Sunday, 12 November 2017

Pronunciation exercises for EAL students - no. 8

'Uckly' sounds ugly

Some of my phonetics students tend to replace the consonant sequences /-gl-/, /-gn-/ and /-gr-/ by their partners /-kl-/, /-kn-/ and /-kr-/.
  1. He thinks he's ugly but he's not.
  2. They live in an ugly block of flats.
  3. Jealousy is an ugly emotion.
  4. It's a really ugly picture of me.
  5. Indoctrination is such an ugly word.
  6. The couple is in an ugly fight over who will get the children.
  7. An igloo is a house made from blocks of hard snow or ice.
  8. The house is shaped like a gigantic igloo.
  9. The Inuit word 'igloo' means house.
  10. The evening sky was still aglow.
  11. Her face was aglow with happiness.
  12. The title of Tracey Peterson's book is Hearts Aglow
  13. The candle ignited the plastic. 
  14. These were the events that ignited the war in Europe.
  15. The compound ignites at 450 degrees Celsius.
  16. You can’t ignore the fact that many criminals never go to prison.
  17. The phone rang but they ignored it.
  18. John rudely ignored the question.
  19. Just ignore him and he'll stop pestering you.
  20. The waiter totally ignored Glen.   

Newspaper article headline

The renowned German daily FAZ published an article on business English on November 4th this year bearing this headline:

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Pronunciation exercises for EAL students - no. 7

This blog is about word-final /k/ and /g/ and pre-fortis clipping.
  1. I was glad to see the back of him.
  2. Can you see anything in my bag?
  3. D’you see the brick over there?
  4. A brig is a ship with two masts.
  5. I can see you through a crack in the door.
  6. What a massive crag this is.
  7. You don’t have to dig very deep to find out his name is Dick.
  8. The duck on the river started quacking.
  9. She dug around in her bag for some coins.
  10. Many people lack adequate arrangements.
  11. Does Britain still lag behind the rest of Europe?
  12. Brazil is in a different league.
  13. The explosion was caused by a gas leak.
  14. Have a look at the menu and take your pick.
  15. It’s the best pig
  16. I have a snack in the basket.
  17. The snag is that the job is not very well paid.
  18. Can you pass me a tack, I want to fasten my name tag to the board.
  19. You’ve got to wear a name tag in our company.
  20. The wick has to be trimmed.
  21. The wig has to be trimmed.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Pronunciation exercises for EAL students - no. 6

Today's blog contains practice sentences with word-final /t/ and /d/. In let the /e/ is shorter than in led, and in lent the /n/ is shorter than in lend. The same shortening applies to the /l/ in felt as opposed to felled. Here you go!
  1. The new rate was a shock.
  2. The new raid was a shock.
  3. The police led the criminal out of the shop.
  4. The police let the criminal out of the shop.
  5. D'you know how to spell tight?
  6. D'you know how to spell tide?
  7. Our nanny hit the baby.
  8. Our nanny hid the baby.
  9. She sent me a lovely card.
  10. She sent me a lovely cart.
  11. I know she can ride well.
  12. I know she can write well.
  13. There's a drunk outside the house.
  14. I don't like the sight of it.
  15. Toddlers quickly learn bad words.
  16. After he had felled the tree, he felt much better.
  17. When you come round the bend slow down.
  18. I'm particularly fond of the Times font.
  19. She's hard on the outside, but she's got a heart of gold.
  20. Is it Wates Grove or Wades Grove?

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Pronunciation exercises for EAL students - no. 5

The following sentences contain words with word-final voiced or voiceless bilabial plosives, i.e. /p/ and /b/ as in lap - lab. Make sure the vowel in front of /p/ is shorter than in front of /b/. If the plosives are preceded by a sonorant, it's the latter which is shortened if /p/ follows.

  1. The zoo assistant went over to the pub.
  2. The zoo assistant went over to the pup.
  3. Please, pass me the robe.
  4. Please, pass me the rope.
  5. The cat was sitting in my lab.
  6. The cat was sitting in my lap.
  7. This tribe is harmless.
  8. I'm not going to watch the tripe that's on TV:.
  9. There's a mop around the corner.
  10. There's a mob around the corner.
  11. Rip the flesh from the rib-cage.
  12. The cop was young and eager to learn.
  13. The cob was young and eager to learn.
  14. I take a nap every afternoon.
  15. The police will nab you for speeding.
  16. He left his cap in a cab.
  17. Watch out or I give you a bop on the nose.
  18. At last I’m making a few bob.
  19. I'll have the crab cake, please.
  20. I don't believe all that crap.
  21. It's not that simple.
  22. The dove is a symbol of peace.
  23. I've prepared an apple crumble.
  24. Be careful or you'll crumple to the ground.
  25. A tulip bulb is not a seed.
  26. He drank the whiskey in one gulp. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Interdental ell

I must admit it never occurred to me that there are people who stick their tongue tip out when they pronounce an ell. Browsing my video clips I found a short recording of a speech by Ed Miliband from 2011.

Watch his tongue as he pronounces the words "Labour" in the phrase "Labour's plan for Britain's future" and "Let's" in "Let's make it happen together". The /p/ of "plan" seems to block an interdental articulation.The film lags a bit behind the sound.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Pronunciation exercises for EAL students - no. 4

My previous blog on exercises (see here) was about abutting plosives such as /tt/ or /gg/, which share both voicing and place of articulation. In the present blog I'd like to introduce a bit of a variation: the place of articulation remains identical but one of the plosives is voiceless while the other is voiced or vice versa. So we get /pb/, /td/, /kg/, /bp/, /dt/, and /gk/. What is the usual release behaviour here?
Try this sentence: "How can I make my own lip balm?" Do you release the /p/ in lip? My suggestions is - don't! Unless, of course, it's a situation in which you're required to speak very clearly, for example, when there's a lot of ambient noise or your interlocutor is hard of hearing.

Basically the release behaviour is the same as in the case of /pp/, /bb/, etc. BUT make sure that you observe the feature called pre-fortis clipping. Compare
  1. This is a portable lock cabin.
  2. This is a portable log cabin.
 You neither release lock or log audibly, but the vowel in front of /k/ (= the fortis plosive) is shorter (i.e. is clipped in its duration) than the vowel in front of /g/ (= the lenis plosive).

Here are a few sentences for you to practise:
lock gate
  1. Mad TV broadcasts international music.
  2. Matt Damon is a famous American actor.
  3. The sun beat down over the desert.
  4. A bead tool is a cutting tool to make beads.
  5. This is the sad truth about double standards.
  6. She sat down in the couch next to me.
  7. You must check the position of your lap belt.
  8. We're going to celebrate her birthday at the lab party.
  9. Rip bullets penetrate deep into the object.
  10. Players will benefit from a rib protector.
  11. To raise and lower boats you need a lock with two lock gates.
  12. Where can I buy a portable log cabin?
  13. I bought a back glitter cover for my iPhone.
  14. It's a bag company where fashion meets function.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The sound /l/ in your mouth - but how?

I'm shore (sorry: sure) you can pronounce the sound /l/ without difficulty, but do you know exactly what your tongue does when it's supposed to pronounce the sound? Did you know that one side of your tongue is bent downwards? The question of existential importance is this: Which side is it you bend downwards? Are you a right-bender or a left-bender?
Here's an answer to this tormenting question.
  1. Articulate an ell, i.e. /l/.
  2. While doing this, freeze your tongue position; don't move it!
  3. Now inhale the air.
  4. Which side of your tongue gets cold?
  5. If it's the left side, you're a left-bender, otherwise a right-bender.
There you are!
Krautus locutus - causa finita!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Pronunciation exercises for EAL students - no. 3

This third blog with exercises is on releases again, but this time it's about
identical plosive sequences.
When you say the sentence "he hit two cars", do you pronounce the phrase "hit two" like this: [hɪth thuː]? Or d'you prefer to say [hɪt thuː]? Well, usually the first /t/ is not released, i.e. you as a listener do not hear the puff of air when the speaker releases the closure, and you as a speaker silently manoeuvre from the word-final /t/ of hit to the initial /t/ of two.
Imagine you were to say the admittedly silly sentence "the two-toed toad took the two other toads to the top" and you were to aspirate each and every /t/ or /d/. What a 'spitting event' this would be! Listeners - put up your umbrellas!
"Two T's"; photo credit:

Identical plosives are consonants that share both place of articulation and voicing:
/-pp-/, /-bb-/, /-tt-/, /-dd-/, /-kk-/ and /-gg-/. If there's no speech pause between such a pair or no special semantic reason nor any reason why your speech should be very articulate, then do not release the first plosive audibly.
Coming back to the phrase "hit two", you form the approach stage of the first /t/, make an extra long hold stage - this will provide the listener with the cue that there are theoretically two t-sounds -, and then release the closure: [hɪt:huː].

Ready, steady, go!
  1. Stop prying eyes from looking at your screen.
  2. Ripe peaches don't belong in the fridge.
  3. Stop pushing him to his limits.
  4. This is a list of top products for fun in the sun.
  5. Try our kitchen sink and tap pack deals.
  6. This neutral coloured lip pencil creates fuller lips.
  7. Heat the fluid in a lab beaker.
  8. Grab both ends of the rope.
  9. We tested models from the biggest hob brands.
  10. Senator Bob Brown held a press conference.
  11. These pub bar stools are manufactured with a fine chestnut finish.
  12. The rib belt provides even compression of the rib cage.
  13. Repeat this eight times.
  14.  The story is a bit too close to reality.
  15. While driving drunk he hit two cars.
  16. Do you allow your cat to go outdoors?
  17. Red deer are the largest wild mammal in Britain.
  18. One-third of the world's land mass is an arid desert.
  19. She tried on a bridesmaid dress.
  20. The bread dough has to be rolled out.
  21. It's an attractive backyard design.
  22. With a gas grill, the lid down will hold in heat.
  23. Rabies is also called 'mad dog disease'.
  24. Why is it a sad day for you?
  25. Her black cat is the most wonderful thing in her life.
  26. I'm looking for a black car seat cover.
  27. This course in rock climbing is for beginners.
  28. Unfortunately, I forgot the lock code.
  29. The dock connector was introduced with the latest generation of iPods.
  30. Many people lack confidence in the present administration.
  31. Mike Clark is a well-known photographer.
  32. A single pack contains 20 cigarettes.
  33. A big game hunter has been trampled to death by an elephant.
  34. Dog gifts are something no pet owner can resist.
  35. Raising geese is a lot easier than you might think.
  36. Bog gardens are relatively easy to care for once they are established.
  37. Check back soon for the latest news on what's happening at Fig Garden Village.
  38. When the rag gets dirty, throw it in the laundry basket.