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American English Vowel Sounds

American English Vowel Sounds


The Roman alphabet has five vowel letters.
These are: a, e, i, o & u.
However, in American English there are approximately 15 vowel sounds.
Linguists and pronunciation teachers use phonetic symbols to represent these15
sounds.

IPA symbols
Dictionaries and pronunciation books dont all use the same phonetic symbolsfor
these 15 sounds.
However, each resource will have a symbol key that explains the symbols and sounds
that they use.
Its a good idea to familiarize yourself with these symbols, when you start to use a
new dictionary or pronunciation text.
The Color Vowel Chart Methodology
In my accent reduction coaching programs, I use the Color Vowel
Chart methodology to teach my clients the American English vowel sounds.
I use this method because it makes each vowel sound easy to understand and easy
to remember.
The 15 American English vowel sounds by color name
1. /iy/ as in GREEN
2. // as in SILVER
3. /ey/ as in GRAY
4. // as in RED
5. // as in BLACK
6. // as in OLIVE
7. // as in MUSTARD
8. // as in AUBURN
9. /ow/ as in ROSE
10. // as in WOOD

11. /uw as in BLUE


12. /r/ as in PURPLE
13. /ay/ as in WHITE
14. /aw/ as in BROWN
15. /y/ as in TURQUOISE

International Phonetic Alphabet


(IPA)
English Pronunciation, Lesson 01
The International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA in short, will help you learn how to
pronounce correctly each and every word in English! But first, you need to learn
what it is, and how to use it. Read the following explanation, and watch the
videos. Answer the questions in the end to test your understanding.
The English language may have only 26 letters, but it has over 40 different
sounds! You need to be familiar with each sound, and its proper pronunciation in
order for you to speak natural English.

Some Definitions
The system of symbols is called International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPAin
short.
Phonetic means "using special signs to represent the sounds of speech".
It comes from the Greek word phone which means "sound".
Vowel is a sound we make when the breath flows out through the mouth freely,
without being blocked. The English letters a, e, i, o, u are called vowels, because
they represent such sounds.
It comes from the Latin word vox which means "voice".
Diphthong is a vowel sound made by pronouncing two vowels quickly one after
the other. For example, the vowel sound in "loud" is a diphthong.
It comes from the Latin word diphthongus which means "two sounds".
Consonant is a sound we make that is not a vowel. The breath is somehow
blocked on its way out of the mouth. For example, the sound B is made when
breath flow is stopped with the lips. All the English letters which are not vowels
are called consonants. These are: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y,
z.

You are almost ready to move on to the next lesson, but before that, make sure you
know the answers to the following questions:

1. How many sounds (more or less) are there in the English language?
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

What is the IPA?


How can the IPA help YOU?
What is a vowel?
What is a diphthong?
What is a consonant?