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Saturday June 20th, 2009
English Pronunciation Podcast 41-
How to Pronounce and Recognize the Consonant /s/
: This podcast teaches you how to pronounce /s/ and recognize it by its spelling patterns.


In this week's podcast, we're going to learn how to pronounce the consonant sound /s/ as in the words "see " and "city."

Pronouncing this consonant is relatively easy. However, many students confuse /s/ with /z/ or /ʃ/. Other students have trouble combing /s/ with another consonant such /m/ as in the word "smart.".

ThIs consonant is very common in English and learning to recognize it by its spelling is an important step in speaking English with a clear American accent.
Before we discuss these topics, it's important to first go over the rules of articulation for /s/.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning how to pronounce the consonant /s/ accurately, like a native speaker.
  • Practicing this sound in some key words and common American expressions and idioms.
  • Learning the main spelling patterns of /s/.

So let's begin by learning how to pronounce the sound /s/.

How to Pronounce /s/:

Tongue: Point the tip of your tongue forward to the gum ridge (bump on the roof of your mouth.) Do not touch the ridge. The sides of the tongue should gently touch the side teeth. Create a small hole for the air to flow through
Exhale and feel the air flow over the center of your tongue.

lips: slightly spread.

In podcast #32 , we learned about "stop consonants" and "continuant consonants". /s/ is a continuant because the air flows continuously over the center of our tongue.,

In podcast #30, we learned about "voiced" and "voiceless" consonants. /s/ is a voiceless consonant because don't use our voice to make this sound.

Exercise: Listen and repeat: /s/

/s/ ... /s/ ...

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /s/.
Pay careful attention to your form.

see... sell ... save ... city ....asset ... receive ... rice ... kiss ..

Exercise : Listen and repeat the following American expressions and idioms containing /s/:

Is this on sale?

He's going to ace his test. (do very well)

Let's cut to the chase. (get right to the main point of our conversation)

Spelling Patterns of /s/

One of the most challenging aspects of learning English pronuciation is that one sound can have a few different speling patterns.
In most languages there's a direct correspondence between the spelling of a word and its sound. In your native language, the way a word is written is almost always the way it sounds.

The only solution to this unfortunate aspect of English is to learn the main patterns of each word so that when you encounter a new word you know have an idea of its correct pronuncition.

/s/ has a few different spelling patterns. Obviously, <s> is can be pronounced /s/. However, sometimes the letter <s> is also pronounced /z/. This tricky aspect of English spelling will be discussed in detail in a future podcast.

Let's begin by reviewing the main spelling patterns of /s/

<s> see ... send ... spell ... this ... its

<ss> class ... miss ... necessary

<c> (before<i>, <e> and <y>) peace ... city ... recent ... cycle

<sc>( before <i>, <e>) science ... scent ... scissors

<se> (after a consonant) sense . ..course ... false ... lapse

Exceptional Spellings

<se> after a vowel

<se> after a vowel is usually pronounced /z/ as in the words "nose" and "tease." However there are exceptions to this rule as illustrated in these words.

house ... mouse ... promise .. use (noun) ... used to ... loose

Now that you've become aware of the various spelling patterns of /s/, I encourage you to practice this sound as often as possible.
Look at the spelling patterns discussed in today's podcast and try to think of more examples in which the vowel sound /s/ is spelled that way.

Practice is Key!

The more you practice the vowel sounds, the more you'll develop muscle memory - the ability to say the sound automatically and correctly.

Speaking English clearly and correctly takes a lot of practice.
But with practice you will get it!

The Right Training Tools for Better Pronunciation:

It's important to have right training tools in order to improve your accent.

That's why I recommend that you check it out my English Pronunciation Course in mp3 format- Best Accent Training mp3s!

No matter what your first language is, Best Accent Training has the lessons you need for speaking English clearly and correctly.

All the sounds of English in one course!

Best Accent Training mp3s contains all the sounds of English with step by step instructions and practice exercises.
You'll get all the vowels of English, all the consonants, syllable stress lessons, intonation lessons and connected speech!

Best of all, Best Accent Training is a fast and easy download that you can put on your mp3 player and take with you wherever you go!

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

Thank you and see you next time!

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