Have you heard of the expression ‘lost at sea’? In my experience, when it comes to British English pronunciation, that’s how most learners feel. Partly because there seems to be no rules to follow - and you can’t trust the spelling, that’s for sure!
When I trained as a voice coach I discovered a phonetician called John Wells and he came up with a perfect life-belt for this experience - Lexical Sets. Quite simply, if the stressed vowel sound in one word, rhymes with the stressed vowel sound in another, they belong in the same group. Which means that you could create groups of words (or as I call them ‘word banks’) based on their pronunciation instead of their spelling.
For example, in a standard British English accent, the vowel sound in ‘car’ rhymes with that of ‘staff’, ’laugh’, ‘calf’, ‘sergeant’, ‘heart’ and ‘are’. And in my experience, you’ll be getting the pronunciation of at least one of the vowel sounds in one of those words accurately, (possibly because the spelling seems to actually suggest the sound) and so it’s matter of getting the other vowels to rhyme. It’s good, isn’t it?
I can imagine that some of you are thinking, "yeah, but how do I know which words go in which groups?" Well, I've done it for you! I've sourced 850 of the most commonly used English words and group them into their lexical sets. I've also drawn pictures of the shapes and positions of the tongue and lips for each vowel sounds, and I've recorded over 40 minutes of audio. And it's FREE! Scroll down and click on the 'LEARN MORE...'.
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