How now, crown, cow?”
Do you observe anything interesting about that silly question?
That is correct, each word has the same “ow” sound.
Practising that sentence is simply one of the several ways to learn English vowel sounds.
English vowels could be confusing. It can be difficult to tell when to use which letter when spelling, and the variations in pronunciation are sometimes small and hard to hear.
But do not worry. This blog by Ms Sonu Goel, Founder, and Director of Café Converse which is Delhi’s top English language institute shares some unique methods to practice English Vowel Sounds.
What Are Vowels?
In the English language, the letters A, E, I, O, U, and at times Y are called vowels.
When one speaks, one lets out air through their mouth. Vowels make the sounds that come when the air leaving your mouth is not blocked by anything such as your teeth or your tongue. They are created by moving your lips to various shapes.
The remaining letters in the alphabet are called consonants. While speaking, consonants have sounds that are made by partially or completely blocking the airflow.
The Many Ways to Pronounce English Vowel Sounds
A vowel’s placement in a word can impact the way you pronounce it. You can memorize some pronunciation rules or learn by searching patterns in words.
All vowels have a minimum of two pronunciations: a long sound and a short sound. A long vowel is the name of the vowel (for instance, long “a” is “ay” like in the word “say”). A short vowel is a shorter sound (for instance, short “a” sounds such as “æ” from the word “hat”).
Words are split up into syllables, which are uninterrupted bits of sound that create the word. Each syllable has one vowel sound. You can see the syllables in a word by placing your hand below your chin and trying to say it out loud. Each time your chin touches your hand, this is a syllable. You can double-check with sites such as “How Many Syllables.”
Some Unique Ways to Practice English Vowel Sounds
We understand that it could be hard to memorize rules and pronunciations. But do not worry, that’s why this article is sharing these games, to make the learning process easier for you. Here are some fun ways to learn them.
A pronunciation maze is a worksheet full of words. To complete that sheet, you have to get from a word placed on top to a word on the bottom, by searching for words with the same vowel sounds.
You can get many other mazes online by searching Google or Google image for pronunciation maze.
What one can learn: Vowels change their sound depending on where they are in the word and the letters that revolve them. Doing a pronunciation maze makes one aware of vowel sounds, and assists you hear the difference between “hit” and “heat,” for example.
If you focus, you can start to notice some patterns such as those words with the letters “ea” in the center normally make a similar sound but not always. This means the next time you see a word that contains the letters “ea,” you could be able to pronounce it properly without even knowing what it means.
Tongue twisters are a sequence of words that repeat the same sounds several times, which makes them complex to say fast. You can get a list of excellent vowel-focused tongue twisters here and there.
Select a tongue twister and say it out loud. Say it very slowly at first, and focus on pronouncing the vowels properly. As you get more confident, say the tongue twister faster. How fast can you go prior to your tongue gets all twisted up?
Use your phone to record audio and listen to the audio to practice.
What you can learn: You have heard it several times—practice, practice, practice. There’s no better alternative to practice. Tongue twisters are a fun mode to practice saying specific sounds. The better you get at the tongue twisters, the better you will get at pronouncing various English vowel sounds correctly.
Get a short clip from a movie, TV show, or even a commercial.
Then turn on the subtitles and watch the clip twice.
On the first instance, just watch silently. The next time, say the words besides the clip. Try to match the pronunciation, intonation, the rise and fall of the voice, and the pace of the audio. This method is called “shadow reading.”
What you can learn: Speaking fluently is not only about knowing the correct words and grammar. It is about knowing how to say them, as well. Speaking with the clip will assist you to practice speaking faster without pausing, and pronounce words accurately.
Minimal pairs are words that sound similar except for one sound change, such as “mice” and “rice” or “fit” and “feat.”
In this exercise, you will require a list of minimal pairs. Practice or record yourself saying the words out loudly, saying clearly, and exaggerating the sounds, making them sound bigger and more prominent than they actually are.
What you can learn: Sometimes it is difficult to hear the difference between some vowel sounds. You can make it simpler for yourself to hear the difference by practicing saying similar words. By making the sounds bigger, you can hear and feel the variations better.
Ms Sonu Goel is a professionally acclaimed certified ESL trainer from British Council having 15 years of strong background for teaching English language in both online and physical classes. She is dedicated to the teaching of English in an interactive and practical way, whereby learners feel enriched with knowledge and experience the language hands-on. She uses creative ideas and aids to let the learning happen as organically and efficiently as possible. Ms Goel has travelled various European countries and experienced an array of cultures and linguistic skills for the English language.