One of the keys to learning how to read in English is pronunciation. When students can decipher the sounds that are associated with certain letters in words they will have an easier time sounding out difficult words. The English language has many variations when it comes to learning pronunciation, but by mastering just a few rules, students have a good basis for being able to conquer even some of the most complex words.
Would you like to know a quick and easy way to master English pronunciation? What if you could learn 16 sounds in just under 2 minutes? Of course, you will still have to practice to master them, but there is a simple secret of how it’s done: it’s all in the voicing.
One of the most common challenges for second language learners trying to improve their spoken English is knowing the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds. The beauty of this is that once they understand this concept, they have automatically figured out the differences in 8 pairs of sounds: s/z, p/b, t/d. f/v, k/g, sh/j, tch/dj, and voiced and voiceless th.
So, what exactly is the difference in these voiced and unvoiced sounds? Each pair of sounds has the exact same tongue, teeth, and mouth placement; the only difference is whether or not your voice is turned on.
To know if your voice is turned on, try this simple test. Put your hand gently over the front of your throat and breathe. Do you feel anything? No, you shouldn’t. Now, put your hand on your throat and say “ah”. Feel the vibration? That’s because your voice is turned on. Now, let’s try it with one pair of sounds: S and Z. Put your hand on your throat and say s-s-s-s-s. You shouldn’t feel anything. Now, put your hand on your throat and say z-z-z-z-z. You should feel the vibration because your voice has to be turned on to make the Z sound. Your mouth, teeth, and tongue should be in exactly the same position for saying S and Z; you just need to turn your voice off for the S and on for the Z.
Now you can try it with the other pairs of sounds. This list below shows which ones are voiced and which are unvoiced. Remember, for each pair, the mouth placement is the same; all that changes is the voicing.
- Unvoiced Sounds and Voiced Sounds
- s for sip and z for zip
- p for pat and b for bat
- t for two and d for do
- f for fine and v for vine
- k for come and g for gum
- sh for wishing and j for vision
- tch for choose and dj for juice
- th, as in thank and th, as in these
The secret to these sounds is not such a secret any longer! Spend some time practicing these sound pairs with your students, and they will be well on their way to mastering English pronunciation.
First of all, this is something that students will find intriguing and fun to practice. Sound recognition and pronunciation is something that can quickly help students to have a basis by which they can break down complex words and phrases. This concept of recognizing the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds can take a lot of practice before it is mastered, but it can prove highly effective once understood. If you go through this exercise with your students for a minimum of two minutes it will be something that they remember and apply when practicing on their own.
Adapted from the book: Hands-on Learning