Quickly Mastering The Pronunciation Of All English Vowels Ep 511

A picture of chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate. Today you will learn my favourite technique for learning to pronounce English vowels correctly.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 2443 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 13 min

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Learn The Secret To Pronouncing English Vowels In Practice English Pronunciation

Today we are going to improve your English pronunciation with some listen and learn practice of English vowels. Want to talk more like a native speaker of English? This lesson is for you.

There is a single sound that a lot of English language learners just don’t know about. A sound that can quickly and easily help you improve your English vowel pronunciation.

I’m going to explain what the sound is, why it works and how to use it to improve your English language pronunciation.

The only vowel I'm concerned with is 'I.'
⭐ Enzo Amore, Musician

Which English vowel pronunciation do you need to work on? How about all of them? Just listen to this podcast. This podcast has lots of examples you can try for yourself. You will improve your English language skills in no time.

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Never Heard Of3
The Vowel Sounds3
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Transcript: Quickly Mastering The PRONUNCIATION Of All English Vowels

Would you like to sound more like a native English speaker? Well, there’s something that all native English speakers do that most of them are completely unaware of. But if you listen to this Adept English lesson on pronunciation, you will be aware of it - and this knowledge will improve your English pronunciation a lot and help you sound more like a native speaker. So in today’s podcast, I’m going to talk about ‘the schwa’.

Never heard of it? Well, even better, you’re about to learn something really useful.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

What is ‘the schwa’?

Now when it comes to pronunciation in English, vowel sounds are quite difficult. But today I’ve promised you a piece of knowledge, a short-cut if you like, to improve your English pronunciation and sound more like a native speaker across all the vowel sounds. And this involves understanding the idea of ‘the schwa’.

Now that’s spelt SCHWA. And bizarrely, most native English speakers have never heard of ‘the schwa’, but they use it all the time. Until I came to study English pronunciation myself as a language teacher for Adept English, I’d never heard of ‘the schwa’ either! Yet I use it in almost every English sentence that I speak!

What is this thing? What is ‘the schwa’? Well, it’s something that happens with vowel sounds in English. If you think about it, it’s the vowel sounds in a language that give it the syllables. So if I say a word like ‘comfortable’, ‘comfortable’, COMFORTABLE - that word has four sounds, or four syllables - ‘cum’-‘fort’-‘ab’-‘ul’.

Now, for many English language learners, the natural thing there is to say each of these sounds, each of these syllables, these parts of the word ‘comfortable’ with an equal emphasis. COM-FORT-AB-LE, COM-FORT-AB-LE. But, if you listen to native English speakers, this isn’t what they do at all. A native English speaker like me - well, we’d say ‘com-frt-b-l’, ‘com-frt-b-l’.

Changing the emphasis on words to sound more like a native English speaker

Look at what’s happening there. The emphasis or the stress is not the same, it’s not equal on each sound, on each syllable of a multi-syllable word. In ‘comfortable’, I’m very much emphasising the ‘com’, the COM bit of the word. And the rest of the syllables, well the vowels may as well not be there. So COM-FORT-AB-UL becomes ‘com-frt-b-l’, ‘com-frt-b-l’.

Do you want to try saying that? ‘I’m here sitting recording a podcast with a cup of coffee on the side and I’m comfortable’. In this word then, aside from the first syllable, the ‘com’, the vowel sounds have been replace by ‘the schwa’. ‘Com-frt-b-l’, ‘Com-frt-b-l’. That’s aside from the E on the end, which of course makes the BUL sound - that’s the part that’s spelt BLE. ‘Com-frt-b-l’.


A photograph woman in a comfortable swinging chair. This lesson will help you improve your English pronunciation and make you a better English speaker.

©️ Adept English 2022

The ‘schwa’ is like a lazy ‘uh’ sound that replaces any vowel sound. It’s as though we’re too busy or too lazy to pronounce all the syllables properly - instead we emphasise one or two of them, and then we ‘schwa’ the rest. The schwa happens then on many words in English that have more than one syllable. In fact, the more syllables in an English word, the more of them are likely to be ‘schwa’d out’ as I say - replaced with a schwa sound on the vowel.

Do you like chocolate?

Let me give you a couple more examples. Do you like chocolate? Well, I certainly do. Biscuits, cakes, pastries, sweets - if I’m trying to cut down on my sugar intake, I can stop eating any of those things. But take away my chocolate and I’m not very happy! But just take a moment to listen to that pronunciation there? ‘Chocolate’.

‘Chocolate’ is spelt CHOCOLATE. Now there’s a letter E on the end, which isn’t pronounced, of course - you may be familiar with the idea of Magic E? That final E is just there to make the ATE into an ‘ay’ sound for the vowel. But what about that middle O? Well, it’s almost disappeared.

The most you’ll hear is a sort of ‘uh’ sound - ‘chocolate’. So the emphasis here again is on the first syllable ‘CHOC’, the middle O has nearly disappeared and then we’re ‘schwa-ing out’ that final A into a ‘L-uh-T’ sound. ‘Chocolate’.


Do you like photography?

More examples? Well, how about I read you a short passage, a little story, (a really little story!) with some words in it that use the schwa. Not difficult to find words in English, which use the schwa but I’ve chosen words here, where it’s more noticeable.

Just a reminder before I do that - like many other aspects of English pronunciation, the schwa is best learned through English listening practice. So don’t forget that there is plenty more English listening practice available on our website at adeptenglish.com in the form of our podcast bundles.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

There are hundreds of podcasts like this one that you can download, so you’ve always got plenty of great English language learning material to listen to, wherever you go. Don’t miss an opportunity to use your ‘dead time’ and improve your pronunciation this way.

Can you spot the schwa sounds in this passage?

OK, back to the schwa. Listen to the following passage, and try to hear where I’m using the schwa. Afterwards, I’ll pick out some of the words with a schwa, then you can practise saying them and hearing them. OK, here goes.

One of my favourite pastimes at the weekend is photography. Photography is great if you want something which is interesting and enjoyable to do, and which also gives you memorable images. You can use your artistic flair to edit on your computer afterwards.

On a sunny day, one of my great pleasures is to take my camera and go for a walk in the countryside and try to take some beautiful photographs. Or if I’m at a celebration with my family - I can record the occasion.

Let’s talk about the schwa sounds in this passage

OK, so how many words with schwa sounds did you hear? Can you remember them?

Well, how about the word ‘favourite’ - that’s FAVOURITE. So you’d expect three syllables, three sounds. That’s another Magic E on the end, so we don’t count that one. But what you hear is ‘fav-rit’ or ‘fav-uh’rit’. The middle syllable is either not there at all, as in ‘fav-rit’ or you’ll hear it replaced with a schwa’- ‘fav-uh-rit’.

And then ‘photography’. So it’s not ‘photography’ with all equal syllables. It’s more like ‘ph-tog-r-phy’. So that TOG syllable gets the emphasis and all the others are ‘schwa’d out’.

The word ‘In-ter-est-ing’ - it’s not ‘Int-er-est-ing’. Like ‘chocolate’ one vowel sound has almost completely disappeared. We don’t say ‘In-ter-est-ing’, we say ‘Int-rest-ing’. And the main emphasis is on the INT in ‘interesting’ - and the other syllables are more of a schwa.

What about ‘enjoyable’? There’s more emphasis on the JOY, the ‘joy’ part, the second syllable - and the schwa is there for the rest of them.

Or ‘memorable’? So here, the emphasis is more on the MEM, the first syllable. You can clearly hear the ‘eh’ sound at the start of ‘memorable’, but the middle O sound has almost completely disappeared and the ‘able’ ending is schwa’d. It’s more like ‘ub-ul’. So ‘memorable’.

And ‘computer’? Well again COM, ‘com’ is emphasised, you can hear a bit of the ‘oo’ sound in the middle, but the ER ending, well you’ve guessed it, it’s the schwa. It’s more like an ‘uh’ sound. ‘Computer’.

Another one? The word ‘camera’. That middle E is barely noticeable. You might hear a slight ‘uh’ sound of a schwa. ‘Camera’.

And ‘beautiful photographs’? Well, in ‘beautiful’, the emphasis is mainly on the ‘beau’. And the ‘iful’, ‘beautiful’ - well that’s schwa’d out. BEAUTiful.

And ‘photographs’? Well, you might expect the emphasis to be the same as in the word ‘photography’. But it’s not. The middle O is now schwa’d and the emphasis is on the first syllable. PHOT-uh-graphs. What about the word ‘celebration’? Well, you can hear, again first syllable is emphasised as is the third - CEL-uh-BRA-shun. And the second and fourth syllable are shwa’d. ‘Celebration’.

And the word ‘family’ - what do you notice? Well, yes ‘FAM-uh-ly. So the emphasis again on the first syllable, the I in the middle is schwa’d and the ‘i’ sound at the end is pronounced, but not emphasised. You might also hear people say ‘FAM-ly’. That’s quite common - so that middle syllable has disappeared altogether - it’s not even a schwa.

And the last two - ‘record’. So here, as is common with many English verbs, the first syllable is a schwa and the emphasis is on the second syllable ‘RecORD’. If this same spelling was being used for the noun ‘RECord’ - notice the emphasis changes. The ‘rec’ bit is emphasised and the second syllable is now a schwa sound. This is quite a common way of distinguishing a verb and a noun which have the same spelling in English.

And finally ‘occasion’. So here - you’ve got it - the emphasis is on the middle syllable the ‘ay’ sound of ‘occasion’, while the O at the start and the ‘shun’ at the end are both schwa sounds.

Listen again, now you’ve heard the schwa sounds

So the schwa is one of the reasons that English listening practice is so important. And you can’t pick this up through reading, of course. You have to hear the words being said to notice this at all.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

Even if you’re noticing it automatically, without realising you’re noticing it and you reproduce it, which is what happens if you do a lot of listening. But it’s good to pay attention to which syllables in a word have the emphasis, and which syllables are schwa’d, when you’re learning to pronounce.

Your English will sound much more natural, much more like a native English speaker. Just before we finish, I’ll read that short passage out again to you - so that you can all those words one more time, in context. Here goes.

One of my favourite pastimes at the weekend is photography. Photography is great if you want something which is interesting and enjoyable to do, and which also gives you memorable images. You can use your artistic flair to edit on your computer afterwards.

On a sunny day, one of my great pleasures is to take my camera out for a walk in the countryside and try to take some beautiful photographs. Or if I’m at a celebration with your family - I can record the occasion.

Practise with that one. Notice the schwa. See if you can do the schwa.


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com




The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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