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English Pronunciation Pod 87

Saturday Jun 4h, 2011 The Vowels: /a/ vs. /æ/: "hot " vs."hat"
Learn how to hear and pronounce the difference between these two vowels.


In this week's podcast, we're going to review two important vowel sounds of English. /a/ as in "hot" and /æ/ as in "hat".
Being able to hear and say the difference between these two vowel sounds is an important part of speaking
English clearly and correctly.

Mastering this vowel distinction can be quite challenging. Many students of English make the mistake of replacing the /a/ sound for the /æ/ sound
For example, instead of staying "hat " they might say something that sounds like "hot".

This can be confusing to your listener.

To an American, these sounds are completely different, so mastering them is key.

The focus of this week's podcast is:
  • Learning how to pronounce the vowels / æ/ and /a/ correctly and distinctly.
  • Practicing these sounds in some key words and a special accent reduction training exercise.

How to pronounce / æ/:

tongue: flat, forward and relaxed

Lips: spread wide (almost like a smile)

jaw: drops , opens

This sounds requires a lot of movement. It may feel strange at first. I recommend that you use a mirror when practicing
this sound to make sure that your'e speading your lips and dropping your jaw.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat paying careful attention to your form : / æ/ ... / æ/

Exercise: Please listen and repeat the following words containing / æ/:

cat ... man ... tax ... laugh... cash... accent ... ipad

Next, we're going to learn how to pronounce /a/. This sounds is somewhat easier but it's necesary to review
for two reasons. The first is that students of English often use /a/ instead of /æ/ . For example, instead of saying "hat",
they might say "hot." If your first language is Spanish, French, Italian or Japanese, you may be
making this mistake especially .

Other students whose first language is Eastern European such as Russian or Polish or whose first language is
Portuguese or whose first language is Korean may be substituting /ɛ/ instead for /æ/. However, this is a separate issue which was
covered in a previous podcast and can also be found in Best Accent Training mp3s. It won't be covered right now. However, I've heard students
from all over the world make the mistake of substituting /a/ for /æ/, regardless of what their first language is,
so it's best for everybody to review this.

The second reason is that this vowel sound /a/ is often spelled with the letter <o>. And for that reason I often hear students use the /o/ sound
instead of /a/ . So for example, instead of saying podcast /padkæst/, they might say /podkæst/.
Although this /o/ sound exists in many languages, it does not exist in English.
We have /oʊ/ as in "go" "no" but that's actually different than /o/ which he hear in languages all over the world.
The letter <o>is very tricky. It has several pronunciations but in general when you see a single letter <o> in a stressed syllable like the words "hot",
"doctor", or "podcast", it's pronounced /a/.

How to pronounce : /a/

tongue: back, flat

lips: neutral (not spread, not forward)

jaw: drops, opens

Listen and repeat: /a/... /a/...

Exercise: Please listen and repeat the following words containing /a/:

cop ... hot ... dollar... doctor... stock... document... ipod

Exercise : Listen and repeat the following pairs of words:

The words are exactly the same except for the vowel sound. The first word contains /æ/ and the second word contains /a/.
Listen and repeat each pair, paying careful attention to the difference in vowel sounds.
Remember for /æ/ , your lips are spread and your tongue is more forward and relaxed.

/æ/                         /a/

hat                         hot

cap                       cop

lack                       lock

ipad                     ipod

stack                   stock

If you're having trouble hearing the difference or pronouncing the difference, don't worry This takes time and practice. Learning the difference between/æ/ and /a/ 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,
I can say that my English communication has improved 100%. "

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

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