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English Pronunciation Pod 53

Saturday Dec 5th, 2009
English Pronunciation Podcast 53-
How Americans Really Pronounce <t> Part II
: This podcast teaches you when
and how Americans pronounce <t> like /d/.


In this week's podcast, we're going to continue to learn how to pronounce the letter <t> with
an American accent .

Let's listen to a clip from this popular song by the American singer Christina Aguilera.
Pay attention to the way she pronounces her <t> on the title of the song:

Notice that when she she says" beautiful", the letter <t> sounds more like a quick light /d/
and not like the aspirated <t> we discussed in last week's podcast .

She doesn't say beautiful /bjutIfəl/, she says.../bjuɾIfəl/.
She also says "no matter /mæɾɚ/ what they say"
She doesn't say "no /mætɚ/", she said "no /mæɾɚ/."

This pronuciation of /t/ like a quick light /d/ is known as "the tap." It's sometimes called "the flap" but I will be referring to it as the tap.

/ɾ/ =IPA symbol for "the tap".

"The tap", /ɾ/ is very common in American and Canadian and English. we hear it in words
like "better", "city" and "water".

In your native language, there is probably only one pronunciation of <t>. It is simply /t/.
However, this is not the case in American English. There are actually three main
pronunciations of <t>.
This podcast is going to to teach you when to pronounce <t> using the tap /ɾ/.

Learning to use "the tap" is a big part of improving tor accent and will also greatly improve
your listening skills.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • To become aware of American tap /ɾ/.
  • To learn how and when to pronounce the tap /ɾ/.
  • To practice this sound in some key words and common American expressions and idioms.

Let's listen to the following sentence.

You took some beautiful photos.

Perhaps you've noticed that in this sentence some <t>s sound more like a /d/ than <t>.
Again, this is known as "the tap" /ɾ/.

photo /foʊɾoʊ/

Again, notice how we did not say:

You took some /bjutIfəl//foʊtoʊs/

A Big Difference Between American and British Pronunciation

If this sounds more like British English to you, you are correct, as the British do not use this <t> sound. It's distinctly North American.

When do Americans use the tap?

General rule for Using "the tap"/ɾ/:

If <t> comes after a vowel and before and unstressed vowel, we use the tap /ɾ/.

For example the word "photo"

1) Where is the stress?

First let's determine where the stress falls in this word. Notice how the vowel is longer and
the pitch is higher on the first syllable Therefore, stress falls on the first syllable /foʊ/.

2)Where is the <t>?

Now let's look at where the <t> falls in this word.

In the word "photo", the < t> comes after a vowel /oʊ/ and before an unstressed vowel
sound, /oʊ/.
This <t> falls after a vowel and before an unstressed vowel and we therefore
pronounce it with "the tap."

Let's look at the word "beautiful".

First let's find the stress.

Stress is on the first syllable bju. The <t> comes after the vowel /u/
and before the unstressed vowel /I/ so again we follow the rule and pronounce it with a tap.

Contrasting <t>s

Now let's contrast the tap <t> with aspirated <t> we learned about in last weeks podcast.

You took some beautiful photos.

You might recall from last week's podcast that aspirated "t" is used at the beginning
of stressed syllables .

In the previous sentence, the word "took" is stressed. The <t> comes before a stressed sylllable so we use aspirated /t/.
This is in contrast to the words "photo" and "beautiful" where the <t> comes before
an unstressed syllable.

If this seems like a lot of theory, don't worry.
The first step is to become familiar with the rules for when to use the tap.
Once you become aware of the rules, you can begin to practice the tap and you will begin
to use it and hear it instinctively, without thinking just like a native speaker does.

You'll be paying attention to the rhythm, not the rule. With enough practice, it will become habit
and second nature. This is known as muscle memory, the ability to do something without
thinking about it.

How to Pronounce /ɾ/:

Tongue: Gently and quickly tap the tip of your tongue against the gum ridge (bump on the roof
of your mouth).Let the the air flow continuously.

In podcast #32, we learned about "stop consonants" and "continuant consonants".
Tap /t/,/ɾ/ is a continuant consonant because we do not stop the air but let it flow along
the sides and over our tongue..

In podcast #30, we learned about "voiced" and "voiceless" consonants. /ɾ/ is a
voiced consonant
because we use our voice to make this sound.

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /ɾ/.

photo.. city ... better ... little... exciting ...

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

What a beautiful day!

What's the matter?

It's like shooting fish in barrel.

Practice is Key!

The best way to learn a new sound is to practice it slowly. The secret to speaking English clearly and quickly is practicing slowly and accurately

Learning to speak English with a standard American accent is a gradual process but if you
work at it regularly and practice as often as you can, you're going to improve!

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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