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Saturday November 29th, 2008
English Pronunciation Podcast 12-
The Vowel /ə/ (Part III): Recognizing and Using the Vowel /ə/:
Today's podcast teaches you how to recognize the vowel / ə / by its spelling and offers American expressions and idioms which contain this vowel.

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In this weeks podcast, we're going to continue to learn and practice the very important vowel /ə/, learning to recognize its main spelling patterns.

One of the most challenging aspects of English pronunciation is that one vowel can have a few different spellings. So it's important to learn the most common spelling patterns of a vowel, as well as the exceptions. Learning these will make your pronunciation much more accurate and will make it easier to determine the pronunciation of a word.

The focus of today's lesson is:

  • learning the three main spelling patterns of /ə/ in stressed syllables
  • learning its exceptional spelling patterns
  • Using /ə/ in common American expressions and idioms

* * I strongly recommend that you listen to podcasts #10 and #11 (How to pronounce /ə/) before this one!

Spelling Pattern #1 - The most common spelling pattern of /ə /:
<u> + < consonant or two consonants> :   
Example: uncle ... but ...

Review: When pronouncing /ə/, your tongue should be central and relaxed. Lips are relaxed as well.

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /ə/, spelled with <u>+ <consonant>:

funny ... must ... gun ... hundred ... luck ... study ... trust ...stuff ...fund ...

Spelling Pattern #2:  <o> + <consonant> (less common):

Exercise : Listen and repeat the following words containing /ə/, spelled <o>

mother ... some ... Monday ... done ... .company ... stomach ... government....

Spelling Pattern #3:  <ou> + <consonant>

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words which contain /ə/ spelled <ou>

young.... cousin... country ... enough ... tough ...

Important Exceptions: Strange spellings of /ə/.
Looking at these words, you would never guess they were pronounced /ə/, so it's important to memorize them. :

/Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words which contain /ə/:

what ... was ... does ... blood ... flood ...

"Why are there so many exceptions in English ?"

In your native language, the way the word is written is almost always the way it's pronounced. Unfortunately, this isn't the case in Engilsh.
English is a mix of various languages and this resulted in the some of the strange spelling patterns that we learned today. One of the best ways to memorize these spellings is to use them in sentences.

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following American expressions and idioms which contain words with /ə/ :

We're under the gun. (under pressure to meet a deadline)
Don't be a sucker. (a person who gets taken advantage of) * rude English
He's really out to lunch (unaware of what is happening )
Her Spanish was a little rusty . (out of practice, not as good as it once was)
I couldn't stomach what he said. (accept or think about, because it's too upsetting)

Improving your pronunciation and reducting your accent is all aboiut reviewing and practicing regularly. Just ten minutes a day can really make a difference! It's important to have good tools for practicing:

Looking for more practice? Try Best Accent Training mp3s!

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

Thank you and see you next time!  

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