If you want to sound like a native English speaker with your English pronunciation, you need to know about a few speech elements that are not usually talked about. What they don’t teach you, and you need to know, is to make sure you aspirate your consonants, especially the unvoiced ones.
Aspirating your consonants is a key element for clear English pronunciation. It is also very important if you want to reduce your accent completely in English so that people don’t keep asking you where you are from.
The dictionary definition of ‘aspirate’ is: “to articulate (a speech sound, especially a stop) so as to produce an audible puff of breath”
When Do I Aspirate a Speech Sound in English Pronunciation?
In English most of the consonants have some aspiration when you say them. Some have more aspiration especially consonants at the beginning of words, and for unvoiced consonants. In fact the unvoiced consonants are really made of air that is just channeled differently according to where you place your mouth parts.
The unvoiced consonants are /p/ /t/ /k/ /f/ /h/ /s/ ‘sh’ and ‘ch’. But even the rest of the consonants that are voiced aren’t stopped completely as in some other languages.
Why Do I Need to Aspirate My Consonants for English Pronunciation?
If you don’t aspirate your consonants then you aren’t actually pronouncing English correctly. Many people I have worked with have felt frustrated because they are still being asked where they come from even though their English is good, and they have been living in an English speaking country for a long time.
After you have mastered the obvious things like the ‘th’ and /r/ sounds, vowels and correct English stress patterns, it is the higher level subtle English pronunciation elements that need work. That is why I have made this audio lesson for you to practise with.
Aspirating your consonants properly helps you pronounce the vowels in words correctly as well. This is because you aren’t stopping and shortening the consonants so the vowel doesn’t get shortened.
Click on the audio below to hear the lesson:
Audio lesson text:
/p/ /t/ /k/ /f/ /h/ /s/ ‘sh’ ‘ch’ ‘th’ and voiced ‘th’
/p/ paper, put, park
Please put the paper you found at the park, in the bin.
/t/ ten, tap, took
He took the tap off ten times before he fixed it.
/k/ come, catch, keep
Look first, and then come and catch the ball and keep it.
‘th’ Unvoiced think, path, three
I don’t think you can put three cars on that path.
‘th’ Voiced the, other, that
The other one goes on that.
Best wishes, Esther