Hey everyone, welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 346. And today you will be practicing with me an intensive vowel drill or vowel practice.
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of the InFluency Podcast. So, you know me, I like hard things. I like challenges, especially when it comes to pronunciation. And sometimes I like to challenge you, which is exactly what I’m going to do today. Because sometimes we will have beautiful conversations here, you know, we’ll talk about feelings, and we’ll talk about vocabulary and strategies. And sometimes we’re going to work hard, and that is what’s expecting you today.
So wait, wait, don’t skip this episode just yet. I promise it’s a lot of fun because challenge is also fun when it comes to pronunciation, I promise. Also remember that there is a video version for this episode, so if it’s a little challenging for you while we’re just talking on the podcast, then you can always go back and watch it on video as well.
So what are we going to do today? Today, we are going to practice different vowel sounds. We’re going to compare similar words. And the only thing that is different between those words is one vowel sound. And we’re going to go through many of those words. So we’re going to take the same word and change one vowel every time, and every time it’s going to be a different word. Sounds confusing? Maybe, but it’s not, really.
So we’re only going to be playing with the placement of our tongues to change the vowel sound, and also the opening of the mouth and the position of the lips. But we will be making small changes: sheep – ship, bed – bad, cap – cup. And by making those small changes, you will be able to create new words. And sometimes maybe even make distinctions that you haven’t made before.
So, I hope you are excited about this, whether you’re a beginner or you have a lot of experience practicing pronunciation, you are going to really enjoy this one, I believe, I hope. So let’s get started.
And remember that practice is key, and listening is key. And even if it’s hard for you to make that distinction when pronouncing those words, just pay attention to how they sound. Cause remember, if you can’t hear it, you can’t make it. So you can actually turn it into a listening exercise, making sure that you hear the differences between the words.
And that is already going to be a lot, and a huge improvement. Okay? And if you can actually follow me and repeat those words, even better. All right, so let’s dive in into our intensive vowel practice.
leak – lick – lack. lack – luck – lock. Luke – look – lock. Do you sometimes feel like you’re saying one word, but it sounds like another word? The reason for that could be because of mispronunciation of vowels.
In American English, there are about 16 vowel sounds, sometimes more, depending on the dialect. And in many other languages, there are a lot less – 5, 6, 7, 8. What happens when a speaker of a language that has five vowel sounds wants to speak English? Those 16 different vowels end up merging into the five-vowel-sound categories that the speaker generally uses. So when learning another language, especially pronunciation, one of the things that you wanna focus on is understanding the vowel sounds in the language.
In this video, we are going to map out the vowel sounds of American English, and we’re going to do that by practicing similar words that the only thing that is different between those words is the vowel sounds. These are called minimal pairs – words that are exactly the same, except for one sound, like ‘sheep’ and ‘ship’, ‘bed’ and ‘bad’. I actually have an entire masterclass about vowels in English that I’m going to link below if you want to have a better understanding of the different vowels.
But in short, I want to explain something about vowel sounds. You have front vowels and back vowels. Front vowels are produced when the tongue rolls forward. Back vowels are produced when the tongue pulls back. You have closed vowels and open vowels. And that happens if your jaw is closed or open. So, we are going to go through all the vowels, and you’ll see how the mouth changes as we pronounce those words.
We’re going to start with front vowels and we’re going to use a word that starts with a B and ends with a T, and in the middle, there is the vowel that we are changing. So, let’s begin with front vowels. And, we’re going to start with a high vowel sound. That means that the tongue rolls forward to produce that sound. /i:/ – beat.
Now, if we lower the tongue a little bit, we will get to ‘bit’, ‘bit’. beat – bit. And as we drop the jaw a little bit more, we get to ‘bet’, ‘bet’. And from here, if we pronounce it as a diphthong, we will get ‘bait’, ‘bait’. And if we lower the jaw a bit more, we will say ‘bat’, ‘bat’. And if at that place, we will pronounce a diphthong, a changing vowel, what we will get is ‘bite’, ‘bite’.
Let’s do it again: beat, bit, bet, bait, bat, bite. All front vowels. Let’s do it again. beat, bit, bet, bait, bat, bite.
Let’s move to the back. Back vowels. The high back vowel is a tense /u:/ sound, /u:/. boot, boot. Just like the tense /i:/, ‘beat’, this sound is all the way in the back. boot. beat – boot. Now just like we have the tense /i:/, ‘beat’, and then the lax /ɪ/ – bit, here, as well, we have the tense /u:/ – ‘boot’, and the lax /ʊ/. Here, we have to change something, because we don’t have /bʊt/, but we have ‘book’. boot – book. boot – book.
And then, if we go down a little bit, lower the tongue, open the mouth, we get to the /oʊ/ as in ‘go’ – boat, boat. boot, book, boat, back to the T. And then if we drop the jaw and relax the tongue at the back – ‘bought’. boot, book, boat, bought. Let’s do it again. boot, book, boat, bought. So, we talked about the front vowels, we talked about the back vowels. What about the middle?
In the middle, we don’t have a lot of vowel sounds, but we do have the /ʌ/ as in ‘cup’, which is also a stressed schwa. A schwa is a reduced vowel – /ə/, and a ‘cup’ is /ʌ/ – but, but.
Next to the schwa, there is the ‘stir’ sound that in American English, it is always associated with the R sound. So we can try it. Burt, Burt. but – Bert. And also, there are actually two additional diphthongs in English: the /æʊ/ as in ‘now’ – bow, bow; and the /ɔɪ/ as in ‘toy’ – boy, boy. bow – boy.
That’s it. We covered all the vowel sounds in American English. Now, let’s review them again without stopping. Ready? Let’s go. We’re going to start with front vowels. beat, bit, bet, bait, bat, bite, bow. Central vowels: but, Burt. Back vowels: boot, book, boat, boy, bought.
Let’s do the same with a word that starts with an L and ends with a K sound. leak – high front vowel, /i:/. lick – lax /ɪ/. ‘lek’ – that’s the /ɛ/ sound, it’s not a real word, but we’re still going to say it. But we do have ‘lake’ – /eɪ/ as in ‘day’. lack. loud, we have to cheat a little bit. And then /aɪ/ – ‘like’. Central vowels. luck. lurk – that’s the ‘stir’. Luke, tense /u:/, Luke. look – lax /ʊ/. low – /oʊ/ as in ‘go’. oy, loy. /ɑ/ – lock.
Now we’re going to practice a shorter sequence of those words. Let’s go. leak, lick, lack. leak, lick, lack. lack, luck, lock. lack, luck, lock. Luke, look, lock. Luke, look, lock.
Let’s try another word. teak, tick, tech, tack. teak, tick, tech, tack. teak, tick, tech, tack.
Front Vowels: tack, tuck, talk. Front, center, back: tack, tuck, talk. tack, tuck, talk.
two, took, toke, talk. two, took, toke, talk. two, took, toke, talk.
And one final one. bean, been, Ben, ban. bean, bin, Ben, ban.
Now let me ask you this, can you come up with more sequences like these where it’s basically the same word except for one vowel sound and that changes the entire meaning? Write them down in the comments below.
Now, if you like this type of exercise, then you are probably going to love my Sprints. I have a few Sprints on my channel, so I’m going to link to them in the description below. I also have a free mini training called The Sprint Rookie, where you get three Sprints, and Sprints are drills designed to help you boost your pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary. Where you improve those elements through intentional repetition, which is what we did right now. It’s absolutely free and you can get it by clicking the link below and you will get lifetime access to those three Sprints and scripts.
All right. Thank you so much. I hope you enjoyed this vowel practice. And I cannot wait to see your examples in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this video, make sure to like it and subscribe. And you can also follow me on social media where I share daily pronunciation and confidence tips. Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye everyone.