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Wednesday August 16th, 2017
English Pronunciation Podcast 13-
Using the Vowel /ə/ "schwa" in unstressed syllables
: Today's podcast teaches you how to use the vowel /ə / in unstressed syllables to make your accent sound more like an American's.


In today's podcast, we're going to continue to learn and practice the very important vowel /ə/.

*I strongly recommend that you listen to podcast #10 (Vowel /ə/ ) before this one!

The focus of this week's lesson is:

  • Learning how to reduce vowels in unstressed syllables using /ə /
  • Practicing /ə/ in words and sentences

Rule: In English, the vowel of an unstressed syllable changes quality. It becomes reduced-(shorter.)

Example: "today" (2 syllables, second syllable is stressed)

The <o>in the first syllable is reduced to /ə/

today = /tədeI/
Not: /tudeI /

The first syllable is short and neutral: /tə/
(reduced vowel)

The second, stressed syllable is longer.

When you begin to pronounce the words of English with long stressed syllables and reduced unstressed syllables, you will begin to sound like a native speaker.
You'll begin to speak English with the right rhythm and flow

Example2: "common"

The first<o> is pronounced differently than the second<o> because the first <o> is on the stressed syllable.

first <o>= /a/,
second <o> =/ə/


Not: /kaman/ or /kamon/

Reduction of other vowels in unstressed syllables:

Example: "banana" = /bənænə/

Not: /banæna /

<a> Reduced to /ə/

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing <a> reduced to /ə/

away ... agree... soda ... local ... breakfast ... America ...

<o> Reduced to /ə/. :   
Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing <o> reduced to /ə /

occur ... common ... melon ...police ... political ...

<e>Reduced to /ə/

*It is possible to reduce<e> to /I/ as well. For this lesson we will only use /ə /

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following words containing <e> reduced to /ə / :

travel ... believe ... reply ... often ... student ... problem

<u> Reduced to /ə /

Exercise : Listen and repeat the following words containing <u> reduced to /ə/:

success... support . . .education... instrument.....

Exercise: Listen and repeat the following sentences which contain words with /ə / in the unstressed syllable. Try to feel the rhythm of the sentence.

It's common to drink soda in America
Did you eat breakfastoday?
She supports funding for police and education.
If we believe, we achieve success.


When a vowel falls on an unstressesd syllable, the vowel can be reduced to /ə/.

In future podcasts, we'll learn more about syllable stress and vowel reduction.

/ə/ is a key vowel for speaking English with an American accent. When you begin to use /ə/ in unstressed syllables, the rhythm of the way you speak will begin to sound much more like a native speaker.

Looking for more practice? Try Best Accent Training mp3s!

Any questions, comments or suggestions ?
Contact us at: contact@englishpronunciationpod.com

Thank you and see you next time!  



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