Better pronunciation for IELTS speaking Part 2

Before looking through this page, we recommend you take a look at Better pronunciation for IELTS speaking.

NOTE: Thanks to Adel for the idea behind this page. It is not complete and in the future we will be adding more exercises.

The correct pronunciation of vowels in English can be complicated, but there are some rules that can help. Let’s start this lesson by looking at 3 important points you need to know:

1. Vowels and consonants

You probably already know this, but just to be sure, the 26 letters of the English alphabet are made up of 21 consonants and 5 vowels. The vowels are the letters A, E I, O and U.

2. Short and long vowels

In English, vowels can be both short and long. Here are some examples

A  E  I  O  U
SHORT HAT  HEN TIM GOT BUT
 LONG  HATE HE TIME  GO  MUTE

3. Open and closed syllables

Every word in English is built up of syllables. For example, football is 2 syllables – foot and ball. On open syllable is a syllable that ends with a vowel, and a closed syllable ends in a consonant.

Examples of open syllables: me, he, babies (ba+bies)

Examples of closed syllables: cat, sat, spelling (spell+ing)


So how does this information help with pronunciation?

If you can take a longer, more difficult word and break it into syllables, this will help with spelling and pronunciation. Here are some example:

Word: Motivation

Syllables: MO + TIV + A + TION

Short or long vowel sound: we can see that the first syllable is open (it ends with a vowel), so should be a long vowel sound

 

Word: Operation

Syllables: OP+ ER + A + TION

Short or long vowel sound: we can see that the first syllable is closed (it ends with a consonant), so should be a short vowel sound


So how does this information help with spelling?

You can also use these techniques to help you with spelling. Here’s a simple example:

KITTEN

If you were having problems trying to spell the word, just think to yourself “Is the vowel sound short or long?” In this case, it is a short vowel sound (kitten, not kiiiitten). That tells you that is a closed syllable ending with a consonant, so must have T at the end of the syllable. That should then lead you to know that it should be spelled KIT – TEN

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