For Vowels

Larry Hurley

Key Phonemes /ɝ/ (but also consonant /l/)

This Tongue Twister is useful for most English learners

 Larry Hurley, a burly squirrel hurler, hurled a furry squirrel through a curly grill.
læri hɝli ə bɝli skwɝəl hɝlɚ, hɝld ə fɝi skwɝəl θru ə kɝli grɪl

How to pronounce this vowel?First Step:
Make sure first that your tongue and jaw are both relaxed and in a neutral position. Make a sound without effort.Second Step:
Move your lips slightly to the front and feel the corners of your lips tense up.  Notice how the sound changes.Third Step:
That is the final step for those who want to produce the American version of that vowel.  Move the root of your tongue backwards and then upwards and roll your tongue tip backwards away from the gum behind the upper teeth.  DO NOT LET THE TONGUE TOUCH ANYTHING OR ANYWHERE INSIDE THE MOUTH. Now you should be pronouncing /ɝ/. Watch the film above, it will surely guide you in imitating the mouth movement and producing the sound reasonably well.  Bear in mind that in this film I exaggerated the sound and movement so that you are able to see it well.

Say good night and say good day

Key Phonemes /eɪ/ and /aɪ/

This Tongue Twister is specially useful for Vietnamese and Thai learners

Tongue Twister for Vowels
Take a bike or take a hike
tk ə bk ɚ tk ə hk
bake a cake or say goodnight
bk ə kk ɚ s gʊdnt
say goodnight or say good day
s gʊdnt ən s gʊd d
keep your face away from sight.
kiːp jɔ fs əw frəm st.
Say my name or say you’re lame
s m nm ɚ s jɚ lm
find myname in the walk of fame
fnd m nm ən ðə wɑːk əv fm
same as a famous guy in LA.
sm əz ə fməs g ən el
I wrote this tongue twister for the Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese students that I was training 5 years ago. The content is not important as the idea is to train the muscles to produce the difficult sounds as quickly as possible without mistakes. Please remember that the most difficult words in this tongue twister are the ones with vowels /eɪ/ and /aɪ/ between two consonants such as “take”, “bike”, “bake”, “cake”, “face”, “name” etc. These are extremely difficult for Thai and Vietnamese and the /eɪ/ is always replaced with /e/. When they say “say”, they pronounce the /eɪ/ but only nasalized, which means through the nose, so it really comes out wrong too.  I’m not going to tell you how to fix that problem here as it takes a while, but feel free to ask and I’ll help you out.The /eɪ/ and /aɪ/ vowels are long as diphthongs generally are. For Teachers: What are diphthongs? Diphthongs are vowels that contain a consonant component. Vowels /eɪ/, /aɪ/ and /ɔɪ/, for example, contain consonant /j/, so /e/ + /j/=/eɪ/ etc. Got it? Other examples are /aʊ/ or /oʊ/, which contain consonant /w/, again, think about it as /a/ + /w/=/aʊ/ etc.So how to pronounce them? Let’s deal with the /eɪ/ first as it is a bigger problem than /aɪ/. We’ll assume we’re correcting [name] for a Vietnamese student.First: Say /e/ and /i:/ separately. /e/, stop, /i:/

Second: Say both vowels without pausing. /e:/, no stop, /i:/

Third:  Say /e/ with /n/, so /ne:/, no stop, /i:/.

Fourth: Only when all previous steps have been performed correctly, say /ne/, no stop, /i:/, no stop, /m/.

If you break it all down this way for the students, they will be able to pronounce it correctly, but it’s not going to happen from the first time, you’ve got to be patient.

Get the students to listen to the recording and ask them to imitate. Practice, Practice and Practice.

Tree Toad

Key Phonemes /oʊ/ /i:/ and /u:/ (but also consonants /t/ /d/ and θ)

This Tongue Twister is useful for most English learners

Speaker icon
A tree toad loved a she-toad who lived up in a tree.
ə triː toʊd lʌvd ə ʃiː toʊd hu lɪvd ʌp ɑn ə tri:
He was a two-toed tree toad but a three-toed toad was she.
hi wəz ə tuː toʊd ʃiː toʊd bət̬ ə θriː toʊd toʊd wɑz ʃiː
The two-toed tree toad tried to win the three-toed she-toad’s heart.
ðə tuː toʊd triː toʊd traɪd tə wɪn ðə θriː toʊd ʃiː toʊdz traɪd tə wɪn hɑːrt.
For the two-toed tree toad loved the ground that the three-toed tree toad trod.
fɚ ðə tuː toʊd triː toʊd lʌvd ðə graʊnd ðət θriː toʊd triː toʊd trɑd.
But the two-toed tree toad tried in vain.  He couldn’t please her whim.
bət ðə tuː toʊd triː toʊd traɪd ən veɪn. hi kʊdᵊnt pliːz hɚ wɪm.
From her tree toad bower with her three-toed power the she-toad vetoed him.
frɑm hɚ triː toʊd baʊɚ wəð hɚ θriː toʊd paʊɚ ðə ʃiː toʊd viːtoʊd hɪm.

How to pronounce these two vowels? For starters, the key phonemes we are tackling in this tongue twister are all considered as long vowels. They are crucial for proper stress and rhythm here too.Vowel /oʊ/: This vowel is slightly hard for English learners as it combines a vowel and consonant /ɔ/ + /w/=/oʊ/. Lips start from a slightly open square shape and finish with a very tight rounded circle (The one you start consonant /w/ with). Try this trick. Say the word [saw] in British, that should be /sɔ:/. Now imagine the word [white] after it. This time say [saw wh] and stop here (don’t finish the word [white]). Now you should be saying [so] which is /soʊ/. The truth is there is a very minor difference between the /o/ and /ɔ/ and most people are not able to detect it.Vowel /u:/: This vowel is commonly confused with /ʊ/. /u:/ is longer and more tense. When you say /u:/, the back of the tongue should come into contact with your upper teeth and your lips form a tight circle as in /w/.Vowel /i:/: This vowel is commonly confused with /ɪ/. /i:/ is longer and more tense. The only difference from /u:/ is that the tongue is positioned at the front and the lips are spread back as in smiling.


Ned Nott and Sam Shott

Key Phoneme /ɑː/ (but also vowels /e/ and /æ/ as well as consonants /s/ /ʃ/)

This Tongue Twister is also good for sentence stress practice and thus useful for all learners.

Speaker icon
Ned Nott was shot and Sam Shott was not.
ned nɑːt wəz ʃɑːt ən sæm ʃɑːt wəz nɑːt.
So it’s better to be Shott than Nott.
soʊ əts bet̬ɚ t̬ə bi ʃɑːt ðen nɑːt
Some say Nott was not shot, but Shott says he shot Nott.
sʌm seɪ nɑːt wəz nɑːt ʃɑːt, bət ʃɑːt sez hi ʃɑːt nɑːt
Either the shot Shott shot at Nott, was not shot,
iːðɚ ðə ʃɑːt ʃɑːt ʃɑt̬ ət nɑːt, wəz nɑːt ʃɑːt,
or Nott was shot.
ɔːr nɑːt wɑːz ʃɑːt
If the shot Shott shot shot Nott, Nott was shot.
ɪf ðə ʃɑt ʃɑːt ʃɑːt ʃɑt nɑːt, nɑːt wəz ʃɑːt.
But if the shot Shott shot shot Shott, then Shott was shot, not Nott.
bʌt̬ ɪf ðə ʃɑt ʃɑːt ʃɑːt ʃɑt ʃɑːt, ðen ʃɑːt wəz ʃɑt nɑt nɑːt
However, the shot Shott shot shot not Shott, but Nott.
haʊevɚ ðə ʃɑt ʃɑːt ʃɑt ʃɑt nɑt ʃɑːt bʌt nɑːt

How to pronounce vowel /ɑː/? First of all, remember that /ɑ/ is slightly shorter than /ɑː/, and so the jaw opening is a little smaller when you pronounce the former. The main advice for you is to OPEN your jaw when you speak. I have had so many students whose main problem is that they do not open their jaw at all. This tongue twister forces you to open your jaw wide while articulating other sounds, hence the challenge.Stand in front of the mirror and make sure you see a significant gap between your teeth. Do NOT be afraid to look and sound a little weird in the beginning. It’s important for you to start using your muscles in a different manner and gradually it’ll feel much more natural.

Also, as I mentioned above, this tongue twister is great for intonation practice. You’ve got to understand the text very well in order to apply stress to the right word, otherwise, the tongue twister wouldn’t make sense to anyone. Here’s some information for you:

Sam Shott=Man1’s name
Ned Nott=Man2’s name
shot1=shoot (verb)
shot2=hit (verb)
shot3=the bullet (noun)
If the shot Nott shot shot Shott, then Shott was shot
if the bullet Nott shot hit Shott, then Shott was hit/shot

Recording coming soon! 🙂