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Learn the High-Front Vowel Sounds of American English!

Presentation SkillsWhen trying to master the American English accent, the devil is in the details. One of the most difficult things to master is vowels which are similar to one another, but have slight variations that differentiate them. These are especially tricky, because sometimes this small difference can change a word’s meaning entirely, so sloppy pronunciation can really confuse your message.

Two vowels which are often problematic are the high-front vowels [i] (as in meet) and [I] (as in hit). There are four things which determine how a vowel is pronounced: how high your tongue is in your mouth, how far front or back your tongue is, whether your lips are rounded or pulled back, and the amount of tension used. These two vowels, [i] and [I] are particularly tricky because they vary in only one of these. For both vowels, the tongue is very far forward and high in the mouth and the lips are retracted (pulled back). The only thing that differs is the tension: [i] has more tension and it is slightly longer in duration when spoken.

Take a look at the following list of words that differ only in this vowel sound to see how much difference one vowel can make! Practice this list and see if you can master the difference.

 [i]

[I]

[i]

[I]

[i]

[I]

feel

fill

sleet

slit

seen

sin

eat

it

heap

hip

bean

bin

leap

lip

reap

rip

heat

hit

each

itch

sheep

ship

Pete

pit

feet

fit

green

grin

cheap

chip

seat

sit

teen

tin

keen

kin

Take a look at the following video to hear Corporate Speech Solutions founder and president Jayne Latz give some examples of these differences and learn more about how they can improve your American English pronunciation!

Do your professional communication skills need improvement? Let us help you make your speech and communication your most powerful professional tool! For information on the New York Based Speech and Accent Reduction services offered by Corporate Speech Solutions please give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com. Not in NYC? No problem! We also provide Skype and video conferencing services.
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