During our time working with students to develop their English accents, our coaches have found several letter combinations that are especially tricky for many of our students.
- The ‘ts’ consonant cluster
- The ‘tw’ consonant cluster
- The ‘qu’ consonant blend sound
To help you master these sounds, we have compiled some tips, tricks, and audio recordings to improve your pronunciation.
The ‘TS’ Consonant Cluster
Pronouncing the ‘ts’ consonant cluster, especially at the end of words, is difficult for many students. Often, students struggle with including the ‘t’ sound. As a result, the sound is omitted; instead of saying ‘lots’, the word sounds like ‘los’. To help make your accent clear, here is a tip regarding the ‘ts’ sound.
** Take a very slight pause before the ‘ts’ to help your mouth organize itself for the consonant cluster. You can also make the ‘s’ sound up on the ridge behind your top front teeth where you make the ‘t’, so it’s easier to get from one to the other quickly. **
For example, in the word ‘what’s’- say the ‘wha’ – make a very slight pause, and then say the ‘ts’. You can do the same for words where the ‘ts’ isn’t short for a word plus ‘is’. For example, in the word ‘cats’, it’s the same principle. You say ‘ca’- take a very slight pause, and then say the ‘ts’.
Learn how to do this in the audio lesson below.
English Accent AUDIO LESSON-
Quick, Easy Trick- Pronounce the ‘ts’ Consonant Cluster
It’s, what’s, that’s, seats, lots, cats, wants, hearts, texts, arrangements, completes, patients, enhanced its, pushed its.
- It’s his.
- What’s the time?
- That’s my book.
- He sits on all the seats.
- Lots of mail came.
- She loves cats.
- That’s what he wants.
- That’s a lot of hearts in your text.
- He read all the assigned texts.
- What’s the plan for the arrangements?
- She must complete all the projects.
- Lots of patients waited.
- The design enhanced its appeal.
- The cat pushed its bowl over the mats.
The ‘TW’ Consonant Cluster
Many students have difficulty mastering the ‘tw’ consonant cluster. To help you perfect your pronunciation, here are two tips.
Tip 1: The first tip is if you can’t pronounce the /w/ properly, then learn that first.
Tip 2: Once you can pronounce the /w/ properly, then add the /t/.
To make the ‘tw’ consonant cluster, you:
- raise your tongue tip to the middle of the bony ridge behind your top front teeth for the /t/
- as you drop your tongue to aspirate the /t/, at the same time, you start to put your lips forward for the /w/. Your cheeks will move in a bit, and your jaw drops a little as you finish the /w/.
- the /t/ is an unvoiced consonant, and the /w/ is a voiced consonant.
In the audio training lesson below, practice saying words with this consonant cluster with me. If you don’t have trouble with this consonant cluster, use the words to practise syllable stress in words and main word stress in sentences.
twist, twins, twirl, tweak, twilight, tweezers, twitch, twenty, twelve, twinkling, Twitter, tweet, twig, twinkie (American cake), twinge, twiddle (idiom: to sit and twiddle your thumbs- means to sit idly and do nothing).
- They twirled and twisted between the tables.
- The stars began twinkling at twilight.
- Did you see what she tweeted?
- Are you on Twitter?
- He felt sick after eating twelve twinkies.
- We told the twins not to sit around twiddling their thumbs while everyone else cleaned up.
- After running the marathon, his calf muscle twitched, and he felt a twinge in his ankle.
The ‘QU’ Consonant Sound
In this English Pronunciation training tip, I will teach you how to say the ‘qu’ consonant blend sound. I have included a voice recording below so you can copy me and practice saying the ‘qu’ sound in words and sentences.
Because ‘qu’ is a sound made by pronouncing the /k/ and /w/ sounds together, it is a consonant blend. There are many consonant blends to practice in English pronunciation, so let’s start with /kw/. You must make sure you put your lips forward properly for the /w/ and don’t miss it out.
How to Pronounce the ‘qu’ Sound
Overdo the lip’s forward movement for the /w/ if you have to at first, to make sure you’re saying the /kw/ properly. Don’t leave the /w/ out as your mouth goes to the vowel after it.
In the voice recording I have included in this article, I will leave a space for you to copy me and practice.
The words in the audio training recording are:
quick, quiet, quite, queen, quarter, quit
The two sentences in the audio training recording are:
- He had to leave quite quietly not to disturb the queen.
- She quickly and quietly ate a quarter of the cake and quit the restaurant.
With some practice, these tips can help you master these difficult sounds.