Curso First Certificate Exam

LOS CURSOS DE INGLES GRATIS PREFERIDOS POR LOS HISPANOHABLANTES

 

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Pronunciation

 

 

 

 

WEAK FORMS: the schwa /ə/

In Paper 5, one of the things students are assessed on is their pronunciation of individual sounds. It is important that students identify which particular sounds they have problems with and work gradually to improve them.

/ə/ This is the vowel sound produced when the lips and tongue are not taking any particular position, when they are in 'rest position'. It is the most common sound in English. When speakers of English are hesitating, this is the sound they make (e.g. 'er', 'um', etc.).

English is a stress-timed language: speakers stress the important words in a sentence and skip over the less important words. On the contrary, some languages, known as 'syllable-timed', such as Spanish and Japanese, stress each word equally.

One analogy of the system of stress-timing could be with newspaper headlines: meaning words are kept, but grammar words are generally omitted:

MEANING WORDS
GRAMMAR WORDS

 
   
     

QUEEN TO VISIT POPE
THE
  /  IS GOING  /  THE
(The Queen is going to visit the Pope)

It is important to mention here that most vowel sounds in English reduce to the schwa /ə/ in their weak form. Common examples of 'grammar words' which reduce to the weak form /ə/ are:

ARTICLES:

a,  an,  the

PRONOUNS:

her,  that,  them,  us,  you

PREPOSITIONS:

at,  for,  from,  of,  to

AUXILIARY VERBS:

are,  do,  does,  has,  have,  had,  was,  were

MODAL VERBS:

can,  could,  must,  shall,  should,  would

   

In the exercises below you can practise this grammar.

 

The words highlighted in yellow in these two sentences have the same vowel sound: the schwa /ə/ in its weak form. Click on the speaker, listen to the audio and repeat both sentences.

1.

Five members of a drugs gang who sliced open LP records to smuggle cocaine into Britain have been jailed for a total of 72 years.

2.

Heavy snow brought warnings from the police that people should stay indoors.

 

Weak forms (II)

 

 

ACTIVITY 208: Now prepare to do this 3-step activity: 1) Read this news item aloud. Copy/paste or paint/drag the text into the blank space below and put brackets () round the words you will pronounce in their weak forms; 2) Click on the speaker and listen while you check your work: 3) Finally, check the answers.

Five drugs smugglers were convicted at a London court yesterday in the wake of the most ingenious attempts to transport cocaine ever seen by Customs investigators.

 

Weak forms (III)

 

 

Finally, listen carefully to this conversation between Sheila and Ralph. The words highlighted in yellow are pronounced in the weak form, as a schwa /ə/ sound. Click on the speaker, listen to the audio and try to read it aloud afterwards.

SHEILA

You mean you don't read a daily paper?

RALPH

No, I haven't the time.

SHEILA

So how do you know what's going on?

RALPH

I listen to the news on the radio in the morning, and I watch the TV news at night.

SHEILA

And you find that that's enough?

RALPH

Yes.

SHEILA

So tell me about the Prime Minister: what was he doing yesterday? Who came to see him? What should he have been doing at 3 o'clock?

RALPH

I know that ... it's the story at the moment. Some foreign journalists were interviewing him and he didn't realise that he was late for Parliament.

 

Ha sido una estupenda sesión de pronunciación de Mr. Grammar !!! 
En la próxima página vamos a recordar algunos hechos históricos ...

 

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