Accent training exercises: Learn vowel sounds with the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

Categories English By JadePosted on Format Film
Accent training exercises: Learn vowel sounds with the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

The key to improving your English pronunciation is vowel pronunciation. In this pronunciation lesson, you’ll learn the vowels of English through the IPA — the International Phonetic Alphabet. I will teach you four of the vowel sounds in English: /ɪ/ as in ship, /I:/ as in sheep, /ʊ/ as in cook, and /u:/ as in blue. We will compare and contrast these vowel phonemes in different practical exercises so that you can hear and remember them. This lesson is both for beginners who are completely new to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as well as for advanced learners who could benefit from some revision of the English vowel sounds to improve their clarity and accent.

If you’re ready to learn all the sounds of English and take your accent to the next level, take my Clear Speech course:


Hi, everyone. A quick message before we get started on today’s lesson. When you’re speaking English, are you constantly getting misunderstood? Are people asking you to repeat yourself a lot? Or perhaps are they looking at you with a confused face, perhaps pretending they know what you’re saying when really they don’t understand? If your answer is yes and you’re at that stage where you already know English and you can communicate, the problem is nobody else understands you, then I really want you to watch until the end of this lesson because I’m going to tell you about my Clear Accent Training Course. So, stay watching until the end of the lesson, and I’ll tell you how you can speak clearly and get over that stage of being misunderstood and all the frustrations that come with it.

Hi, everyone. In this lesson I’m going to teach you four English vowels, and I’m going to teach you those vowels in IPA. I’ll teach you those symbols. When I was learning IPA it took me the longest time to remember the sounds and to associate them with the symbols. It actually took years; a really long time. So I’m not sure… I’m not sure if I was really slow to learn this or it’s… For some people it’s easier than others, but anyway, this lesson comes from what helps me to learn, which is when I practiced rather than just try to memorize, it’s when I get to experience the different sounds and that way it sticks in my memory and that way I know. And another thing is we’re only looking at four sounds because we don’t want: „Ah! Ah!” overwhelm, confusion. And we’re looking at four sounds because these four sounds are related, and when we learn them we learn them in comparison to the other sounds.

So here they are: „I:”, „I”, „?”, „U:”. So you can do this along with me while you’re watching the video. „I:”, „I”, „?”, „U:”. Here’s a drawing of a tongue. What happens when we make these four sounds is that our tongue moves in position… The tongue height changes in position and moves backwards from one sound to the other. Now, you might need to practice this many times and get used to the feeling of… See if you can put your awareness and your concentration on the shape of your tongue, and feel it as it moves back through the sounds. „I:”, „I”, „?”, „U:”. Do that enough times so that you can feel your tongue moving, and that’s how you know they’re related. We can also go backwards the other way, we can go: „U:”, „?”, „I”, „I:”. That’s harder for me; I had to think about it. Let’s look now at the lip shapes when we make these sounds. For I:, I’ve got an English mouth so I don’t actually move that much, but when I make these sounds I go from the widest lips position to the most rounded lips position. „I:”, „I”, „?”, „U:”. So, „U:” you can see is more rounded, and I start in the widest position: „I:”. Depending on who’s teaching you, who you’re looking at, depending on how wide their lips are, how big their mouth is, it’s easier to see. But I’ve got a small English mouth, so you can’t really see it that well on me. So, practice that, going backwards and forwards. Look in a mirror as well, and that way you can see how your lip shape changes when you make the sounds.

Okay, here we have two columns, these are called minimal pairs. This is for „I:”, this is for „I”. The words are the same, except the vowel has changed. We have: „beet”, „I:”, „I:”, and then we have: „bit”. So the only difference is the vowel. „Beet”, „bit”. And the same through the rest of the list. „Sheep”, „ship”; „deep”, „dip”; „feet”, „fit”; „cheap”, „chip”; „piece”, „piss”; „he’ll”, „hill”. When we do the minimal pairs, we get to feel in our mouths and also we get to contrast the two sounds. It’s helpful when we’re learning IPA. But the problem is not all the sounds have pairs of words for us to repeat and to memorize.

Let’s look at this column now. In this column we’re comparing the sounds for „?” and „U:”. […]