Acing vowel sounds for Speech clarity

“I fill I do nut feet the beal. These rul is nut fur me.”

A puzzled look from your listener can leave you, all frustrated. You might end up repeating yourself a number of times to be understood.

 “I feel I do not fit the bill. This role is not for me.” – is what you meant.

For learners from wide-ranging nationalities, it is natural to have some effect of their first language on any new language they attempt to speak.

Let us talk about one of the most important elements of speech clarity in English – Sounds, more so Vowel sounds.

Vowels have sounds that are articulated with no obstruction in the mouth. They are formed by moving the tongue and lips to different positions.

Try pronouncing the vowel letters A, E, I, O, U, and you will notice that no part of your mouth touches another.

Enunciating these vowel sounds could be tricky for new learners. Further, not being able to distinguish a long vowel sound from a short one can pose a big challenge to speech clarity.

Here are four rules of vowel articulation that will help you get these sounds right.

  1. When a word or a syllable ends in a consonant and has only a single vowel, that vowel is short.

e.g., Trend, Fix, Ping

  1. When a word ends in e, the e is silent, and the vowel that comes before it is long.

e.g., File, Core, Move

  1. When a syllable has two vowels next to each other, the first one is long and the second short.

e.g., Grow, Pain point

  1. When a syllable ends in one vowel, that vowel is usually long.

e.g., U/nit, O/pen, Pa/per, Lo/gic

Where there are rules, there are also exceptions and the English language has an abundance of it. Rules do help understand patterns but paying attention to the speaking style of native speakers of the language can help you in a bigger way.

Also, understand that long vowel sounds are NOT longer versions of short vowel sounds. They are altogether different sets of sounds.

A good way to ace long and short vowel sounds is by practicing the following:

a) Minimal pairs     

   Reach Rich Peach Pitch
Heat Hit Seat Sit
Code   Cod Note Not
 Hope  Hop Rate Rat
 Green  Grin Mantle Mental
Gate Get Tape Tap
Late  Let Fail Fell
Sale Sell Take Tech
Fate Fat Quiet Quit
Hide  Hid Grime Grim
Gage  Gag Wage Wag
Heed Head Drew Draw
Boot  Bought Cool Call


b) Tongue twisters

  • When you write a copy, you have the right to Copywrite.
  • A pessimistic pest exists amidst us.
  • Black background, brown background, black background
  • Dimensional analysis
  • Dust is a disk’s worst enemy.
  • Eddie edited it.
  • An excited executioner exercised his exercising powers excessively.
  • Four furious financers fought for the phone.
  • They threw three theories.
  • Practice makes perfect and perfect needs practice. I am perfectly practiced and practically perfect.
  • If you notice this notice, you will notice that this notice is not worth noticing.

c) Shadow reading

Shadow reading is a language learning technique, that helps improve your intonation and pronunciation independently.

In this technique, you watch a video or listen to an audio of a speech sample of native speakers and repeat what they say in real-time.

You can start by listening to monologues from News channels, and gradually move to dialogue/conversation-based speech from TV shows or movies.

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