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Lesson 36: /z/ Phoneme Spelt as ‘s’ (Part Two)

Letter ‘s’ Pronounced as /z/: Practice your Pronunciation

In this lesson, we will learn words with a /z/ sound that are spelt with the letter ‘s’. This lesson is Part Two of Two lessons on the /z/ sound. Listen to Part One.

Here’s a surprising fact: /z/ spelt as ‘s’ is the most common spelling for the /z/ sound.

Before we begin, let’s compare /z/ and /s/. The two sounds are similar because:

/z/ and /s/ are both sibilant sounds(hissing sounds)

What is the difference between the two sounds?

/z/ is a voiced consonant (you hear vibrations coming from the throat)

/s/ is an unvoiced consonant (you hear the sound of air being forced out)

There is also a difference in the manner of articulation between /z/ and /s/. When I pronounce a /z/ sound, the tip of my tongue is down behind my front teeth. In contrast, when I pronounce a /s/ sound, the tip of my tongue points up behind the front teeth, leaving a small gap for air to pass through.

Note on the audio: if you listen closely to the audio examples in this lesson, you will hear that a /z/ at the end of a word sometimes doesn’t like a pure /z/ sound because a small lispy or aspirated sound of air passing out can be heard. This is due to a fault in my pronunciation, as in natural speech, my tongue does not hold the /z/ position long enough. Ideally, there should be no sound of air passing out.     


Practice /z/ Spelt with ‘s’: Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

Note: the /z/ sounds are in bold in the examples below…

as: as red as a rose

has: has he got his ham sandwiches

those: whose beads are those

wise: as wise as a wizard

diagnose: doctors diagnose diseases

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

Lesson 35: Pronounce and Spell /z/, Part One

/z/ Phoneme Words: Practice your Pronunciation

In today’s lesson, we will learn and practice the /z/ phoneme. The IPA symbol for /z/ is the same as the letter ‘z’ in the English alphabet. That’s helpful for us as we don’t need to learn a new symbol. However, here’s where things get confusing… The commonest spelling of the /z/ sound in English is with the letter ‘s’. What?!

The /z/ phoneme is the common pronunciation of many plurals spelt with an ‘-s’: 

dogs, guns, kids, and legs.

The /z/ phoneme is also in many common words spelt with a letter ‘s’: 

because, as, has, his, and was.

But note: a letter ‘s’ never represents a /z/ sound at the beginning of a word. Think of zebra, zip, zoo and zero. All those /z/ words begin with a letter ‘z’. That’s easy for us to understand as it makes sense.

One last interesting fact is that the letter ‘z’ is the least common letter in the English alphabet. When /z/ is spelt with the letter ‘z’, it happens in words we don’t use very often (low-frequency words). However, /z/ is still a relatively common sound in spoken English, despite the fact the letter ‘z’ is rare. That’s because as we have already learnt, /z/ is often spelt with the letter ‘s’.


Practice /z/: Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

zinc: eggs contain zinc

Amazon: Amazon’s Jeff Bezo’s has zillions of dollars

lazy: a dozen lazy wizards

razor: disposable razor

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

Sound like a Native Speaker: WHEN & WHAT QUESTIONS

In this lesson I’ll teach you FAST native speaker pronunciation. We’ll look at how when native speakers are relaxed and talking fast, individual sounds in a sentence may change completely. This happens because our tongues naturally want to say everything the laziest way possible! I’ll give you plenty of examples of the sounds in words changing when spoken quickly and I’ll also teach you some IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). We’ll also practice speaking with the right intonation when asking questions, as this is really important not only to convey the right meaning, but also to get the correct rhythm in your speech. In under 15 minutes, you will be able to start sounding more like a native English speaker.

Follow my lessons to develop a clear Accent, CLICK HERE.

Lesson 34: More /ʃ/ Sh, Part Two

/ʃ/ Phoneme Words: Practice your Pronunciation

In this lesson, we will continue learning advanced vocabulary and spelling patterns for the /ʃ/ ‘sh’ sound in English. The /ʃ/ sound has a wide variety of spellings. This lesson covers the spelling and pronunciation patterns that we did not learn in the previous lesson. Listen to Part One.


Practice /ʃ/ Sh: Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

ancient: ancient Grecian temple

facial: are facials beneficial?

chalet: every chalet has its own chef

sachet: a sachet of sugar

schmooze: dinner party schmoozing

ocean: crustaceans from the ocean

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

Lesson 33: Pronounce and Spell /ʃ/ Sh, Part One

/ʃ/ Sound: Practice your Pronunciation

In this lesson, we will practice the /ʃ/ sound. Buckle your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen because this lesson’s going to be difficult. That’s because there are a variety of spellings for the /ʃ/ sound in English. Due to this we have many spelling patterns to learn. 

Before we begin practising the /ʃ/ sound, I want to make sure that you’re pronouncing it correctly. This is the sound we make when someone’s having a conversation in the library and we want them to be quiet, ‘Shush!’. You’re getting this sound wrong if it sounds lispy, wet or spitty. What we want to hear instead is a short, sharp burst: sh, sh, sh

To make this sound, your jaw should be slightly open so that you have a gap of about 4mm between your top and bottom teeth. Place your tongue tip lightly but firmly where the two front teeth meet. Your tongue should be tense with the back of the tongue raised up (you may not be able to feel the position the back of the tongue is in). Now, when you force air out, air will pass around the sides of the tongue to create a /ʃ/ sound: sh, sh, sh.

Let’s compare /ʃ/ to sounds it is sometimes confused with:

  • If you hear /s/ in ‘say’ then your tongue is too high and you need to bring it down.
  • If you hear ‘zh’ /ʒ/ as in ‘vision’ your tongue is in the correct place. However, the difference is that /ʒ/ is a voiced sound, which means you can hear vibrations from the vocal tract. In contrast, for /ʃ/ which is unvoiced, you only hear the sound of air being forced out.
  • If you hear ‘ch’ /ʧ/ as in ‘chair’ your tongue is in the correct place but the airflow is different. /ʧ/ is different because it begins with a stop before the air is released. This means there is a short built up of pressure by the tongue just before it is released.

One more time practising /ʃ/:

When pronouncing /ʃ/ you will hear the sound of friction as air is pushed out. /ʃ/ is a fricative consonant.


Practice /ʃ/ Sh: Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

cash: stash some of this cash

gash: the knife slashed a gash on his shin

shell: she sells seashells on the seashore

shrimp: the short shelf life of shrimp

polish: don’t forget to polish the Polish dresser

selfish: selfish people are not at all ashamed about it

Lesson 32: Pronounce and Spell /ʒ/ (zh)

/ʒ/ (zh) Sound Practice

In this lesson, we will practice the least frequent sound in English, /ʒ/. The /ʒ/ phoneme is found in words that have roots in the Romance languages or Latin. Most of the words in this lesson came into English via French (the Anglo-Norman dialect), which was the language spoken by the nobility in England following the Norman conquest in 1066. If you have ever wondered why there are so many French words in English, it’s because from the 12th-15th century, the administrative language of the royal court in England was French. This is why so many French origin words used in English are terms related to power, politics and the law. It’s also why French origin words in English still carry an air of sophistication and gravitas, unlike Anglo-Saxon origin words, which being the speech of the common man, carried in them no inherent authority.

Learn About French-origin Words in English

The sound /ʒ/ does not have a specific letter or digraph that is commonly associated with it.

diagraph = two successive letters that represent a single sound, e.g. the letters ch are a common digraph of the /tʃ/ sound: chair, choose, church 

This makes /ʒ/ a difficult sound to learn, as the spelling and pronunciation patterns must be memorised. This lesson is titled (zh) because the /ʒ/ phoneme character does not represent any of the English letters.

Pronunciation note:

/ʒ/ is a lot more distinct when it is the final consonant position in a word, for example:

massage                                    /ˈmæs.ɑːʒ/

rouge                                         /ruːʒ/

garage                                        /ˈɡær.ɑːʒ/

In contrast, when /ʒ/ is in any position before the final consonant it is more subtle, for example:

decision                                   /dɪˈsɪʒ.ən/

television                                /ˈtel.ɪ.vɪʒ.ən/

treasure                                    /ˈtreʒ.ə/ 


Practice /ʒ/ (zh): Some Examples from the Lesson Recording

aversion: I have an aversion to confusion

division: division of labour

unusual: unusual visuals

leisure: the pleasure of leisure time

rouge: red rouge on top of beige foundation

concierge: tip the concierge

The examples above make a lot more sense when you have the lesson notes to read along with. Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

Lesson 31: More /w/ Consonant Blends Pronunciation

/w/ Consonant Blends: Practice Your Pronunciation

In this lesson, we will practice consonant blends that include the /w/ sound. We will learn the spelling and pronunciation of words spelt with ‘tw’, ‘sw’ and ‘dw’.

We will also learn the spelling patterns of words spelt with a ‘w’ that is not pronounced. 

This lesson is Part Two on the /w/ sound. For Part One of this lesson, CLICK HERE.

Practice Consonant Blends /tw/

tweezers: I lost my tweezers twice

Practice Consonant Blends /sw/

swear: I swear I saw swans swimming

Practice Consonant Blends /dw/

dwell: the Elves dwell in Rivendell

Spelt ‘wr’ pronounced as /r/ (no /w/ sound)

wren: when will I see a wren again?

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

Lesson 30: Practice /w/

/w/ Sound: Practice Advanced Vocabulary and Pronunciation

In today’s lesson, we are going to practice /w/. Compared to many sounds in English, /w/ has some nice and tidy spelling and pronunciation patterns, which makes life a lot easier for us.

The <wh> Diagraph Explained

The <wh> Diagraph refers to words that are spelt with the spelling pattern ‘wh’ such as: whale, white, wheel, whirl. It also includes the question words: what, when, where, which, whether and why.

When these words are pronounced in Standard English, the letter ‘h’ that is present in the spelling is not pronounced. This is because the pronunciation of this group of words has changed since the spelling was originally set.

The original pronunciation of the <wh> diagraph is /hw/. For example, hwale, hwite, hweel, hwirl. Notice how in the original pronunciation, the /h/ sound is before the /w/. It would have made more sense when the spelling was standardised to spell this diagraph as /hw/ not /wh/!

In some dialects of Irish, Scottish and Southern American, the /hw/ original pronunciation is still present, e.g. ‘Did you see the white whale?’ (Note: in the recording, that’s my Irish accent).

The /hw/ pronunciation also used to be a typical feature of the posh English accent pre-1950’s, e.g. ‘Mr White, what exactly may I do for you?’ (Note: that’s my old-fashioned posh accent in the audio).


Practice /w/

beware: beware of the river by the watery weir

word: your word is your wand

way: where there’s a will, there’s a way

Spelt ‘wh’ Pronounced as /w/

whale: Captain Ahab and the White Whale

whine: She’s whining because the wine’s all gone

whisper: When a man with whiskers whispers, it tickles

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

Lesson 29: Tricky Spellings with ‘R’ and Practice /r/ Words

Listen to today’s lesson: Advanced /r/ Words

In this lesson, we will practice advanced vocabulary with tricky spellings that include the letter ‘r’. The first section includes words with silent ‘r’ in which no /r/ sound is pronounced. After the first section, most of the words include an /r/ sound that is pronounced. English Jade subscribers should follow along with the lesson PDF to see the spelling and IPA transcription of each example word.

Pronunciation Note on /r/

The /r/ sound as represented by the letter ‘r’ is a sound that many non-native speakers of English struggle to get right. This is either because /r/ doesn’t exist in speaker’s native language, e.g. Japanese and some dialects of Chinese, or because /r/ is pronounced differently in the speaker’s native language. 

To give an example, Spanish speakers of English often mispronounce the /r/ sound. This is because in Spanish the /r/ sound is trilled. When pronouncing a trilled /r/ the tongue rolls against the alveolar ridge multiple times which vibrates the sound of the /r/. A trilled /r/ sounds sexy in English, but in terms of pronunciation it is incorrect. 

Another variation in the pronunciation of /r/ is the flapped /r/ which is found in most Scottish dialects and South African English. The flapped /r/ is close to the trilled /r/ in that it is pronounced by making contact with the alveolar ridge. However, the flapped /r/ only makes contact with the ridge once as it glides past it. Here is an example of me speaking the Elvish language with a flapped /r/: ‘“Ennyn Durin Aran Moria.’ 

And finally, In Standard British English we have what’s called a ‘Standard English R’. In linguistics, it is called the postalveolar approximant. When making this /r/ sound the tongue tip gets very close to the alveolar ridge but it does not vibrate against it. You can still hear vibrations coming from the vocal chords but it is nothing like the strength of vibrations in the trilled /r/ in Spanish.

All that’s rather technical. The best way to get to grips with /r/ is to listen closely and then practice. So here we go!


Practice the Pronunciation of silent /r/

fibre: figs are high in fibre

lustre: the lustre of Royal Worcester

meagre: a meagre diet of gruel

Practice /r/ words with tricky spellings

wraith: the nine ring wraiths

wreak: one day I will wreak my revenge

rhinoceros: God only knows the rhinoceros’ nose

catarrh: phlegm and catarrh, aargh!

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

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

Listen to today’s lesson ‘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.

Natural Native Speaker Pronunciation

Ask questions quickly like a native speaker by learning natural pronunciation. When native speakers of English speak fast, the clear boundaries between words disappear and this is what gives the impression of talking fast. In reality, native speakers are not talking faster than normal — it’s just that the sounds in their pronunciation flow together in the most smooth and efficient way. For this natural, flowing effect to happen in pronunciation there are three important changes in pronunciation that may occur. The first change is that whole sounds in the sentence may disappear completely (“elision”). The second change in pronunciation is that for the sounds to flow more smoothly, individual sounds may shift to a different sound (“assimilation”). And finally, new sounds that are not in the individual words themselves may appear when the sentence is spoken quickly (“intrusion”). No need to worry if that makes learning natural pronunciation seem very complicated; I break everything down for you in this lesson. All you need to do is follow the lesson and repeat after me. I’ll also teach you some IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) so that you can recognise the individual sounds of English more easily. For a lot more information on sounding like a native speaker and improving your accent, take my accent course:

Note: There is a mistake on the board in this lesson. I mixed up the /aɪ/ phoneme with the /I:/ vowel. ‘Do you like it?’ should be written:

Do-you lie-kit = /də.ju: laɪ.kɪt/

Jew-lie-kit= /ʤuː laɪ.kɪt/

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.