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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.

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.

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.

Introduction to the IPA and vowel sound training

I will teach you four phonemes from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). You will learn /e/ as in pet, schwa /ə/ as in to (unstressed), /ɜː/ as in bird, and /ɔː/ as in court. This lesson is for beginners who are unfamiliar with IPA (the individual sounds of English). Learn the IPA vowel symbols to greatly improve your pronunciation. This lesson is also for more advanced students who are already familiar with the sounds of English and their IPA phonetic symbols, and who wish to refresh their knowledge as a result of doing some practical pronunciation practice. Do these exercises for some time and you WILL hear a difference.

Pronunciation: London, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and More…

Learn how to pronounce the names of the top 10 biggest cities in Britain. Avoid the embarrassment of saying the name of a famous place incorrectly — listen and learn how a person from London says the names of these places. I will also teach you and use some IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), so that you can get the exact pronunciation. I’ll teach you how to pronounce London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, Glasgow, Southampton, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Sheffield. No more mistakes!

Do you speak English too slowly?

Speed up your English by learning relaxed pronunciation. I will teach you how to say questions with ‘do’ and ‘did’ in a natural, flowing way. The secret to speaking fast is that there are no clear word boundaries. Whole syllables may be missed completely (“elision”), individual sounds may change (“assimilation”), or completely new sounds may appear (“intrusion”). No matter whether you are a beginner or an advanced speaker of English, I’ll break down the pronunciation for you in the clearest possible way. I’ll also teach you a little IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), so that you can be sure that you are saying each question phrase perfectly. Learn to say all the question phrases in this lesson and you will speak fast — like a native speaker of English.

Elvish Language (Spoken)

Take it easy and relax to the sound of my voice reading elvish. Elvish has a soothing and melodious sound and if you close your eyes you could even fall asleep. The language in the video is called Sindarin and is a fictional language devised by J. R. R. Tolkien, which you may have heard in the Lord of the Rings films.

If you like ASMR and get tingles from the voice frequency, then you will find elvish relaxing and soothing.

/u:/ Pronunciation Practice: Ruth The Moose

Improve your British accent pronunciation by learning the vowel sounds of English. In this lesson you will learn the long /u:/ sound which we find in words such as ‘Ruth’ and ‘Moose.’

This pronunciation exercise is a practical accent training exercise from my Clear Up Your Accent pronunciation training course. For more information and to join CLICK HERE.

A moose named Ruth held herself aloof.
She considered herself quite superior
And looked down her rather longish nose
In cool disapproval
Of every other moose in her group.
She thought them all crude:
Their clumsy hoofed hands couldn’t hold spoons,
So they ate their soup with their noses in their bowls.
Having such loose morals,
They swam in the pool shamelessly nude.
More ignorant than the commonest fish,
The moose in her group
Had been removed from their schools
And spoke in MOO’S like the foolish cows
Ruth so ruthlessly considered them to be.

British Accent Pack – Free Download

Are you interested to learn a British accent? Here’s everything you need to know about developing a natural British accent…

british-accent-packGet Started with YOUR British Accent Training Today

  • What British accent should you learn?
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  • Find out about Cockney, posh English, Received Pronunciation and more!!!
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CLICK HERE for your free download.

Mumbling When You Talk? What To Do About It…

Are you a mumbler? Some basics about shy speech…


One of the reasons for shy speech or mumbling has to do with not feeling comfortable about one’s mouth area. If we feel self-conscious about this area, it limits our self-expression. When we get the basics right regarding the mask area of the face, we feel more comfortable to express ourselves.

 

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