When you are learning English (or any other language), you will be presented with sounds that your native language does not have. Learning to make those sounds and therefore being able to pronounce the words the best way possible is one of the biggest challenges an English learner will face during their learning process. In this blog post, we will dive into the basics of pronunciation. Let’s learn more about consonants and vowels, as well as sounds and letters in English. Keep reading for tips and exercises!
Well, let’s begin with the alphabet. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Five of them are vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and 21 are consonants (B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z). However, there are more than 40 vowel and consonant sounds in English. In some words, the number of letters is the same as the number of sounds. Here are two examples:
- Red: 3 letters, 3 sounds
- Basket: 6 letters, 6 sounds
That doesn’t happen with all the words, though. The number of sounds is different from the number of letters. Take a look at these examples:
- Green: the “ee” is only one sound, so there are 5 letters and 4 sounds in this word.
- Break: the “ea” is one sound only, so there are 5 letters and 4 sounds in this word.
In some words there are silent letters, which are letters with no sound. One example is the word listen, where “t” is silent. In this case, we have 6 letters and 5 sounds.
There are also words where one letter is two sounds. For example, the word fix. The letter x represents two sounds: k+s. That sound is important and it’s how I would explain it to a student asking how to pronounce fix.
Another thing that can confuse English learners is when two words have the same spelling but different pronunciations. That happens with the words read in the present tense and read in the past tense. Also, some words have the same pronunciation but different spellings. That’s the case with know and no. You can learn more about words like this with our post about homophones.
Practice English pronunciation with four exercises
Here are 4 different English pronunciation exercises for you to practice. You will work with some pronunciation practice words in all exercises. We hope you enjoy doing these!
Exercise 1 – Sounds and letters practice
Exercise 2 – Speaking practice
You must use the Chrome web browser in order for this activity to work. You must also give the website permission to use your microphone. This can be found if you click the 🔒 symbol to the left of the URL address bar.
Exercise 3 – Listening practice
Exercise 4 – Rhyming practice
Great online resources to help you pronounce any word
Whenever you are not sure about the pronunciation of a word, there are a few resources you can use to figure it out. Let’s check out some English pronunciation tips. You can type “pronunciation english [the word you want]” into Google and the first result that will appear is the pronunciation of that word for you to hear. You can even choose to hear it the American way or the British way. You can also hear it slow, which can definitely help you learn how to pronounce the word.
Another resource is YouTube. And that’s good for anything, really. Recently, I wanted to know how to pronounce the last name of a person I was going to have a meeting with. It was the first time we were going to talk and I wanted to get her last name right. So, I searched on YouTube and found an interview with a person that had the same last name! You can also look for the word you want next to “English pronunciation youtube” to find videos about pronunciation.
Don’t worry if it’s difficult for you to pronounce the words “world” and “word”. I still struggle with this! Also, you don’t have to pronounce all the words perfectly in order to be understood. We truly hope this blog post about English pronunciation tips has been helpful to you, though. See you next time!