American English Spelling Doesn’t Help Pronunciation
As an accent reduction coach who works with many international professionals, I understand that one of the most confusing aspects of American English is the lack of correspondence between letters and sounds.
Simply said, you can’t always predict the correct pronunciation of a word, based on the way it’s spelled.
Let me explain….
You Have the Ability to Say Sounds Correctly
If you’re like most people, you have the ability to say American vowel and consonant sounds correctly.
You may need some guidance for articulating some sounds including:
- The TH sounds
- The American R
- The /ae/ as in Black vowel sound
- The voiced /z/ sound
But with guidance and practice you can learn to articulate these sounds. I see people do this every week in my programs.
Which Sound Should You Use?
However, my clients tell me (and it’s absolutely true) that they don’t always know which sound to use. They tell me~
Susan, I knew how to say that sound. I just didn’t know that I should use it in that particular word.
This happens all the time in words such as process, capable, worry & trophy. People who weren’t born here in the US often use the wrong vowel sounds when they say these words.
That makes the words difficult for native speakers to understand.
American English Has 15 Vowel Sounds
Most sources agree that American English has 15 vowel sounds. Yes, the 5 vowel letters make 15 sounds. This may vary from region to region.
For example, the letter A can sound like:
- /ae/ as in Black
- /ey/ as in Gray
- /ɑ/ as in Olive
- or it can have a reduced schwa sound /ə/
If you don’t know which sound to use…..you’ll very likely make pronunciation errors that will confuse your listeners. In fact, my accent reduction clients tell me that knowing which vowel sound to use is one of the hardest things to learn about American English pronunciation.
American Pronunciation Training
When I work with my clients, one of the first things I do is teach them the correct vowel sounds to use in their high usage vocabulary.
Understanding which sounds to use and stress, become the foundation of their accent reduction training program. ✔
To find out more about how accent reduction coaching can help YOU speak American English more clearly check out these FAQ’s on my Accent Reduction Coaching Website.
P.S. The tool that I use to teach vowel sounds is called the Color Vowel Chart. This chart was developed by a couple of very innovative American English pronunciation teachers.
You can check out the interactive online version of the Color Vowel Chart by following this link The Color Vowel Chart. People who want to learn the North American vowel sounds will really appreciate this tool!