔɪ/ between consonants as in [boil] [soil] [tried] [moist] etc;
  • Let’s take the word [annoying] for example where students actually usually replace the /j/ with /w/ especially Japanese. Now use the word [yes] to help you with consonant /j/. Ask the students to say [annoyyyyes], then leave out [es] out and only keep the first [y]. Once they master this, they can add [ing].

PHONEMES /aʊ/ and /oʊ/

Loud and Load

 The Do'sThe Don'tsPronunciation Solutions
  • Open your jaw wide and spread your lips slightly back;
  • Position the tip of your tongue against the bony area of the gum below the lower teeth or bit a further back;
  • Then close your jaw and round your lips to finish in the same position as /w/.
  • Don’t leave your lips idle;
  • Don’t let the tip of your tongue touch the soft fleshy area in the bottom of the mouth;
  • Don’t follow the spelling;
  • Don’t pronounce this phoneme fully when you use [out] in fast speech.
  • Explain to the students that there are 2 stages for this sound. In the first stage, the jaw opens but in the second it closes and the lips go round;
  • Also explain to the students that vowels /aʊ/ and /oʊ/ are the result of producing 2 sounds without silence and those two sounds are /a/ and /ɔ/+ /w/;
  • For vowels /eɪ/, /aɪ/ and /ɔɪ/, we used the word [yes], for vowels /aʊ/ and /oʊ/, you can use the word [why];
  • Let’s take the phrasal verb [go about] for example where we have /oʊ/ followed by /aʊ/. Now use the word [why] to help you with consonant /w/. Ask the students to say [gowwwwhy], then leave [y] out and only keep the first [wh]. Once they master this, they can add [ab]. Use the same tactic for [about]. Ask the students to say [bawwwwhy], then leave [y] out and only keep the first /w/. Once they master this, they can add /t/ at the end. Now join both words [gowwwabawwwwt].
  • Open your jaw slightly and round your lips while keeping your tongue back and low;
  • Then close your jaw and bring your lips together tightly to finish in the same position as /w/.
  • Don’t leave your lips idle;
  • Don’t open your jaw too wide;
  • Don’t following the spelling;

To the Phonetic Instructions Guide For consonants