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English Pronunciation Pod 66

Saturday Jul 17th, 2010
The Vowel /ɚ/ as in "sir" and "early"-
How to pronounce this important vowel sound of English:
The vowel /ɚ/ is one of the most common vowels in English.
Using it is one of the best ways to make your accent sound American.


In this week's podcast, we're going to learn a how to pronounce one of the most common and most important vowel sounds of American Englsh- /ɚ/, as in the words "sir" and "early". This sound is distinctly American.
This sound does not exist in many other languages and is therefore one of the most difficult sounds for English students to pronounce.

However, If you want to speak English with a standard American accent, it's important to learn how Americans pronounce this sound.

In fact, using this sound is considered to be a sign of an educated person so it's even more important to master it. Furthermore, the position for /ɚ/ is the same tongue postion for the consonant /r/, so learning how to pronounce it is helpful for mastering /r/ and eventually mastering the distinction between /r/ and /l/.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning how to pronounce the vowel /ɚ/.
  • Practicing this sound in some key American words, phrases and idioms.

How to pronounce /ɚ/ :

Tongue: Slowly curl your tongue tip backwards so that it points at the roof of your mouth.
Do not touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue tip.
Feel the back sides of your tongue touching your back inner gums.

Lips: move forward a little

Jaw: Somewhat tense (a litle tension is fine.)

Exercise: Please listen and repeat /ɚ/, paying careful attention to form:

/ɚ/ ... /ɚ/

Pronunciation Tips:

Here are some tips for pronouncing this vowel accurately:

Start with your tongue tip down in the neutral postion start in the position of /ə/.

Curling motion begins at the tip not the back of the tongue.

Graduallly curl your tongue with the motion beginning at the tip, not the back of the tongue.
Slow gradual curling is the best way to learn this sound.

Back sides of tongue make contact with inner gums/molars.

When you finish make sure that you feel the back sides of your tongue pressing up against you back, inner gums and teeth. Feel that contact on the back sides of the tongue.


Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing /ɚ/ paying careful attention to form:

sir ... her ...learn .. ..nurse ...

/ɚ/ on an unstressed syllable

It's even more challenging to pronounce this sound when it falls on the unstressed syllable of a word.

Even some of my most advanced, private students here in New York have trouble with /ɚ/ in this position.

For example, the word "understand" is often mispronounced as /əndəstnd/ but it should include the the vowel /ɚ/ - understand. Of course, the /ɚ/ should be quicker than that . You want to quickly get in and out of the /ɚ/ position when it falls on an unstressed position. A quick curl and you're done. "Get in and get out"

Exercise (advanced): Please listen and repeat the following words containining /ɚ/ on an unstressed syllable:

better ... paper ... afternoon... understand ... Saturday

Exercise: Please listen and repeat the following American expressions containing /ɚ/.

1.Ladies first.

2.Do you deliver?

3. Happy Birthday!

4 She's an early bird. (Someone who enjoys getting up early in the morning)

Mastering the /ɚ/ sound takes time and practice. As you can see it is even more difficult when combined with other sounds such as /l/ as in "early" or <th> as in "birthday."

But the key to mastering this sound is slow repettive practice on a daily basis. You have to repeat and repeat until you develop what's known as muscle memory- the ability to do something automatically, without thinking.
Accent reduction is a lot like physical activities such as sports, dancing or playing an instrument. You have to first do it slowly and correctly in order to do it quicly and correctly.

In other words, you need training!

The Right Training Tools for Better Pronunciation:

If you want more practice exercises like the one in this podcast and are interested in learning all of the the sounds of English, I recommend that you try my full English pronunciation course in mp3-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!

I specifically designed it for that purpose.

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

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Thank you and see you next time!


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After practicing with Best Accent Training daily,
I can say that my English communication has improved 100%. "

- Domingo Ponce Rodriguez- - Marketing Manager USA (Spain)

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