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The British accent and common mistakes : Part 1

Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 by Positivevoice

As helpful as it is to know what you should do in order to speak English well, it is also important to be aware of the common mistakes made by native, British speakers. Throughout the UK, there are a range of different dialects and regional accents. In areas such as Essex and London, many people confuse ‘l’ and ‘w’ in words such as still, middle and well, so don’t be surprised if you hear someone saying ‘I’m very wew, thank you’ when they mean ‘Very well’. This may sound unlikely to you, but it is becoming more and more prevalent. I have also worked with clients from the West country and Birmingham who make the same mistake.

Sometimes this mistake is just a habit that has been picked up, and other times it is due to a lack of strength in the tongue. If this is the case, there is a great exercise for strengthening the tongue. All you need to do is take a soft sweet, or something similar and hold it up against the middle of the palate with the tip of the tongue for as long as you can. Ideally, this should be repeated three times per day until you are able to make the movement without any difficulty.

So, now that you know what not to do when it comes to the pronunciation of the consonant sound ‘l’, here is what you should be doing :

In the photograph, below, i demonstrate the mouth positioning for 'l':

This sound differs slightly depending on where in the word it is positioned. It is a voiced sound, which means that air passes over the vocal chords creating a sound.

There is one IPA symbol for this sound, ‘l’, even though it varies slightly depending on whether it is positioned before or after the vowel (or diphthong): let vs tell, for instance. When the ‘l’ sound comes before the vowel, it is fairly straight forward: To produce this sound, maintain a neutral mouth positioning (the lips rest gently apart), place the tip of your tongue on the palate just before the front teeth, without actually touching the front teeth, create a little pressure as you begin the vowel that follows and then release to continue with your word. At this point, the middle of the tongue should be slightly raised. If you slow down the sound, you will notice there is a little extra sound that is not represented by an ipa symbol, it is similar to the vowel sound ʊ, as in the word ‘could’.

This extra sound is more apparent when the vowel or diphthong comes before the ‘l’, as in words such as ‘meal’. Even without slowing down my speech, that is to say, in normal speech, this extra sound is very much apparent and if you do not pronounce it, the word won’t sound the same. If you’re still a little confused, please do watch my video on this subject. This is an extract from my Digital course in British accent coaching.

This sound differs slightly depending on where in the word it is positioned. It is a voiced sound, which means that air passes over the vocal chords creating a sound.

There is one IPA symbol for this sound, ‘l’, even though it varies slightly depending on whether it is positioned before or after the vowel (or diphthong): let vs tell, for instance. When the ‘l’ sound comes before the vowel, it is fairly straight forward: To produce this sound, maintain a neutral mouth positioning (the lips rest gently apart), place the tip of your tongue on the palate just before the front teeth, without actually touching the front teeth, create a little pressure as you begin the vowel that follows and then release to continue with your word. At this point, the middle of the tongue should be slightly raised. If you slow down the sound, you will notice there is a little extra sound that is not represented by an ipa symbol, it is similar to the vowel sound ʊ, as in the word ‘could’.

This extra sound is more apparent when the vowel or diphthong comes before the ‘l’, as in words such as ‘meal’. Even without slowing down my speech, that is to say, in normal speech, this extra sound is very much apparent and if you do not pronounce it, the word won’t sound the same. If you’re still a little confused, please do watch my video on this subject. This is an extract from my Digital course in British accent coaching.

l from Francesca Gordon-Smith on Vimeo.




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