Here’s a great question that I received from one of my accent reduction clients this week.
Q: I have trouble pronouncing words that contain groups of consonants. Why is this and what can I do to change this?
A: American English has lots of consonant clusters, groups of 2 or 3 consonants that occur together with no vowels in between. Consonant clusters can occur at the beginning of words or at the end of words.
While triple consonant clusters are fairly common in American English, they are not present in other languages such as Spanish or Japanese.
Clusters with three consonants can be difficult even for native English speakers to pronounce. In order to make these easier to say, native speakers will sometimes delete one of the sounds. This happens most often when the consonant in the middle of a cluster is a /t/, /k/ or /th/ sound.
Here are a few examples:
- In the word tests many Americans delete the /t/and say tess.
- In the word tourists /t/ many Americans delete the /t/ and say touriss.
- In the word months many Americans delete the /h/ and say monts.
- In the word asked Americans delete the /k/ and say ast.
- In the word facts Americans delete the /t/ and say fax.
Listen to how native speakers say these and other words with consonant clusters. If you hear them delete a consonant, you can do that too.
Teaching Pronunciation: A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages