The Queen's English? British English pronunciation course - LESSON ONE - idiot sounds! - 30 minute lesson



The Queen's English?  British English pronunciation course - LESSON ONE - idiot sounds! - 30 minute lesson    - by Kelly Bishop


So you want to learn to speak like a true Brit?  


Well first of all you have to master what I call the 'idiot' sounds.  Yes, you have to learn to talk like an idiot!

We Brits are pretty lazy when it comes to our pronunciation, and the LAZIEST sound of all is the MOST common sound in our spoken language.  


Do you know the name of this sound or can you make it now?


We call it the SCHWA, on the British English phonemic chart is looks like this: Schwa and it sounds like 'uh'. (


Practise that sound now: "uh uh uh uh uh"


It's the sound that takes the least effort to produce with our mouths, we can say it almost without moving a muscle.  

We have to do very little wiht our tongue, teeth or lips to produce it and our jaw is relaxed.  It's so LAZY!  That's why we love to use it!

Try making the sound again and notice how it feels in your mouth, how little effort is involved in making it.


When you see the letters 'er' and 'or' at the end of words it will most likely be this sound that we use. Practise the following words and notice the 'uh' or schwa sound at the end.










Can you think of any more examples of words in English which end with this sound?


We don't just use this sound at the end of words, this sound is used in many many words, and can be in any syllable position in a word.  The only time you can be SURE this isn't the sound you need is when the syllable is STRESSED.  The Schwa is never a stressed sound.  This is why it is sometimes called 'the WEAK schwa'. (More on syllables and stress later in the course.)


Can you identify the schwa (or schwas!) in the following commonly used English words?










The next sound we are going to learn is a slightly longer version of the schwa sound.  It looks like this:  and it sounds like "Uhhhhhh


This one is almost as lazy as the first one, we don't really use our mouths much to make this sound, but it takes a bit more effort as we hold the sound for longer.


Compare the two sounds by saying them one after another   Schwa  uh / uhhhhh

Can you think of any words that use this new sound?


Here are some examples, try saying them and be aware of the sound you are making....










Finally let's play a game to see if you can tell the difference between these two sounds.  To claim a square you must correctly pronounce a word using the sound in that square.



HOMEWORK - practise the sounds using the interactive phonemic chart to remind you:


Look up the words we used in this lesson in the Cambridge English dictionary and notice the phonemic symbols which appear under the words.  Can you see the two symbols we learned today?































Adrian Undehill's phonemic chart

Adrian Underhill's pronunciation video series for teachers for One Stop English




Grammar Point: