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’.
Now practise your pronunciation with the individual words and example phrases below. Place close attention to your articulation and repeat-after-me as clearly as possible:
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
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