Thursday, September 9, 2010

Class Time!

Hi everyone! I'm Cylarea, and I hope you find this blog useful. I've been teaching for some time now, so I've always wanted to do more for other people.. I'm making some articles for American pronunciation and intonation here so that you guys can check it out. It doesn't mean it's just my students who can use this blog, though. If you need help, just drop by. I'd like to make a note, however, that you should please credit whatever you find here. I always do.

I've just started, so please be patient. I'm trying to finish the articles as fast as I can so you have something new to check each day. *sweat drop* Give it a few more days or weeks, and you'll have lots to check. ^^

Always check older posts. I changed the posting time because the welcome message always goes to the end part, so I made the posting unchronological.

Special thanks in advance to JenniferESL. You can find her on if you have any spare time.

Welcome! ^^

*Note: This website uses cookies. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Vowels: An Overview

Most of my students ask me about the differences in the sounds of  the vowels of American English. Why are there so many? Well, it's because in American English, there are 11 vowel sounds. This picture is what we call the Vietor Triangle, and symbols on it are called the IPA or International Phonetic Alphabet. These symbols are actually helpful not just in studying English, but many other languages as well, so it pays to know what they stand for. 

Here's one thing you should remember when you're practicing your vowel sounds. Make sure that your tongue is relaxed. When I say relaxed, I mean it does not move from its resting position in your mouth. It may move sideways a little, but it stays in one place. 

Look carefully at the picture. I'm pretty sure the next question would be why is it inverted? Let's look together and see. ^^

Let's start from the extreme upper left of the picture. 
  1.  i - long e sound. This is made by extending your lips to either side of your face as in a smile (or a grimace) and making a small opening between your upper and lower lips and teeth. Make the sound a little long by counting 2 beats or 2 seconds.
    ex: eat, seed, reed, feed
  2. I - short i sound. This sound is made in almost the same way as i, but shorter. Move your lips slightly sideways and make a slightly wider opening of the mouth. Now for one beat, say I.
    ex: sit, rid, lid
  3. e or Ɛi - long a sound. This sound is made by with your lips moving sideways, more in a grimace than a smile, and the mouth slightly wider than when we made I sound. Then, keeping the same lips position, make the  mouth a little smaller by closing it slightly.
    ex: sate, rate, lay
  4. Ɛ – short e sound. This sound is made with your lips in a slight grimace and the mouth is open wider than in Ɛi.
    ex: set, let, met
  5. æ short a/American a. This one’s a bit tricky. Start with short e sound’s position and add a bit of a ya (ja) sound at the end of it (Note: [j] in IPA is pronounced as a [y] sound as in yet, and not jet.
    ex: sat, lap, mat
  6. a – normal a. – Just drop your jaw and you’re all set. ^^
    ex: pot, got, not
  7. Ɔ – Italian a or Short o – Open your mouth wide as in a, but gently round your lips like o.
    ex: straw, flaw, maw
  8. O or oƱ – Long o. – Gently round your lips and go from big to small, until your lips are puckered like you’re kissing someone. Sustain for two beats.
    ex: go, flow, mow
  9. U or u:  –Long u. – It’s the same position as long u, only make the sound for a shorter amount of time. U or u: - Long u sound. – Pucker up like you’re kissing someone, and sustain the sound for two beats.
    ex: goo, flew, moo
  10. u or Ʊ  - Short u sound. – Pucker up like you’re kissing someone,and keep it short, but sweet.
    ex: book, foot, pull
  11. ə - The Schwa sound. – This is the most common sound in American English. It’s ubiquitous – which means you’ll find it everywhere! Open your mouth very slightly, and grunt, like when someone pushes you gently.
    ex: but, stunt, gut
  12. ^ - Another grunt sound. This is extremely similar to the schwa sound, the only difference being it is stressed.
    ex: cup, bug, rug
We’ve done the overview of all the vowels, now. So let’s address a few questions.
  1. What’s the difference between the schwa (ə) and (^)?
Answer: In American English, there is no difference whatsoever in sound. So usually, we use only the schwa sound when we practice pronunciation. Only in British English are both used. You can find this in the book, American Accent Training by Anne Cook (page ix). Fabulous book! ^^
  1. What are tense and lax or long and short vowels?

    Answer: Tense or short vowels are usually produced by moving a lot of your facial muscles. A lax or long vowel, is of course, the opposite of this.
  2. I'm sorry, I almost forgot to address the first question. Why is it inverted?

    Answer: The inverted triangle is to help us remember that for each sound, our mouth opens a little wider as we go down until we reach the middle part, or
    a. Then, our mouth gets smaller as we go up the right side until we get to the center of the triangle. Got it? ^^
Any other questions, class? Post a comment! ^^


*** my thanks for the Vietor Triangle image^^ 

Update: May 21, 2017: I will be making some changes here, particularly for the Vietor Triangle Image, and some of the explanations on the sounds. Please bear with me, as I still don't have much time. Thank you for your kindness!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pronunciation Drills: ɪ and ɪ̈

Let's look at these two groups in order to differentiate ɪ (short i) and ɪ̈ (long e). Let's remember the position of the two.

 ɪ̈ (long e)
  • pull back your lips in a smile, with a small opening separating your lips and teeth
  • your tongue is at rest (where it usually is when you're not moving it), and presses gently on the sides of your lower teeth
  • make the i sound (ex: see, me, free) for at least 2 beats of time

    ɪ (short i
  • pull back your lips in a slight grimace, with a slightly larger opening separating your lips and teeth
  • your tongue is at rest (minimal pressure on the sides of the lower teeth)
  • make the I sound (sit, mitt, pitt) for one beat of time

    Ok. we've done the review. Shall we start with the drills? ^^
 ɪ̈ (long e)                                                                 I (short i)

peek                                                                         pick
leave                                                                          live
week                                                                       wick
steel                                                                           still
sheep                                                                        ship
seek                                                                          sick
reach                                                                         rich

  1. The key to the city is with Queen Irene.
  2. To live in Peking is my greatest dream.
  3. Dean has always been keen on women.
  4. Jean feels queenly in her peach gown.
  1. The history of the city began with the wishes of the women.
  2. When you fish, be careful of the fissure in the sea.
  3. Timid Billy got his courage from chocolate chips.
  4. Cut foliage can become garbage.
Tongue Twister

Peach pit, peach pit, see it as you sit.
Eat it, eat it, with an oven mitt.
Beat it, beat it, pat it, prick it.
Twist and turn it, but don't eat it!

  1. Always check your dictionaries when you are unsure of the pronunciation of a word. It's your responsibility to check what you study. I recommend any Collins Dictionary for that purpose, since we're studying American English pronunciation. ^^
  2. If you're unsure of how to make the sounds of i and I, go back up to the top part of this note, or take a look at my first article, The Vowels: An Overview
Any questions? Post a comment! ^^

- Cylarea Shea

*** Thank you to my student, Miki-san who pointed out that I labeled my explanations incorrectly! (Oct. 29, 2018)

Short e and Long a

Here's another pair that can cause trouble for those practicing pronunciation...short e and long a.

short e (ε)

  • grimace like when you're slightly disgusted with something or you didn't hear someone clearly.
  • open the mouth a little wider (about half of your thumb's length wide)
  • do this sound for 1 beat.
long a (e or εi)
  • start in the same position as (ε)
  • then smile
  • do this for 2 beats.
(ε)    short e                                                        (εi) long a

                                           fell                                                                       fail
                                           sell                                                                      sail
                                           bell                                                                      bail
                                           tell                                                                       tale
                                           cell                                                                      sail
                                           dell                                                                      dale
                                           well                                                                      wail

(ε) short e
  1. Seven enviable men set out today.
  2. I wept when a friend had a debt.
  3. Get some medicine for your headache.
  4. Dr. Bell said the wet, heavy weather is bad for you.

(εi) long a
  1. Katie said she waited for a pail.
  2. The way to the oasis is dangerous.
  3. The rain seems a waste of water.
  4. An acre of acorns makes squirrels insane.

Tongue Twisters!

Red ravens renege on their deal
And the lame rabbit's rage is more than ideal
To teach them lessons they'll never forget:
Don't bait a rabbit you've only just met.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Short e and Short a

Let's look at two rather troublesome sounds. This pair sounds almost the same...but they're not.

Short e (Ɛ

  • smile slightly
  • open your mouth about 3/4 the length of your thumb

Short a (æ)

  • start with the same position as short e
  • open your mouth about 3/4 the length of your thumb as well.
  • now lower your jaw a little more while saying ja (note: j is pronounced as y in IPA)
  • your tongue will be moving slightly backward then forward, but it's still flat in your mouth
  • the sound you would be saying is Ɛja
Is it clear? Let's do the drills so that you will remember them! ^^

short e (Ɛ)                                            short a (æ)

                                               bed                                                       bad
                                               pen                                                       pan
                                               men                                                      man
                                               trek                                                       track
                                               peck                                                     pack
                                               ten                                                        tan
                                               hem                                                      ham

short e (Ɛ)
  1. They left the scented petals on the leather sofa.
  2. Get yourself a new pet from the store.
  3. The devil under the hemlock tree is red
  4. Ten generals caught ten bad men.
  5. Pen the letter for the seven men.

short a (æ)
  1. Athletes have big appetites.
  2. The antiques are in the attic.
  3. He married his companion from Arizona.
  4. The annual family picnic is in January.
  5. Stand still in the alley.

I bet the better batter would batter the betting bed wetter, if the betting bed wetter does not bet on him. If the betting bed wetter bets on the better batter, he better be a better batter than he was before.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Italian A and Short O Drills

Italian A and Short O

These two are very distinct from each other.

Short O (ɔ)

= jaw is tense, lowered about 2/4 of your thumb.
= lips are in a small, tight circle.

Italian a (ɒ)

= jaw is lowered in normal a position 
= lips are in a big O shape and tense.

ɔ                        ɒ
gourd             hop
board             not
  ford                want
lord                forest
sword             stock

1. The border is very orderly.
2. A boring lecture is in store for us today.
3. The corner storage facility has my uncle's hoard.

1. Stop the frog from hopping away.
2. The hog jogged across the hot road.
3. Tom conned the tot for his candy.


Gourds are gotten from the warden. Hops are gotten from the garden. We stock boards and swords until they're rotten. Ford the road you haven't forgotten.

Normal a and Italian a

Position review:

Normal a (a)

  • Drop your jaw. The tension is only slight.
Italian a (ɒ)
  • Open your mouth (like normal a)
  • Your lips are rounded, in the o position
These two sounds quite distinct. Generally, they are believed to be the same by most people. However, pay attention. The smallest differences can mean everything.

Drill time! (Unfortunately, the words don't rhyme because it's a little hard to find words that rhyme for these two sounds *sweat drop* sorry about that)

Normal a (ɑ)                               Italian a (ɒ)
                                                father                                          pauper
                                                arm                                             dot
                                                cart                                             cloth
                                                farm                                            moth

Normal a (ɑ)
1. Father never bothers to close the door.
2. Part the farmland into halves.
3. My arms are tired from pushing the cart.

Italian a  (ɒ)
1.  An awful rock blocked us.
2. There's not a pot in sight.
3. I bought a lawn bauble.


Gobbling gargoyles gobbled gobbling goblins. 

When you write copy, you have the right to copyright the copy you write. You can write good and copyright, but copyright  doesn't mean copy good - it might not be the right good copy, right?

Tongue Twister 1 was taken from this webby , while Tongue Twister 2 was taken from here.
**Note 2:
I changed the spelling of gargoyles because it was incorrectly spelled.
**Note 3:
Word drills may be incorrectly displayed. Still working on it. Sorry.