Earlier in this blog, after the classification of American English vowels, we began to work on the vowels in pairs. In this series, we were speaking about the /i/ (Long E - EE) and /ı/ (Short I – IH)sounds. And now we’re going to learn about the /æ/ (Short A - AA) and /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sounds. The methods we will use will be similar. We’re going through some useful materials from Rachel’s website and video channel, and we will talk about Mandy’spronuncian.com and her excellent podcast. There are many good teachers who concentrate on American English pronunciation, but in my opinion Rachel and Mandy are the best.
Before starting, I have to mention a few issues (if you haven’t read about them yet). Excuse me for repeating myself now or later in this article.
Long vowels are NOT consequently longer than short vowels. It’s only the name that has been used for them for ages.
Both Rachel’s and Mandy’s materials are great. If you learn from them simultaneously, it’ll be helpful for you. Even though they use different systems to name or indicate the sounds, they’re speaking about the same thing. This difference doesn’t modify their main message.
However, I have to add that their different reference systems make it a little difficult to refer to their materials. I have decided to use three systems when I speak about one specific sound.
1. /æ/ Short A – AA
What does Rachel provide? She explains how to create the /æ/ (Short A – AA) sound as in “bat.
She shows how to create this sound and gives an example in which she explains in slow motion, from different angles what’s going on. Her example sentence is, “The master gardener now, sadly, has a bad back.” I recommend to visit the 'listen and repeat video' as well. In this video Rachel adds some exercises that might be useful.
Let’s see how the the /æ/ (Short A – AA) sound is generally spelled (with two NON PHONETIC PATTERN):
Note: When the consonant following the letter a is the letter r (as in the words star and car), the sound is usually pronounced as the 'ar' sound instead of the short 'a' sound followed by the 'r' sound.
2. /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sound
Rachel shows how to create the /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sound and her example sentence is, “French bread is best when it is very fresh.”
Mandy also explains how to create the /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sound, gives audio examples, recommends some shows from her podcast and related lessons, and shows some exercises. You can find the basis of the sheet of possible spelling patterns of the /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sound (with audio examples) on Mandy’s website.
Let’s see how the /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sound is generally spelled (with some NON PHONETIC PATTERNs):
Note: When the consonant following the letter e is the letter r (as in the words her and after), the sound is usually pronounced as the schwa+r instead of the short 'e' sound followed by the 'r' sound
Rachel compares the /æ/ (Short A - AA) and /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sounds in this video and in this listening comprehension video.
Mandy also recommends a comparison lesson here. Mandy provides minimal pairs and other exercises here. If you click on the link here you can reach Mandy's sound page. Please click on 'study now' for the /æ/ (Short A - AA) and /ɛ/ (Short E – EH) sounds. You'll find beginning sound, middle sound, and end sound exercises. In addition, you can practice some minimal pairs. Sorry I can't put direct links to Mandy's minimal pairs, but you can reach them indirectly via this link. Mandy also has a lot of exercises and quizzes that are available for premium subscribers. Sorry, I’m not a subscriber at the moment, so I can’t give you more information about it.
Keep in mind that I'm not showing you each interesting video and exercise from Rachel or Mandy. I encourage you to begin to discover these sites on your own.
Hi Gardeniafly! Can you add something?
I think that the most important thing when learning the vowel sounds is to study the shape a native speaker's mouth makes when they are pronouncing words using these vowels. When you do that, you can get a better understanding of how the sound is made and you'll be more successful in your pronunciation. This is also how babies begin to learn language themselves! It sounds like Rachel's videos would be a good place start your practice.