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The SCHWA Sound! English Pronunciation Lesson

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Well hey there! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! This lesson is all about the schwa. Now it’s just one of the many English sounds but it’s one of the most important ones that you need to understand and use. Particularly if you want to sound more natural when you’re speaking English. So stay tuned! There are forty-four sounds in English. Some say forty-five. So you might be wondering why is this sound in particular, the schwa, so important? Well firstly it’s the most common sound in the English language by far. It occurs the most frequently. And that’s why it’s got its own special name, the schwa. Another thing that’s weird is that there is no schwa sound in the name schwa so it’s not really helpful for remembering it. But it’s also one of the trickiest sounds to understand because any vowel letter or combination of vowel letters could actually be pronounced as a schwa. Because English is not a phonetic language right? You can’t see this sound written in English. I mean we all know that English spelling is rarely a good guide to improve your pronunciation, right? But the schwa occurs so much in spoken English and it looks completely different every time. All of these words include the schwa sound in them when they’re spoken and learning to use this sound correctly is really important. It’s going to help you to sound more natural, relaxed and more fluent when you speak English, more like a native English speaker. So if you’re trying to reduce your accent and to improve your pronunciation, then this sound is a great place to start. So what does it sound like? The schwa sound is a lazy sound. It’s actually my favourite sound of all the English sounds it’s my Friday afternoon sound. You know when you’re winding down after a long week and you’re probably already thinking about the weekend and you can’t really be bothered doing much else? So that’s how the schwa sounds. But how is it written? What letters should you look for? Well that’s quite tricky because all of the vowel letters can be pronounced as a schwa in spoken English. All of these words have the schwa sound but they’re represented by a different vowel letter each time. For such a lazy sound, it sure does show up in a lot of different places. And since the schwa sound can be represented by any of the vowel letters, sometimes by consonant letters and sometimes by no letter at all! Being able to recognise the international phonetic symbol for this sound will help you to see when it occurs. And that schwa symbol is this one. Now the schwa sound is always unstressed. It’s the only vowel sound that is never stressed so you need to just relax, just be like the schwa. Relax and take it easy, it’s Friday afternoon. So to make this sound, first you need to relax everything This is a really relaxed sound okay? Check your lips, your jaw, your neck, everything needs to be relaxed. Drop the jaw slightly and open your mouth. But keep everything relaxed. Remember, this is the lazy sound. Keeping that in mind, let’s try it together. It’s very, very relaxed. Make sure that you’re doing this with me so if you need to find a place that’s quiet on your own, go for it. It’s a guttural sound so you should feel it coming from a little deeper. And with all unstressed vowel sounds, the sound is really fast and it’s also low in pitch, it’s quite flat. You should feel it here and it should be flat. So why is the schwa sound so common in English? Let’s start from the basics. English has rhythm. It’s made up of stressed and unstressed sounds and words. The stress plays an important part in understanding natural spoken English. Without stress, you’d sound like an English robot and it would be better if you were not a robot. When words or syllables are unstressed in English, the sound is reduced and the vowel letter is often reduced to a schwa sound. In English, words with more than one syllable have one main stress and other syllables are often unstressed and they often reduce to the schwa sound. Can you hear the schwa sound in the unstressed syllable there? Let’s look at another example together. Now some of those syllables were longer than others weren’t they? And that’s because the important words in the sentence were stressed. The less important words are unstressed and this helps the brain to focus on the important ones, right? The words that you need to understand to to make sense of it. But it’s difficult to know when to use this sound and if you’re not really into the IPA script, then you need to rely on your ears to identify it. Imitating a native speaker, copying their pronunciation is a really great way to practise the schwa sound correctly. And actually, I’ve got an imitation lesson that you can try right here. In it, I’ll train you to imitate me while I’m speaking. So the lazy schwa sound, it’s not too difficult on its own, but recognising it in other English words is. To help us practise today, you’ll need to take out a pen and some paper because I’m about to tell you some of the many different places that you can find the schwa sound. Now you can often find the schwa sound in unstressed structure words. So structure words are grammatical words in English sentences. They make the sentence grammatically correct but they don’t really have much meaning. Words like articles and or Prepositions. Conjunctions. There’s lots and lots of different words that are structure words in English sentences. Really common ones. When these words are stressed, you’ll hear a stronger vowel sound. But when these words are unstressed and spoken naturally in a sentence, they often reduce right down to the schwa sound. Now there are tons of schwas hiding in those unstressed structure words. But also a couple of schwas in the unstressed syllables as well. Okay, so what’s next? We’ll look at this list of words. What do all of these words have in common? Can you tell? Apart from the fact that they all start with the letter A, what else? The first syllable is unstressed. Now these words all start with the schwa sound. This test is a little harder. What about this group of words? What do they have in common? Make sure you’re listening carefully. Now the schwa sound is somewhere in the middle of all of these words. How about Now there’s no letter in there that shows there should be a vowel sound but we can hear it. So if the schwa sound comes at the start of a word, the middle of a word, well there must be some words that end in a schwa, right? Like for example but also This is where it gets interesting! Firstly, look at all of the different endings here. They all make the same schwa sound at the end of the word. But the second reason why this is interesting is because this right here is where American accents differ from most Australian and British accents quite significantly. Most of you already know that I’m Australian and because of this, I use the schwa sound quite a bit more than my American friends. In Australian English pronunciation, usually the -ER at the end of a word will be unstressed. The sound is not pronounced at the end. So in my accent, these words all end in a schwa sound and there are many, many, many, many words that are just like this. These are just a few. They end in -ER but they also have these other endings. So to pronounce them like me, you really need to focus on relaxing that sound at the end, that last syllable. Okay here’s a challenge. Where are all of the schwas there? You got it! Those are schwa sounds as well. The schwa sound creates reduced forms when English is spoken naturally so ‘going to’ becomes ‘gonna’ ‘want to’ becomes ‘wanna’ ‘got to’ becomes ‘gonna’ ‘should have’ becomes ‘shoulda’ So there are so many more examples for this. In fact, I’m going to save them for another lesson because I could go on forever but yes the schwa sound is everywhere in English. It’s the sound that you need to know, that you need to get comfortable with using. So at the very least, you should be able to recognise this symbol so that you can use unstressed syllables and it will help you to pronounce words correctly when you see them in the dictionary like these ones. They all have the schwa sound in there and you can see it. Now time for the bonus section! I’m glad you waited all the way until this point in the lesson, I promised you that if you stuck around until the end of the lesson, you’d get some extra pronunciation practice with me. Are you ready? Let’s go! Hi, Emma! Hey! Hey great lesson today with the schwa sound! Thanks! Did you like it? Yeah it was awesome. Do you think you could give us a few more examples to practise with? Like maybe, what if you say a sentence and we’ll try and guess where the schwa sounds are. Okay. Are you feeling better today? Am I feeling better today? Hang on, is that one of the questions? Yeah, are you feeling better today? Yeah, actually can you put the words on the screen so we can see them? Okay. Here. How many schwa sounds can you hear in that sentence? Say it with me, out loud. There’s quite a few. Okay. Got it! Ready for another one? Yeah. Do you want a piece of banana cake? Yes. Good because that’s what I’m making. How many schwa sounds are there? Nice one! Okay are you ready for another? Yep. This knife… where’s the knife that I’m looking for? Where are the schwas? Say it with me. Alright, one more. Okay I’ve got a tricky one for you! Thanks! There’s quite a few schwas there. Okay, is that enough? Yeah that’s enough, thanks. That was great! Okay good because I’ve got to get this cake into the oven. I’ll leave that one there for you. If you enjoyed that bonus practice session, then let me know. I’m trying something new here at mmmEnglish and I’d love to hear your feedback. Let me know in the comments or hit the subscribe button right there. If you want to keep practising with me, then check out these two lessons right here. I’ll see you in the next one!

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100 thoughts on “The SCHWA Sound! English Pronunciation Lesson”

  1. Ahmad Ibraheem says:

    The last part !! It’s just an amazing way to learn , realy it’s helpful specially in contries that don’t speak english 👌🏻 .. it’s like i’m livving in an english country

    Thank you again .. i realy enjoy watching your videos .. so helpful ✨✨❤️

  2. Cristina Menezes da Silva says:

    I really like the last part, Emma . Do it more, please. TKS!

  3. Amine Amino says:

    I still have a difficult with pronunciation 😭

  4. M M says:

    SChwa
    Ih
    Like a silence
    I like to write the vowels sounds in English in letter
    Example if I want to write what I learned today about schwa
    I would write
    Ih ,

  5. chepe gomez says:

    Thank you so much, you are really good teacher

  6. إدريس عون الشميري says:

    Hello emm

  7. Temime Nechi says:

    thanks a lot pretty lady😇..so interesting and helpful👍

  8. 惠元胡 says:

    One of greatest classes I've ever taken on Youtube! Thank you!

  9. Rui Coelho says:

    Dear Emma, i've been following your lessons for quite a long time, now. There's always something to add to my improving. Do you know what is that I can't get enough? Prepositions!!! Example: I've heard so many times that ON is on top of something and IN is inside of something. Then, I was watching a movie and I hear this: – Sit in my lap". I could swear that the right preposition would be ON (my lap). Enlighten me, please. I'll look forward for your next prepositions lesson. Take care and thank you very very much. Rui

  10. Сергей Веселов says:

    Super!!!

  11. Hajhamad Azzaki says:

    we are waiting for banana cake mmm

  12. Min Soe says:

    Hi teacher Emma!! I watched the whole shwa sound video but I've still a bit problem in searching shwa sound in words .Could you give me suggestions about shwa teacher?

  13. Madyan Matar says:

    Thank you so much .. I dont already think that English contains schwa sound..

  14. Alaa Mamdouh says:

    you're amazing Emma i can listen to ya all the day and never bored

  15. Evandro MP says:

    Good night love of my life!!!😍😘😍

  16. Melmar Aquino says:

    Thanks Emma for this lesson.Your amazing.,,,,,!

  17. Kalb'i sır kalbi sir says:

    Hello Emma when you laugh is opening roses on his face💙

  18. shârãth göüd says:

    Uhh

  19. Milica Bosnic says:

    Why do I often hear special vowel sound instead of schwa? For example: didjA (ei) instead of schwa, ovEn (i) instead od schwa…

  20. محمد الشيخ says:

    Thanks Emma💙💙

  21. ширхан says:

    👍👍👍👍👍👍

  22. Pallavi pradee says:

    Wow Emma….wonderful…..

  23. Cristian Parrales says:

    Thanks for your help, I'm learning a lot

  24. Carlos Alberto Moreno Perez says:

    so beatifull. demasiado hermosa

  25. mutasim billah says:

    You are so cute
    Your effort is so praiseworthy

  26. invincible H says:

    I jate u

  27. invincible H says:

    I hate u

  28. invincible H says:

    I hate u

  29. invincible H says:

    Hate

  30. خالد الخنبشي says:

    ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤🌹🌹😘😘😘🌹

  31. Ameer Faisal says:

    Thanks

  32. samahir perozo says:

    Thank you for this video, I enjoy a lot

  33. Pradel Elien says:

    Hi

  34. Dung Nguyen says:

    May the SCHWA be with you. Always!

  35. xilo301 says:

    What a nice accent you have! Really clear explanation.

  36. mariam messrawy says:

    Thanks Emma for your help🤗❤

  37. Sunergy Sunergy says:

    There is no beautiful teacher but this One…

  38. Sadrac Delca says:

    Your work is priceless Emma, wonderfully presented. Keep it up dear😊

  39. Budi Rahayu645 says:

    I love you 3000, easy and simple and more fun to learn and practice english. thank you

  40. Sandeep Sharma says:

    I love you and English

  41. Sovichea Uchiha says:

    Well explanation ♥🙆

  42. Laedi Roines says:

    you have become more beautiful with a time

  43. aisha zahid says:

    You have explained very well…

  44. Priatna Pri says:

    Thanks so much and much dialog please!!! in every lesson

  45. Shoba Rincy says:

    Thank you Emma for your helpful lesson

  46. isaac ng says:

    How to pronounce professional ? IPA: pr<schwa>

  47. Mahmoud Ezzat says:

    well said

  48. amir papan says:

    I normally don't place Comment, but I think it is the best lesson that I have ever learned in English. Thanks a lot

  49. Rania Lag says:

    💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖

  50. Gerardo Canales says:

    Si, me gusto mucho tu Bono!

  51. Zain Ul Abdin Chang says:

    I really love the way you teach pronunciations. Your every lecture is superb.

  52. Linikyrmen Dkhar says:

    👍👍👍

  53. Mp Kermit says:

    Explaining how to pronounce the schwa sound to Italians is quite difficult, because we don't have anything similar in our language. I'm from South Italy, so many years ago I realized that I had something just in front of my eyes (or I should better say, around my ears) that could be used: the Neapolitan language! It has the schwa sound at the end of every single word and in quite a few words even in other parts. Example: the table, in Italian il tavolo, in Neapolitan 'a tavola, which is not pronounced like that but with a schwa sound instead of the o between v and l and instead of the last vowel a. And recently I've discovered the in Bulgarian they have a special letter for the schwa sound. Quite interesting.

  54. IT Geeks says:

    Love how you smile while talking so mmmmbeautiful english

  55. Arsath Aam says:

    Hey Emma.. how's going everything..your teaching expression is amazing.. and you're so cute.. and teaching method too…

  56. Daro Dewkeea says:

    Hello good mornig thak you you suport my speak english are you thak you

  57. mehmet ceylan says:

    Perfect !

  58. PIT ZEN says:

    Help. I didnt follow . I never heared "swah"

  59. Sumit Yadav says:

    Thanks for your help

  60. Sumit Yadav says:

    U r so beautiful

  61. Dannie Boggan says:

    This is helpful👩🏻‍🏫👩🏻‍🏫👩🏻‍🏫👩🏻‍🏫👩🏻‍🏫👩🏻‍🏫

  62. Dannie Boggan says:

    Thanks

  63. Dannie Boggan says:

    This is a good way to learn👱🏼‍♀️👱🏼‍♀️👱🏼‍♀️👱🏼‍♀️👩🏼‍🦳👩🏼‍🦳

  64. Veronica Saavedra says:

    Hi Emma, you are absolutely an amazing teacher!! Thank you!

  65. Burak says:

    i wish this video would have a love button instead of like button🙂

  66. Far id says:

    Your voice creates love for English.

  67. minh Nguyen hoang says:

    What's the different sound between pee and pea?

  68. Bruce Evans says:

    Hello, Emma. I am a singing coach, American born and raised. I just taught a lesson to a chorus last week including the schwa. But we use two sounds for the schwa, ih and uh, mostly interchangeably. My favorite word for demonstrating this is the name of the city on the river in Michigan where cars are built – Detroit. Properly spoken the stress is on the last syllable – deTROIT. The schwa substitution can be either dihTROIT, or duhTROIT. Good video!

  69. حنيّن محمد says:

    Wow I learn how to use it and I have so much fun just wow🧡🧡🧡🤩🤩

  70. Ismoiljon Muydinov says:

    I wish you luck

  71. sami batsh says:

    ❤❤❤❤😯😯😯

  72. Cristhian Reyes says:

    Thanks! you are a great teacher. I going to watch this video some more times

  73. poop star says:

    I love everything about you. Your lessons, your look , your style etc. You are perfect.👍💞

  74. المنتقد الحر says:

    الإختزال و ليس الإختذال. هناك فرق بين حرف الزاي( ز ) و حرف الذال ( ذ )

  75. المنتقد الحر says:

    شكرا جزيلا أستاذتنا العزيزة.

  76. Santo Battaglia says:

    congratulations you are a very good teacher and your smile is always wonderful! I really like learn english width fun…!!! by Santo, your italian youtube student!

  77. Marisol García says:

    C'est le son de l' "e" instable française qui est utilisé, par exemple, dans les monosyllabes tels que "me, te, se" … etc… Thank you so much! You´re just amazing and charming!

  78. Marisol García says:

    C'est le son de l' "e" instable française qui est utilisé, par exemple, dans les monosyllabes tels que "me, te, se" … etc… Thank you so much! You´re just amazing and charming!

  79. Reji kuppasseriyil says:

    Wow super

  80. OLX_ BOSS says:

    darling you are amzing teacher

  81. my heartu says:

    I just can’t pronounce it 🙁

  82. Jayda Jayda says:

    You are the best teacher ever.

  83. kevito calles says:

    Stress words are like the tilde in spanish

  84. Melyna Bournane says:

    The best teacher for ever😍😍😍

  85. mile v says:

    GRACIASSSSSSSSS😍

  86. Jakob Cigale says:

    Me sprejmete Jakob

  87. Zaky Arsalan says:

    Besides nice technique and presentation there are something on cheek and your smile reminded to Kate Middleton

  88. RedOne Labzioui says:

    I adore this video

  89. m. o. says:

    whats the difference between schwa and [ae]? i cannot hear that, so hard

  90. سميح اليمني says:

    Unigue girl

  91. pahadi swag says:

    This is really good initiative to make this lecture…. practice make one's perfect thanks for making this vedio 😊🙏

  92. Creative Mind says:

    Mam is it American English?

  93. Joe Sri says:

    Thank you very much

  94. Aboubaker Olivier says:

    for each smile you got a like from me haha

  95. Brenda Castro Aguilera says:

    Beautiful, more practise please

  96. Juliana Salazar says:

    Congratulations…it is a great lesson!

  97. Felipe Andrés Concha Gajardo says:

    Hi Emma, wow thank u for your video you are simply bright!
    Greetings frome 🇨🇱

  98. Ezechiel Herma says:

    I really enjoy this lesson.. Very helpful

  99. Far & Near says:

    Thanks a lot ❤️

  100. carolin peter says:

    None of these words have schwa sounds. You're just saying eh and uh or ah.. I don't get it

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