In this week's podcast, we're going to practice using the vowel /æ/ as in the words "cat" and " tax."
This vowel is an extremely important vowel which does not exist in most other languages. If you want to speak with an American accent, it's important to incorporate this sound into your speaking.
The focus of this week's podcast is:
To review how to pronounce the vowel /æ / with a standard American accent
To use this vowel in a special training exercise that will help you use it in conversation.
Review: How to pronounce /æ /
/æ / is an extremly important vowel in American English. The reason for this is that the letter <a> is usually pronounced /æ / when it it is on a stressed syllable as in the words "dance", "accent"
In order to pronounce /æ / correectly, it's important to know the rules of articulation- how to move your tongue, lips and jaw.
I recommend that you listen to podcast #6 before using this one, if you haven't already. Podcast #6 teaches you how to pronounce /æ /in full detail.
But let's review the rules of articulation for /æ /.
Review: How to Pronounce /æ/:
tongue: flat, forward
Exercise:Please listen and repeat, paying careful attention to your form :
/æ/ ... /æ /
Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /æ /:
past ... can't ... taxes ... grammar ... understand
Using Good Pronunciation in Conversations
My private studetns here in New York,sometimes tell me that although they are able to use these American sounds such as /æ / when they are doing an exercise or reading a text with me, they often use the wrong sound when they are having a conversation outside the lesson. They start to go back to their old habits.
Good Accents First Develop in Exercises
If you've had the same experience, the first thing I want to say is that being able to pronounce the sound when reading or repeating is something positive. In my experience, this is the first natural step in the process of speaking with an American accent. The more you master the sounds of English in a controlled environment,
the closer you are getting to using it in your everyday speech and conversation.
Exercise for Using Correct Pronunciation in Conversation
But there is an exercise which I created that can help you get from good pronunciation in exercises, to good pronunciation in everyday conversation. I call it the password exercise. It is designed to bridge the gap between reading and repeating correctly off the page, and speaking correctly and spontaneously in a conversation
So. we're going to pratice the vowel /æ/ using this special training exercise.
Here's how it works: I'm going to give you a clue for a word in English. All of the answers to my clues contain the vowel sound /æ/.
Example: If I say, this is the ocean between North America and Europe you would say,
The Atlantic. /ItlæntIk /
This may seem easy but it's important that before you simply answer with right word, that you think about your pronunciation as you say it. This is a big part of speaking with a standard accent. You have to pay attention not only what you're saying but how you say it. You have to pay attention not only to content but to form as well.
Often when I'm doing this exercise students get a bit excited that they know the answer and they blurt it out without thinking of the form. Soin the previous example, they might say /ItlnTIk/ or /Itlantik/.
This defeats the purpose of the exercise. The purpose of the exercise is to use a different part of your brain than the one you use when you're simply reading or repeating accurrately.
Now, you want to be thinking and pronouncing corrrectly at the same time.
The Password Exercise
So let's begin. I'm going to give a clue for a word. All of the answers to my clues contain the vowel sound /æ/. Remember don't just blurt out the answer, pay attention to your form- drop your jaw, spread your lips and flatten your tongue.
Clue #1: This is money you have to pay the government every year:
Clue#2: This is a type of computer- not a PC but a ...
Clue #3: This is a style of music invented by African Americans in New Orleans in the 1920s:
Clue #4: This actor is Angelina Jolie's boyfriend-( last time I checked):
Clue #5: This a document you need in order to cross a border between countries:
Clue #6: This is an economic system where you have the right to own property and to make a profit.
Here are the answers to the clues:
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.
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!
New !! Buy the lessons individually or buy the full course!! gv
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! I specifically designed it for that purpose.