It’s back to school time and that means new school supplies, new teachers, and often new school rules. It can be frustrating for us and our kids when different teachers have different rules. Some are easy to remember and some can be more of a challenge, but following the rules is a key to a pleasant school experience.
Languages have their own set of rules, too, and failing to follow those rules can make communication frustrating and sometimes unsuccessful. I find that my clients sometimes know more grammar rules of English than I do, but they have not been taught the American pronunciation rules that they need.
You can’t follow a rule that you don’t know about, right? So, today I decided to share with you three of the most common American pronunciation rules that are hard for non-native speakers. I’ll show you the most common mistake or “rule-breaker” and then explain how to change it.
1. Saying an S sound instead of a Z sound
Many non-native speakers use an s sound for a z sound. S and Z use the exact same tongue and mouth shape; the difference is in the voicing. The S sound is produced without the voice, but the Z sound requires the voice. To feel the difference, put your hand on your throat and try saying S-s-s-s. You should not feel anything. Now try saying Z-z-z-z. You should feel a vibration in your throat. Practice saying words like Sue and zoo, and buzz and bus.
2. Using Long E and Short I interchangably
These two vowels are often substituted one for the other, but doing so can change the meaning of the word. The long E is made by pulling the lips back into a smile. This is the vowel in the sentence: Meet me on Green Street. The short I, on the other hand, is made by keeping your tongue flat on the bottom of your mouth. Open it just a little and say ” ih”, as in Give the tip to him on the ship.
3. Saying a W instead of a V sound
The W sound is made by rounding the lips and saying “ooh-uh”. This is the sound that begins words like water, where, and watch but this is not the sound we want to make when saying words like vacation or violin. The V sound is made by lightly placing the top teeth on the lower lip, turning on the voice and blowing. Practice each sound separately, then try saying: Victor’s watch, winter vacation, and wash the vegetables.
Were those tips helpful? I’ll be giving away American pronunciation tips like that and many more on my free webinar coming up in two weeks. Have you reserved your spot yet? Seats are going quickly, so reserve your space now.
- 9/8/2011 1:05 PM Pedro Alvarez wrote:
1. Even if you train your students to produce both /s/ and /z/, they will have problems wrt when to produce /s/ and /z/.There are some heuristics:
1. plurals, possessives and corresponding assimilation. Exceptions in this category, if any.
2. There is a heuristic that many ESL speakers have learned: /s/ in noun, but /z/ in verb (cf. use, advice, etc). However, this heuristic fails in words: crease, increase, decrease, lease, release, cease, decease (cf. disease), fleece, etc.