What is a vowel? Simply stated, a vowel is a sound that is made by allowing the breath to flow out of the mouth, without closing any part of the mouth or throat.
English language Vowels can be confusing, to say the least. Part of the problem is that a variety of English vowel patterns have been incorporated from the words of other languages.
Most English learners are taught that the vowels are A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y and W; this is an oversimplification. In fact, there are 15 American English vowels sounds (not including the two schwa sounds) and 28 written vowels letter combinations. The table below is a complete listing of all the American English vowels sounds with their phonetic symbol representation, their alphabet letter representations, and word examples of the vowels.
There are fifteen vowels sounds but there are only five vowels! A single vowel can represent more than one sound. Vowels can work with other letters, either consonants or other vowels, to represent a variety of sounds.
The consonants y and w can serve as the second vowel as in oy / boy, ay / play, ow / cow, and aw / saw.
Single vowels and some vowel patterns can represent more than one sound, as in a / ant, a / raven, a / all; and, ea / eat, ea / head, ea / steak.
More than one vowel or vowel pattern sometimes represent a single vowel sound, as in a/raven, ai / rain, ay / play, and a_e / safe.
The position of a single vowel in a word or syllable affects the sound of the vowel, as in hem/he, not/no, hill/ hi, flush/flu, and rab-bit / ra-ven.
The letter y is a consonant, but it is often used as a vowel: my, happy, gymnastics. Also, w represents a vowel in the diphthong ow as In bow and low.
Vowel sounds can be sustained or sung and can be made louder and softer. The best singers are often masters of the musicality of vowels. Without vowels, languages would be garbled clusters of unintelligible grunts; try yelling for help without the vowel e – Hlp!
The 1st lesson in this workbook introduced you to the schwa vowel sound since every vowel sound is at sometimes represented by schwa; my learning strategy is to introduce English learners to the schwa vowel sound first. Be careful to always be mindful of the schwa vowel sound as you practice the 1200 vowels sound words in this part of the workbook.
As in all the English Ready Set Go! pronunciation workbooks the target sound words are written 1st regularly, then in RSG phonetic form, and finally, divided into syllables. No sentences are provided for the 1200 vowel target words, perhaps in the future, I’ll attempt that daunting task. You are not, however, relieved of your responsibility to use a good dictionary to check the meaning of every word you are not “absolutely” certain of its meaning. I further advise you to write your own sentences for the words.
Whenever you are able, use this workbook to follow along with me as I pronounce the words. The RSG phonetic spelling in column two is my own phonetic system to help you visualize the sounds in the words. It does not 100% conform to the IPA Phonetic Alphabet, I want you to see the sound, not for you trying to remember what any of the 163 IPA symbols represent. Also, note the syllabic breakdown in column three, it will help you understand English word syllables.
I can think of no better way to perfect your English pronunciation than to repetitiously practice hearing and speaking as many words as you can. Studies show that 12 repetitions are needed to encourage memory and vocal muscle coordination.
This schwa and vowel workshop along with the 30 consonant workshops is the most comprehensive practical English pronunciation audio lesson program in existence. American English Ready Set Go! English pronunciation workshops introduce you to more than 8,000 words every English learner should know. Every word on MP3 for you to hear and repeat; along with the workbook, to visually follow and further reinforce learning.