In this week's podcast, we're going to review an important pronounciation of the letter <t> in American English.
Americans sometimes pronounce <t> like a quick and light /d/. This is known as "the tap", /ɾ/ and we find it in words like "better", "city" and "exciting."
If you haven't already listened to podcast #53, I recommend that you do so before listening
to this podcast.Podcast 53 explains how to pronounce "the tap" in full detail.
/ɾ/ = IPA symbol for "the tap"
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 your accent and will also greatly improve your listening skills.
The focus of this week's podcast is:
To learn how and when to use "the tap" /ɾ/.
To practice this sound in a dialog.
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 first review the rules for when we use the tap:
General Rule for Using "the tap"/ɾ/:
If <t> comes after a vowel and before an unstressed vowel, we use the tap /ɾ/.
Let's explain why, according to the rule, we use "the tap" in the word "beautiful."
The 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 saying /bjutɪfəl/ 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
We also used the tap in the "what". This is known as the tap across word boundaries;
Instead of saying "/wətə/ beautiful day," we said ,/wəɾə/.
The <t > in this case follows the rules for using the tap.The <t>comes after a vowel and before an unstressed vowel so we use it in this case as well.
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.
Exercise: Dialog for practicing /ɾ/
So let's practice using the tap in context. We're going to practice a dilaog with lots of taps in it.
I'm going to do the dialog with one of my private students Natalie Gal. Natalie is originally from Russia. She's one of my most advanced students and through her hard work and training,
she's reached a point where her accent is quite accurate and native sounding. We'll be hearing more from Natalie and how she got to this point in future podcasts.
But for now, let's focus on the pronunciation of <t> as a tap sound /ɾ / in this dialog.
A: I love this city! New York is the greatest.
B: There are other cities that are better.
A: I totally disagree. Name one.
A: Have you ever visited Seattle ?
B: No, but my friend is dating a native of Seattle. She told me what a beautiful place it was.
A: I've seen photos of Seattle. It's not so pretty. New York is more exciting.
Exercise: Listen and repeat each phrase paying careful attention to the pronunciation of <t> as /ɾ/ :
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:
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No matter what your first language is, Best Accent Training has the lessons you need for speaking English clearly and correctly.
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