American English Spelling & Pronunciation

Do you ever feel like the English spelling system does not match the sounds of spoken American English? It seems that way doesn’t it?

English spelling is the way that words are written using the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet. Since English is not a phonetic language there is not always a one-on-one relationship between the letters in the English alphabet and spoken sounds.

This lack of sound spelling correspondence makes English a very difficult language to pronounce. Let’s look at some sound-spelling situations that are frequently confusing to non-native speakers of American English. We’ll start with the letter s.

When you are speaking English the letter s can represent several different sounds depending on its location within a word.

In the words simple and same the s sounds like /s/. This is what most non-native speakers expect. The /s/ is a voiceless sound

In the words resign and design the s sounds like /z/. The letter s is often pronounced as /z/ when it occurs between vowels. The /z/ is a voiced sound.

In the words leisure and pleasure the s sounds like /ʒ/. This is also a voiced sound. The s often sounds like /ʒ/ before a schwa vowel sound.

The fact that the letter s is pronounced three different ways can be very confusing when you are trying to pronounce English correctly!

One way to improve your pronunciation is to be aware of the variety of sounds that some letters can have.

The best way to do this is to listen attentively when American English speakers are talking. Try to increase your awareness of sounds and spelling patterns. Enhanced listening skills are one of the first steps in improving your American English pronunciation.