Notice any differences? Believe it or not, all these words have completely different pronunciations! For a lot of Chileans, they are extremely hard to distinguish. These are called short vowel sounds and they’re some of the hardest to master for non-native English speakers. You might be thinking, “Oh, whatever. It’s not like I’m offending anybody!” but be careful, because you might be!
For example, even the slightest mispronunciation in a phrase like
“What beautiful beaches!”
“This is a great picture of us”
might get you in a lot of trouble. Don’t believe me? Just change the “a” sound in the first phrase with a “u” sound and you’ll find yourself seriously insulting somebody!
But don’t fret! We’re here to help you fine tune your ear and untwist your tongue. Below you’ll find a few tips on how to make short vowel sounds in English.
A: This is a tough one because it doesn’t exist in Spanish, but it’s simpler than you think! Make an “a” sound just as you would in Spanish, but try rounding your tongue upwards while you say it. For example, cat.
E: This one’s easy! It sounds just like the “e” in Spanish. For example, pet.
I: To make this sound, pretend as if you just smelled something really gross! Like when you say, “Ew!”. To help, try rounding your tongue upwards. You may even be touching the sides of your teeth. For example, fit.
How not to pronounce: Avoid pronouncing it like in Spanish! Or else “fit” will sound like “feet”.
O: To make this sound, try making the “a” sound in Spanish with your mouth forming an oval instead of a circle. For example, box.
U: The short “u” sounds like when your hesitating or thinking a lot, like when you say “Umm…”. For example, cut.
How not to pronounce: Some people pronounce this vowel as if it was an “a” sound in Spanish, but they’re not the same. Try closing your mouth a little while saying a Spanish “a” sound, and it’ll sound a lot closer to a short “u” in English!
Have any questions? Don’t worry! Just contact your Competent teacher and we’ll be more than happy to drill these sounds with you. It’s only a matter of practice, patience and a lot of perseverance!
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