Approximant refers to a consonant sound that is made when speech organs come close together to make a sound but not close enough to stop or restrict the airflow like plosives and fricatives.

Assimilation describes how sounds modify each other when they meet. This can happen within words or across word boundaries. For example, let’s take the phrase ‘we can buy’. If we listen to the words in isolation we hear the following: ‘we’ /wi:/, ‘can’ /kæn/, and ‘buy’ /baɪ/. However, in fast fluent speech the following happens /wi: kəm baɪ/. The modification takes place on the final /n/ of ‘can’, which changes to /m/ due to the influence of the bilabial sound /b/. Both /m/ and /b/ are bilabial sounds in terms of place of articulation, so in fast fluent speech it is easier for us to use two bilabial sounds across the word boundary.

Back chaining (drill) involves drilling and building up a word or structure from the end to the beginning. For example, ask the students to repeat /n/,then add the preceding sound, and ask them to repeat /aɪn/, and then the next sound until you have the whole word: /waɪn/. It can be effective for both single words and full structures.

Connected speech involves groups of words that make a flow of sounds. These sounds are connected, grouped, and modified. This means sounds may be changed, omitted, reduced, or linked together during fast fluent speech.

Consonant clusters are consonant sounds that occur together, for example, ‘asked’ /ɑ:skt/. In this example there are three consonant sounds at the end of the word. This can be problematic for learners, especially when the cluster does not happen in L1.

Diphthong refers to a vowel sound that glides from one phoneme to another within a single syllable. For example, ‘now’ /naʊ/ contains the diphthong /aʊ/.

Drilling involves the teacher saying a word or structure and asking the students to repeat it. This is the most basic form of drilling.

Elision is a feature of connected speech. It describes the omission of sounds in rapid speech. Individual phonemes are elided due to the surrounding sounds and speed of speech. For example, in “next day”, we often elide the /t/ at the of “next”. we do this because it very hard to include it and speak quickly. Other examples include “eggs and rice”, where the /d/ in “and is elided. It is common when the final consonant sound is /t/ or /d/. It can also happen within words, for example, “camera”, where we don’t pronounce the /e/ or comfortable, which we sometimes pronounce as /kʌmftəbəl/.

Fricative refers to a speech sound that is produced through friction as a flow of air moves between two speech organs at the place of articulation. This refers to the manner of articulation. /f/ is a fricative sound.

Glottal stop refers to a complete block of airflow at the glottis, which is then released to produce the sound. It is represented by the symbol /ʔ/. This glottal sound can replace /k/, /p/, and /t/ at the end of a word, for example ‘what’ /wɒt/ becomes /wɒʔ/.

L1 refers to a person’s first language

Liaison refers to the joining of sounds and words by linking them together with another sound. For example, in “go away” we join the words by inserting a /w/. This happens when there are two vowel sounds and we want to create a glide from one word to the other. Linking sounds include /w/, /j/ and /r/. They all help us to be more fluent and speak quickly. Final consonant sounds link to the initial vowel sounds of the following word, for example, ‘bought_a’. The same happens with final vowel sounds, which link to initial consonant sounds in the following word.

Monophthong refers to a pure vowel sound. The articulation is relatively fixed from beginning to end. For example, ‘what’ /wɒt/ contains the monophthong /ɒ/.

Phoneme means a single unit of sound within a language. For example, ‘teach’ / ti:tʃ/ has three phonemes: /t/, /i:/, and /tʃ/

Plosive refers to a speech sound in which a complete closure is made in the vocal tract. Air pressure builds up behind the closure, and is then released. /p/ is a plosive sound.

Schwa /ə/ is the central vowel sound, which is the most frequent in continuous speech. It is the smallest phoneme, never carries stress, and is the only one to have its own name.

Semi-vowel is the category sometimes used for /j/ and /w/. They are called semi-vowels because, unlike other consonant sounds, there is no restriction to the airflow. These sounds act like consonants but have a category of their own.

Stress refers to prominence in a word or stream of speech. With place emphasis on particular syllables to give them prominence. This stress can help us to give meaning and feeling to what we say. We also reduce or unstress some syllables and words to help us speak faster and move between sounds and words more easily. Stress gives rhythm to English.

Stressed syllables are the syllables which have prominence or emphasis. These syllables are louder, longer and higher in pitch. E.g. in pro-nun-ci-a-tion, the stressed syllable is the fourth syllable.

Stress-timed refers to languages where stressed syllables are said at fairly regular intervals and unstressed syllables get shorter to fit this rhythm. Syllables vary in length, pitch and volume as a result and vowel quality is affected. Languages where this happens include English, German and Russian.

Syllables are units of sound. Words are divided into syllables. E.g. pro-nun-ci-a-tion has 5 syllables.

Syllable-timed refers to languages where syllables are given more equal time when pronounced. Languages where this happens include Spanish, French and Cantonese.

Unvoiced/ voiceless are sounds that are made with no vibration of the vocal chords. /p/ is unvoiced.

Voiced refers to sounds that are made when the vocal chords are vibrated. /b/ is voiced.

Vowel reduction describes how unstressed vowel sounds are reduced in continuous speech. For example, most monophthongs are reduced to the central schwa /ə/. However, /i:/ reduces towards /ɪ/, and /u:/ reduces towards /ʊ/.

Word stress is the placement of stress on particular syllables within a word. There are some guiding principles for this such as:

  • in two syllable nouns the first syllable is stressed: finger, table etc
  • affixes are usually unstressed
  • in two syllable verbs the second verb is usually stressed embrace, decide