Pronunciation Of The Short “A” Sound
(And Why There Is A Problem With What You Have Been Taught Previously)
n this article and the video below — you will learn how to pronounce The Short “A” Sound — You will learn that there is more than one sound for what is called “The Short A” — And you will learn that even so-called “Pronunciation Experts” get it wrong.
Introduction To The Video
o far — “Rachel” seems to be the leading “expert” on English pronunciation, who making videos on YouTube. She does a great job of demonstrating HOW to make the different sounds. In fact — I think that is the most valuable part of her videos. But she also makes some glaring errors, which seem so incredibly obvious that perhaps I should start making pronunciation videos as well!
lso — for some reason — she does not use the traditional names for the sounds. Instead — she calls them by their actual sounds. This is not “wrong”, but I do not see how that helps you to comprehend. Even if the name “Short A” are not perfect — that is what people are taught — so that is what they would be searching for. Just know that what she is talking about in this video is “The Short A” Sound.
Notice! — My notes and comments about what was good and what is WRONG are listed below, with times corresponding to the places in the video which I am referring to.
0:05-0:09 — At this point shes says: “We’re going to learn how to pronounce the “AA” as in Bat [æ] Vowel“
What She Should Have Said (in order to be correct) Is:
“We’re going to learn how to pronounce the different sounds of ‘The Short A’.”
As for the use of “AA” — In the English teaching world — it is fairly common for teachers and text-books to represent “The Short A” sound — phonetically — with the use of two letters “A”. But it is not written with two Capital Letters, as she has done. It is written with two Lower-Case Letters “A” — “aa”. Why this is supposed to represent that sound, I do not know. There is no logical reason that I have ever found for that.
As for the use of “æ” — This is the symbol for “The Short A” in The International Phonetic Alphabet — and it is the symbol that I use on throughout GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!. You will see this on The GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! Pronunciation Portal.
0:15–0:50 — Here, she says: “This is a sound that changes, depending on the following sound”.
This is a mistake of her choice of words. Because when we say “…the following…” in a sentence, like she did — it implies that we are going to say what “…the following…” thing IS… But then she never says what “…the following sound…” that she is referring to actually IS. This is because, that is not what she meant.
What She Should Have Said Was:
“This is a sound that changes, depending on what sound comes directly after it.”
0:21-0:25 — Here she refers to a “Pure Vowel” or a “Modified Vowel”. These are not Terms that exist in Traditional English Grammar. It is very likely that she made-up these Terms herself. But if that is the case, then…
She Should Have Said:
“These are what I call a ‘Pure Vowel Sound’, or a ‘Modified Vowel Sound’.”
In this way — it is known that these are HER Terms for what she is talking about. Otherwise, you might go looking for more information on “Pure” and “Modified Vowels”, and you will find nothing — because there is no such thing.
However — I do like her use of the term “Pure”. But the Term that I use — which you can also see in the article about “The Long A” Sound — is “TRUE”. Because even a “TRUE” Vowel sound is not “Pure”. But it IS “TRUE” to the way that we have been taught the the Vowel is supposed to sound.
0:39-0:42 — Here, she says that the tongue: “…is touching the back of the bottom front teeth.”
This is not necessarily true. It is possible to make the sound when you are touching the back of the bottom front teeth with your tongue. But you do not have to. In fact — it is probably not true for most people in the world. The tongue is “forward” as she said, and it is also down. But it is more relaxed, right behind the bottom front teeth — not touching them.
The Thing Is — This sound exists in ALL other languages. So just pronounce it the same way that you pronounce it in YOUR language.
The only time that I have ever experienced people having difficulty pronouncing some sound in English is because they are trying to read some Word, and they are trying to pronounce it as they would in their own language. This is because their brain has been trained to pronounce Letters & Letter-Combinations in certain ways.
The way to fix THAT is by NOT looking at the word on the page, but by simply imitating the sound. (I have even had to have students close their eyes sometimes.) Then, just repeat the sound.
So even though a person who has been taught that the word “Car” is pronounced “CAW” (in British-English). That does not mean that they are not able to pronounce it with “The Short A” sound, and by actually pronouncing The Letter “R”. They use The “Short A” in the word “Candle”. And they pronounce the “r” in the word “Carriage”.
The Same Is True For You — Just imitate the sound. If you actually have some sort of speech impediment — then you can use her instructions on how to hold your mouth and tongue. I’m sure that they will help. Otherwise — just imitate the sound. 😉
1:43-1:50 — Here, she says: “When [“The Short A”] is in a Stressed Syllable — the vowel will go up and come down in pitch.”
This Is Not Necessarily True — This is ONLY true with some people and with some words. (To use her examples) It is perfectly natural — and even more common — for people to say the word “Sat” without the vowel sound going up and down in pitch.
Also — This is not true for almost all other multiple-syllable words. If you were to say the word “Apple” according to her instructions — it would sound very weird. You can also hear in her other example with the word “Backtrack” — that she does NOT make the pitch “go up and down” in the first, stressed syllable.
The Only Time That The Vowel Sound “Goes Up And Down” Like She Said Is When Someone Is Demonstrating The Sound — By Itself
And SOMETIMES With Single-Syllable Words
However — The second part of this vowel sound that she called “Modfied” is not always an “uh” sound. Sometimes it may sound more like an “ih” sound. If you use the word “Man” as an example. Some people pronounce it like “Mæ-uhn”. Others pronounce it more like “Mæ-Ihn”.
That is why — in The Common Tongue — I call these different sounds:
The Short A / I-Schwa Diphthong (written as /æ-ə(ɪ)/) & The Short A / U-Schwa Diphthong (written as /æ-ə(ʌ)/)
3:47-4:04 — While it is true that we don’t say it in the exaggerated way that she says in this section. What she says is also not true. PLENTY of people actually DO say “Man” with what she calls the “Pure” “Short A” sound. What I call the:
TRUE short A — /æ/
4:58-5:07 — Once again — this is also true of “The Letter L”
Also — I have no idea why she refuses to actually say the Names of the Letters or their sounds — like when she says “this symbol” for both Letter “M” and “N”. This makes no sense to me. But if you were also confused by this — don’t worry. You are not missing something — this actually IS very weird. 😆
5:12-6:14 — This is completely wrong. This is a perfect example of how people who have been traditionally trained in a certain field, seem to not be able to see what is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEIR FACES (or more appropriately: to hear with their own ears).
The Short A sound in-front-of an “ng” or “nk” combination is NOT a Long A Sound. If that were the case then we would actually CALL it a Long A… But IT IS NOT!!!
When The Short A sound is in-front-of the “ng” or “nk” combinations — it is pronounced as a Diphthong of a Short A / Long E combination.
Also — This [eɪ] is NOT the symbol for The Long A! It makes no sense. This is because the symbol for The Long E is this: iː
So you can see that this so-called “Expert” is VERY wrong about some things that are VERY OBVIOUS. to anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear.
So After All That — You Might Be Asking Yourself…
“If you dis-agree with so much of what was said in the video — why would you, then, post it on such an awesome blog as this?” 😀
That’s A Good Question…
t is because most of what Rachel says in her videos is, overall, very good information. Specifically when she demonstrates how to actually make the sounds with one’s mouth, tongue, throat, and voice. I only aim to clarify — EVEN MORE — the good information that she presents — And fix the information that is either completely wrong or not very good.
ince I am LITERALLY creating a completely Revised, and Re-Newed form of The English Language in my system called The Common Tongue — then it is necessary to show the world that there is actually a need for doing-so. And the best way to do that, is to show the mistakes of the current “system” (and the so-called “experts” who are teaching it).
nd finally — since I have been doing that with ALL of my students since I started teaching — (un-intentionally at first. Then VERY intentionally) — I have discovered that people learn English MUCH faster by seeing the mistakes that others make. In that way — they don’t ALSO make those mistakes.
hen I was a skateboarder — my friends and I would often watch videos that always had “slam sessions” — where they would show the skaters “wiping out” — sometimes severly. Those “wife-out” sections were just as useful as the sections where they showed people pulling tricks.
So… I will continue to share videos and other material that have mistakes in them. And I will point out those mistakes. They you will learn English even better than a Native Speaker. And when they say, “How did you become so fluent in English?” And you will say: “Actually I am only fluent in The Common Tongue. And I learned it from “The Teacher” at GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!” 😎
Have An Excellent Day!
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