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Lesson 28: The Lost ‘R’ (Non-Rhotic English)

Listen to today’s less on ‘non-rhotic’ /r/

Note: Many English words have a letter /r/ in their spelling that is not pronounced in the standard British English accent. This is because Standard British English is non-rhotic. This means that /r/ is dropped when it follows the final vowel in a word. Some examples of words with no /r/ sound are: car, better, turn and world. 

Why are these words spelt with a letter ‘r’ if no /r/ sound is pronounced in them? The reason is because the pronunciation of the English language is constantly evolving and accents change across the generations. We used to pronounce the /r/ in these words, but now we don’t. The /r/ sound first began being lost in some English words back in the 15thcentury. Slowly, as the centuries passed, /r/ became softened and was gradually dropped from more and more words. 

In 1780 the actor and elocution teacher Thomas Sheridan stated that /r/ ‘always has the same sound and is never silent’. However, his assertion isn’t backed up by the evidence. Linguists know for a fact that /r/ was being increasingly dropped in the late 18thcentury; they can tell by tracing /r/-less spellings in documents from that time. What Thomas Sheridan had probably meant, speaking as an elocution teacher, was that he thought /r/ ought not to be dropped. 

The loss of rhoticity from the standard British English accent was unstoppable, however. By the early 1800s the southern English accent had fully transformed into a non-rhotic accent. This accent eventually became known as R.P. ‘Received Pronunciation.’

Whether a variety of English or a specific accent is rhotic or non-rhotic is one of the biggest distinctions that can be made in English.

Non-Rhotic English Examples:

Standard British English, Welsh English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English

Rhotic English Exampes:

General American, Scottish English, Irish English, Canadian English

English Rhotic Accents Examples:

Manchester, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, the West Country

The pronunciation of /r/ following the final vowel in a word does not occur in the standard English accent. Therefore, knowing when not to pronounce /r/makes a big difference to the overall quality of your English accent. When you get this right, it’s as if you’re wearing an accent tuxedo and everyone else is wearing an accent tracksuit. 

Practice this lesson so that you commit these /r/-less words to memory. And if you’re a subscriber to English Jade, make sure you follow along with the lesson pdf.  This will be useful to you so you can see the IPA transcription of each /r/-less word example.


Practice Non-Rhotic English

supermarket

birthday

curtains

word

world

service

heart

search

Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

Lesson 27: Silent L

Listen to Today’s Lesson on Silent L

Lesson 27 of English Jade teaches you the pronunciation of silent /l/ words in English (this lesson is part 3 of 3 lessons practising the pronunciation of ‘l’). Some English words are tricky because they are spelt with a letter L but include no /l/ sound in them. Non-native speakers often aren’t aware of silent /l/ words, which leads to mispronunciations. In this lesson you will practice silent /l/ words and other commonly mispronounced words with /l/. Note: This speaking skills training to practice silent /l/ is for high-level professionals. Follow this training to improve your pronunciation, accent and clear speech.

Lesson Part One on Learning Dark L: CLICK HERE

Lesson Part Two Light L and Dark L: CLICK HERE


Silent L Example Words:

half

almond

walk

yolk

chalk

should

colonel (the first ‘l’ is the silent one)


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

Lesson Twenty-Six: Light L and Dark L (Part Two)

Listen to Today’s Lesson

Lesson 26 of English Jade teaches you the pronunciation of light /l/ and dark /l/ in English (this lesson is part two of three on this topic). Getting the pronunciation of dark /l/ right leads to a clear, native-speaker level English accent. In this lesson you will practice the dark /l/ and light /l/ in example words and phrases. Note: This speaking skills training to practice dark /l/ is for high-level professionals.


In the previous lesson, I explained how to pronounce light /l/ and dark /l/. We also learned two basic pronunciation rules:

  1. A word that begins with an /l/ has light /l/ pronunciation: ‘like’, ‘love’ and ‘lips’
  2. A word that ends with an /l/ sound has dark /l/ pronunciation: ‘bell’, ‘goal’ and ‘mail’

But what about when the /l/ sound isn’t at the beginning or the end of a word? Which /l/ sound should we pronounce then? The pronunciation rules for this are: 

  1. Light /l/ always goes before the vowel in the syllable
  2. Dark /l/ always follows the vowel in the syllable

This sounds easy enough, but in practice, these pronunciation rules are almost impossible to apply. This is because we often don’t know where the syllables in a word naturally break. We need to look up the IPA transcription of a word in a dictionary to know where the syllables break. Of course, when we are speaking in real-life, we don’t have a dictionary to refer to. Instead, native speakers intuitively break up a word into syllables where it ‘feels right’. This leads to variation in the pronunciation of words. 

The words in this lesson are grouped according to spelling patterns. You will see that even words with the same spelling pattern at times have a different /l/ pronunciation. This is infuriating and random – but unfortunately, my friend, that’s the English language for you. The pronunciation and spelling of English has a lot of irregularities.

Here are a few example dark L words taken from the lesson…


Light L Examples:

claim

clothes

flood

glorious

pleasant

Dark L Examples:

child

world

difficult

elf

album

Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

High Quality Speaker… Are You Ready?

In this podcast episode I talk about making yourself into a high quality speaker and the benefits it brings to your life. Ask yourself this important question: Have you developed your speaking skills to the optimum level that will bring you success in life?


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

Lesson Twenty Five: Dark L (Part One)

Lesson 25 of English Jade teaches you the pronunciation of the dark /l/ sound in English. This lesson is part one of three lessons on the pronunciation of /l/. In this lesson you will practice the dark /l/ sound in example words and phrases. Click the player at the bottom of the page to listen to this podcast lesson.


There are two pronunciations of /l/ in English. The first pronunciation of /l/ is the easy one which you will already recognise in words like ‘love’, ‘like’ and ‘lips’. This is the light /l/, which is always found before a vowel. Words that begin with an /l/ always begin with light /l/ pronunciation. We make the light /l/ sound by making a light touch with the tip of the tongue on the alveolar ridge (the hard part just behind the teeth). The back of the tongue is in a neutral position, neither high nor low.

The second pronunciation of /l/, the dark /l/, is the one you may not have heard about before. The dark /l/ pronunciation has a lower pitch and takes more effort with the tongue to pronounce. Listen to these two examples:

love and light = light /l/
small hotel = dark /l/

When I make a dark /l/ sound, the back of my tongue raises up towards the back of the palate. The position of the back of the tongue here is close to where it is when pronouncing the ‘long u’ /u:/ vowel. When I make the dark /l/ sound, my tongue tip stays in same forward alveolar ridge position as it does for light /l/. As my tongue pulls back, it cleanly and clearly ends the dark /l/ sound.

How I experience the difference in pronunciation is that the dark /l/ requires much more physical effort to pronounce than light /l/. When I pronounce the dark /l/ clearly, I cannot move on quickly to link up to the next sound. It’s as if there is a tiny pause before my tongue can move to the next sound.

Learning to pronounce light /l/ and dark /l/ is not that difficult because there are two simple rules:

1. All words beginning with /l/ have light /l/ pronunciation
2. All words ending in /l/ end with dark /l/ pronunciation

However, confusion arises when the /l/ sound is in the medial (middle) position of a word. We will look at examples of medial /l/ in lesson two on this subject.

In the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) light /l/ and dark /l/ are classed as the same sound/phoneme, even though to most of us listening, they sound different. The reason for this is to keep things simple. If we didn’t do this, we would have too many letters in the alphabet and too many symbols in the IPA to learn. The difference between light /l/ and dark /l/ is small because there is only a slight difference in articulation between them. Therefore, light /l/ and dark /l/ are ‘close enough’ to be classed as the same sound in the IPA. Close enough is good enough.

Standard dictionaries use the same IPA symbol for light /l/ and dark /l/. This is not helpful when we are confused about the proper pronunciation of the /l/ sound as we won’t find the answer in the dictionary. If the dictionary doesn’t distinguish between light /l/ and dark /l/ in a word’s transcription, clearly, how you pronounce /l/ is a small detail. I’m only teaching you this because I know many of my English Jade subscribers are perfectionists who want their pronunciation to be exactly right. If you find the pronunciation of light /l/ and dark /l/ too difficult, don’t worry; most people probably won’t even notice.

Here are a few example dark L words taken from the lesson:


novel

fulfil

whirlpool

casual

skill

squall

smuggle

alcoholic


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

Lesson Twenty Four: /ju:/ ‘You’ Sound

Lesson 24 of English Jade teaches you the pronunciation of the ‘you’ sound /ju:/ in English. The /ju:/ sound is not recognised as a unique phoneme, though it is a common sound in English.  In this lesson you will practice the /ju:/ sound in example words and phrases. Note: This speaking skills training to practice /ju:/ is for high-level professionals. Follow this training to improve your pronunciation, accent and clear speech.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on how to pronounce the /ju:/ sound in example words and phrases. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


youth

excuse

union

nutrition

assume

news

rescue

Tuesday


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Twenty Three : The Yod Sound

Lesson 23 of English Jade teaches you the pronunciation of the yod sound /j/ in English. The yod sound is in many words beginning with the letter ‘y’ such as ‘yes’, ‘yellow’ and ‘yesterday’. In this lesson you will practice the yod in example words and phrases. Note: This speaking skills training to practice /j/ is for high-level professionals. Follow this training to improve your pronunciation, accent and clear speech.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on how to pronounce the schwa in noun suffixes. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


young

yellow

lawyer

opinion

yoghurt

beyond

vineyard

million


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Twenty Two: Schwa Weak Forms

Many words in English have two pronunciations. There is a stressed form of the word and an unstressed form of the word which is called the ‘weak form’. For example, the word ‘your’ is pronounced as /jɔː/ (stressed form) and as /jə/ (weak form).

Weak forms are often hard to hear in the sentence and it may seem as if the sound is ‘swallowed’. Native speakers use weak forms all the time in their natural speech, which makes them harder to understand than non-native speakers. Weak forms are also the reason native speakers appear to be speaking quickly, when in fact, often they are speaking at a normal tempo.

By learning the weak forms of words and then using them you can greatly improve the overall rhythm and flow of your speech in English.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on how to pronounce the schwa weak forms. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


cat in a hat = /ˈkæ.tɪ.nə hæt/

Does he know him? = /ˈdʌz.i nəʊ hɪm/

Lend us some money = /ˈlen.dəs sʌm ˈmʌ.ni/

English Jade Lesson Twenty One: Schwa Noun Suffixes

In this lesson you will learn how to pronounce the schwa sound /ə/ in noun suffixes.

A suffix is a spelling pattern at the end of a word such as -acy, -ial, -ance, -ism.

A suffix is added to the root word. For example:

root word — happy

+ noun suffix — ness

= happiness (n) /ˈhæp.i.nəs/

Noun suffixes are unstressed and include a schwa sound. Non-native speakers often mispronounce noun suffixes by stressing them.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on how to pronounce the schwa in noun suffixes. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


democracy (-acy noun suffix)

criminal (-al noun suffix)

avoidance (-ance noun suffix)

random (-dom noun suffix)

professor (-or noun suffix)

feminism (-ism noun suffix)

personality (-ity noun suffix)

improvement (-ment noun suffix)


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Twenty /eə/ Vowel Pronunciation Practice

In this lesson I teach you word examples with the /eə/ diphthong vowel sound in English. You will learn advanced vocabulary, spelling patterns and phrases that include the /eə/ sound in English.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on the vowel sounds of English. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


air

bear

there

swear

despair

hairy

wary

mayor


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Nineteen /ʊə/ ‘Cure’ Vowel Pronunciation Practice

In this lesson I teach you word examples with the /ʊə/ diphthong vowel sound in English. You will learn advanced vocabulary, spelling patterns and phrases that include the /ʊə/ sound in English.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on the vowel sounds of English. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


cure

during

Europe

mature

curious

purify

security

tour


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Eighteen /aɪ/ ‘Eye’ Vowel Pronunciation Practice

In this lesson I teach you word examples with the /aɪ/ diphthong vowel sound in English. You will learn advanced vocabulary, spelling patterns and phrases that include the /aɪ/ sound in English.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on the vowel sounds of English. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


eye

might

child

wise

exercise

final

cyclops

thigh


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Seventeen /aʊ/ ‘House’ Vowel Pronunciation Practice

In this lesson I teach you word examples with the /aʊ/ diphthong vowel sound in English. You will learn advanced vocabulary, spelling patterns and phrases that include the /aʊ/ sound in English.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on the vowel sounds of English. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


house

about

mouth

slouch

owl

fountain

towel

plough


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Sixteen: /əʊ/ ‘no’ Vowel Pronunciation Practice

In this lesson I teach you word examples with the /əʊ/ diphthong vowel sound in English. You will learn advanced vocabulary, spelling patterns and phrases that include the /əʊ/ sound in English.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on the vowel sounds of English. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:


no

most

yellow

won’t

code

wardrobe

loaf

social


Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.