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English Pronunciation Pod 78

Saturday Feb12th, 2011

The Vowels: Different pronunciations of <ou>- "county" vs. "country"

Same vowel letters but different vowel pronunciation! Learn more about the spelling pattern <ou> .


In this week's podcast, we're going to learn how to pronounce words that contain <ou>. This spelling pattern has a few different pronunciations.
Becoming aware of the these pronunciations is an important step in making your pronunciation clear and understandable .

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • Learning two of the main pronunciations of <ou>
  • Practicing these sounds in some key words and phrases of English .

Listen and repeat the following words:

county ... country

The spellings of these words are very similar . They both contain the vowel combination <ou> but notice how the vowel sound
in each of these words is actually different.

Same spelling pattern, different vowel sound.

In most languages of the world, the way a word is spelled is usually the way it is pronuounced. There is a direct correspondence,
a direct connection between spelling and pronunciation.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in English .

One spelling pattern can have a few different pronunciations . This is especially true of any word containing the letter <o>

As we learned in podcast 20, if <o> is on an unstressed syllable it is pronounced /ə / as in the word "contain."

But if it is on a stressed syllable, there are four possibilities:/oʊ/ ,/a/ /ə /,or /ɔ/and in those cases we need to memorize
the pronunciation word by word, case by case. This was covered in podcast #28.

The same is true with the spelling pattern <ou>. Tthere are five possible pronunciations and we should gradually begin to become
familiar with them and learn the key words which contain them.

Today, we'll learn two of the most common and important pronunciations of <ou> that you need to know.

The Main Pronunciation of <ou>

Let's begin with most common pronunciation of <ou>: /aʊ/

This vowel sound is a combination of /a/ and /u/

Let's begin by repeating just the vowel sound.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat: /aʊ/

Now let's practice pronouncing some important words containing <ou> pronounced /aʊ/ :

Exercise: Please listen and repeat the following words :

out ... cloud ... sound ... about ... county...

Now let's practice some key phrases of English with words containing /aʊ/ spelled <ou> :

Exercise: Please listen and repeat the following phrases:

Sounds good to me!

What county are you from?

Another Important Pronunciation of <ou>

The next pronunciation of <ou> we're going to learn is /ə /, also known as "the schwa" sound in English.

This pronunciation of <ou> is far less common but it still exsts in some very important words so it's important to become familiar with them.
/ə / is the neutral sound of English . Your tongue is centered, flat and relaxed. There is no muscular contraction.
Our lips are relaxed as well.
See Best Accent Training or podcast #13 for a detailed lesson on how to pronounce /ə /.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat: /ə/

Here are some key words in which <ou> is pronounced /ə /. Just looking at these words, you would never guess that the pronunciaton is /ə /
but in fact it is .

young ... country ... cousin ... enough ...

Now let's practice these words in some key phrases of English:

What country are you from?

The night is still young

It Takes Practice:

Learning the vowels of English and 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:

Accent reduction is primarily a physical activity . It's important to have the right training tools for better pronunciation.

That's why 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 get mp3 lessons on every vowel of English, every consonant, 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!  Download it here!

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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