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English Pronunciation Pod 54

Saturday Dec 19th, 2009
English Pronunciation Podcast 54-
How Americans Really Pronounce <t> Part III
: This podcast continues to teach you when to 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 .

In the previous podcast, we learned the rules for how and when Americans pronounce <t> likea quick and light /d/. This is known as "the tap t", and we find it in words like "better", "city" and "exciting."

If you haven't already listened to podcast #53, I strongly recommend that you do so before listening
to this podcast.

Podcast #53 taught you how and when to use the tap sound when it occurs within words.
This podcast is going to to teach you when to use the tap, /ɾ/ when it occurs across word boundaries, as in the phrase "what a day!" or "beat it."

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>," the tap" being one of them.

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

/ɾ/=IPA symbol for the tap

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • To learn how and when to use /ɾ/ across words boundaries.
  • To practice this sound in some key words and common American
    expressions and idioms.

Let's listen to the following sentence.

What a beautiful day!

Notice that in this sentence the <t>s sound more like a /d/ than /t/.
Again, this is known as "the tap" /ɾ/.

We hear /ɾ/ in the word "beautiful" and also hear it connecting the words "what" and "a",
as will be explained shortly.

When do Americans use the tap?

Let's review the rule for when we 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/.

Let's explain why, according to the rule, we use "the tap" in the word "beautiful."

First step is to find the stress.

Stress is on the first syllable /bju/. Listen and hear the long vowel and higher pitch:

Now let's find where the <t> falls in relation to the stress:

In this word, <t> comes after the vowel /u/ and before the unstressed vowel /ɪ/ and we
therefore use the tap, /ɾ/.

Again, notice how we did not say:

What a /bjutɪfəl/ day?

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 tap sound. It's distinctly North American.

Using /ɾ/ Across Word Boundaries

Now let's look at the pronunciation of the other <t> in this sentence.

"What a beautiful day."

Notice how the <t> in "what" is also pronounced with /ɾ/.

Listen and repeat using /ɪ/

/wəɾə/ ... /wəɾəbjuɾɪfəldeɪ/

This is an example of /ɾ/ being used across word boundaries.
Americans do this all the time. When you become aware of it and begin to use it you will
sound more like a native speaker and what's more, you'll understand Americans much better.

Let's explain why we use /ɾ/ in the phrase, "What a beautiful day."

First let's find the stressed syllables in this phrase. There are three stressed syllables:
What, /bju/ and day.

Now, lets look at where < t> falls in relation to these stressed syllables.

The< t> in "what", falls after a vowel and before the unstressed vowel /ə/.
Therefore, it follows the rule for using the tap and instead of saying /wətəbjutɪfəldeɪ /, we say /wəɾəbjuɾɪfəldeɪ/

Do you get it?

There... there's another example of using /ɾ/ across word boundaries.

Listen again: Do you get it? /gɛɾɪt/

Notice how I pronounced the <t> in get as /ɾ/.

Again, we can expalin why by analyzing where the steress falls in the sentence.

Stress falls on the syllable "get". Let's look at where the<t> falls in relation to that stress.

<t> falls after the vowel /ɛ/ of "get" and before the unstressed vowel /ɪ/ of it.
Therefore, it follows the rule and is pronounced as a tap.

Please listen and repeat using the tap.

get it? /gɛɾɪt/ ... Do you get it ? /dujugɛɾɪt/

Accent Reduction is About "Doing"

If this seems like a lot of theory, don't worry.
It's good to become familiar with the rules for when to use /ɾ/ so that you have them
as a reference. Anytime you're not sure, you can refer to the rule.

Although it's important to know the rules, it's more important to begin to practice using the tap
and to start hearing it and feeling it.

Like a native speaker, you want to begin to learn how to feel and hear this sound
based on the stress.

By becoming aware of it and then practicing it repetitively you'll begin to use it and hear it instictively,without thinking just like a native speaker would.
With enough practice it wil become habit and second nature.This is known as muscle memory- the ability to so something automatically without thinking about it.

So let's begin to practice using the tap, /ɾ/ across word boundaries in some key American expressions an idoms.

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

Have you got a minute?

Beat it!

Cut it out!

Give it a try!

Practice is Key!

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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After practicing with Best Accent Training daily,
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- Domingo Ponce Rodriguez- - Marketing Manager USA (Spain)

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