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Improving American English Pronunciation: Voiced and Unvoiced Sounds

Let Corporate Speech Solutions help you improve your American English Accent!One of the most difficult parts of learning English is mastering all of the subtle differences in pronunciation. Learning how to produce sounds with an American English accent is what makes the difference between sounding like a non-native English speaker, and sounding like you’ve mastered the language. Last week we discussed one of the trickier parts of the American English accent: voiced and unvoiced sounds. Today, we present part two of our voiced and unvoiced series, and give you the chance to practice these skills.

As we discussed in our last blog, the thing that separates voiced sounds from unvoiced sounds is the use of your vocal cords. With a voiced sound, such as /z/, you should feel your throat vibrate if you put your hand to it. On the other hand, an unvoiced sound, such as /s/ will not produce any vibration. This is because unvoiced sounds are only made using air flow.

Two other voiced-unvoiced sound pairs commonly used in the English language are /v/ vs. /f/, and /b/ vs. /p/. Voicing makes the difference between words such as leave and leaf, or buy and pie. In order to master these differences, first listen to a native speaker produce words with voiced/unvoiced sounds and make sure you can hear the difference. Then, practice the sounds yourself. Here are some word pairs to help you get started:

pill                   bill

rip                    rib

pet                   bet

pan                 ban

cap                  cab

fine                 vine

fast                  vast

half                 have

refuse             reviews

fan                  van

For practice listening to the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds, check out the videos below, created by Corporate Speech Solutions President, Jayne Latz:


Want more practice hearing and producing voiced and unvoiced sounds? Check out our workbook, Talking Business: When English Is Your Second Language. This book has hundreds of examples of all the sounds of American English for you to practice, and includes over 100 sound files by a Native American English speaker so you can learn to hear the difference. You can find our workbook on our products page: http://www.corporatespeechsolutions.com/our-products/talking-business-when-english-is-your-second-language/

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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