English Vowel Sounds – Pronunciation Training

Lesson Overview

Improve your pronunciation and relax your accent by practising your English vowel sounds with me! I’ll teach you to pronounce English vowel sounds, using the IPA (The International Phonetic Alphabet).

(Unfortunately) English is not a phonetic language which means that there is more than one way to pronounce English vowel letters). Learning to use the IPA will help you to pronounce English words correctly, even if you have never heard them before! Come and practise with me!


Video Transcript
Section 1
Right now, we are going to study English vowel sounds! Why? Because you can get yourself into a lot of trouble by using the wrong vowel sound in English words… so we need to fix that! Right?

OK, If you’ve watched my IPA introduction video, then you will know exactly what all these symbols mean. This is the International Phonetic Alphabet and I use it a lot when I’m teaching pronunciation to my English students.

If you don’t know what they are, that’s okay! You just need to watch the video up there, first. then you can watch this one. That video will make this video much easier to understand.

Okay, so these are all the English vowel sounds. These other ones are called diphthongs, which are also vowel sounds  but there’s another video that I’ve made especially about diphthong sounds. You can watch it here.

So there are all of these these vowels sounds but only 5 English vowel letters – A, E, I, O, U… How does that work?

Let’s use the letter ‘E’ as an example. When you see the letter ‘E’ in an English word, it can be pronounced in a few different ways:

Short ‘e’ as in egg.
Long ‘eee’ as in ‘she‘.
Long with an accent, as in ‘café‘.
Or the lazy ‘schwa’ sound. This sound is so lazy, ‘uh’ like ‘eleven, eleven’. 

i:

seat

ɪ

sit

ʊ

book

u:

boot

e

left

ə

teacher

ɜ:

her

ɔ:

door

æ

cat

ʌ

cup

ɑ:

far

ɒ

on

So let’s look at this group of English sounds. Remember that they’re sounds, not English letters. Now let’s look at the first two sounds:

/i:/ and /ɪ/

These sounds cause a few problems for English learners. /i:/ and /ɪ/

Let’s look at this example:

‘Beach’

It has the long vowel sound in this word. If you mispronounce this long vowel sound and use the short /i:/  sound, you’ll say ‘bitch’ – that’s a rude word!

Here’s another example:

‘Sheet’

It uses the long vowel sound but if you accidentally use the short /ɪ/ vowel sound, you’ll say ‘shit’. That is also a really rude word!

So long vowel sounds and short vowel sounds are important in English.  The short sound is /ɪ/ /ɪ/

‘Hit’
‘Sing

‘Bit’
Which’
‘Disc’

The long vowel sound is /i:/ 

Meat’
Eat’
‘Beach’
‘Sheet’
‘Believe’

Next, we have the vowel sound /ʊ/

You’ll hear that in words like:

‘Book’
‘Cook’
‘Sugar’

And then we have the longer sound /u:/ 

You’ll hear this sound in words like:

‘You
‘to
Shoe
Who’
‘Computer’

Let’s move on. It’s also easy to confuse the /ɪ/ vowel sound with the short /e/ vowel sound. /e/ /e/

Egg’
‘Ten’
‘Left’
Excellent’

Below that, we have /æ/ /æ/

You’ll hear this sound in words like:

‘Cap’
‘Flat’
‘Compact’
‘That’

Let’s go through the middle now. Next we have my favourite sound. It’s the laziest sound in English. Its also the most commonly heard sound in English! You’ll hear it a lot. /ə/ /ə/

‘Today’
‘Teacher’
‘The’
‘Around’

Then there’s /ɜ:/ /ɜ:/ 

As in:

‘Her
‘Word’
‘First’
‘Work’
‘Bird’

Notice that the same English sound can be used for all of those different letters? In that example, all the words ‘her’, ‘work’ and ‘first’ use different letters but make the same sound. That’s why learning the IPA is going to help you pronounce English words better!

Then, we have the /ɔ:/ sound /ɔ:/

You can hear this word pronounced in:

Or
‘Four
‘Bought’
‘Perform’
‘Saw

Underneath we move from the /æ/ sound to /ʌ/ /ʌ/

You can hear this sound in words like:

‘Cup’
But
Butter’
‘Truck’

Then, there’s the /ɑ:/ sound. /ɑ:/  /ɑ:/

‘Far
‘Part’
‘Heart’

Then, we have the /ɒ/ sound /ɒ/ /ɒ/

You can hear this sound in:

‘Not’
On’
‘Log’
‘God’
‘Forgot’

So that’s it for English vowel pronunciation today!

Make sure you subscribe to my channel down here so that you can get my next video which is all about English vowel sound pronunciations with diphthongs. But right now I want you to go to my website and download the free practice worksheet that I’ve made just for this video lesson, so you can practice, practice, practice!

The link to that worksheet is right in the comments section, just down here or you can go to my website here.

See you next time!

Links mentioned in the video

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