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The Schwa /ə/ (BBC Learning English)

Learn about the most common vowel sound in English: the Schwa /ə/. English pronunciation is easy, right? Well, maybe it isn't always a piece of cake, but Tim's back in the pronunciation workshop and ready to give a helping hand. This time he's looking at an aspect of spoken English called ‘schwa’. The symbol for the schwa sound looks like this /ə/.

This is the most important sound in the English language and also plays a very important role in the English rhythm of the language and also in the difference between strong and weak forms.

You can read more about the vowel Schwa here.

 

Tim
Hi, I'm Tim and this is my pronunciation workshop. Here, I'm gonna show you how English is really spoken. It'll help you to become a better listener and a more fluent speaker. You ready? Come on, follow me.
Now, there's an idiom in the English language that means that something is really easy. Any idea what it is? Well, here's a clue.
Do you know now? Let's ask the people of London:
Voxpops
It's a piece of cake
It's a piece of cake
It's a piece of cake
It's a piece of cake
Tim
A piece of cake – an expression that means that something is really easy to do, as well as meaning – a piece of cake.
But listen again to the words 'a' and 'of'. They are actually pronounced the same. What is the sound and are those words stressed?
Voxpops
It's a piece of cake
It's a piece of cake
It's a piece of cake
It's a piece of cake
Tim
The words 'a' and 'of' are both pronounced as /ə/ and they're not stressed.
This sound /ə/ is the most common sound in the whole English language. It's so common that it even has its own name – schwa.
Now, it can be difficult to hear the schwa because it is never stressed. However, it's a vowel sound that's used in many grammar words like articles and prepositions.
Here are some more examples.
Examples
I like a cup of tea in the morning.
Could you get a packet of biscuits?
Can you give it to me?
I had an apple for lunch today.
Tim
So, you've heard the examples, and now it's your turn. Are you ready to start? Listen and repeat.
Examples
I like a cup of tea in the morning.
Could you get me a packet of biscuits?
Can you give it to me?
I had an apple for lunch today.
Tim
Great work. Now remember, if you want to learn more about pronunciation then please visit our website: bbclearningenglish.com.
That's about it from the pronunciation workshop for now. I'll see you soon. Bye bye.
Now, I've got a cup of tea and I've got a biscuit, I'm looking forward to a piece of cake.
That was a mistake, but a tasty one.

3:31            
 
 

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