English has eleven different vowels. It’s important to know the correct mouth position so you can get the vowel right: study this vowel with illustrations and up close, slow motion speech. Sample words: Blue, issue, suit, move, influence, two.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to learn how to pronounce the OO as in BOO vowel.
This sound is a little different from all of the other vowel sounds. Other vowel sounds have one mouth position, ee, for example. And it’s the position of the tongue, lips, and jaw that make the sound. For this vowel, the movement into and out of the position is just as important as the position itself, ih-oo. We’ll talk about that in a second. First, let’s take a look at the mouth position.
To make this sound, the back part of the tongue stretches up towards the soft palate. The front part of the tongue remains down, lightly touching, or just behind, the bottom front teeth. I’m sure you can see the lips round a lot. We want to begin this sound with lips that are more relaxed to move into this tighter lip position.
Let’s take the word ‘do’ as an example. The lip position doesn’t matter for the D sound. The lips can start moving into the position for the next sound when making the D, like in the consonant cluster ‘drop’. Did you see how my lips were already forming the R when I made the D? Drop. So what happens when we make the lip position for OO as we make the D sound? Du, du. That’s not the right sound, do, du. To make the right American OO sound, the lips have to start out, more relaxed, and then come into this tight circle. This transition into position for the sound is just as important as the position itself. Let’s see up close and in slow motion.
Lips start in a bigger flare, more relaxed, before moving into the tighter circle. Look at how much the corners of the lips come in for this sound.
Now let’s take a look at the word ‘do’. Remember, we don’t want to start with the lips in a tight circle, but in a more relaxed position so they can move into the tight circle. Then lips move from the flare into the tighter circle.
It might help to think to think of this sound as ih-oo, starting with a more relaxed lip position. Ih-oo.
In a stressed syllable, you have an up-down shape in the voice, OO, OO. In an unstressed syllable, the pitch will be flatter and lower, and it will be quieter and quicker, oo, oo. The OO vowel is unstressed in the word ‘visual’, oo. Let’s take a look up close and in slow motion.
Often, unstressed vowels have a more relaxed lip position. Notice that, for the oo vowel, the lips do still come into a tight circle.
The OO vowel stressed: do, OO
The OO vowel unstressed: visual, oo
OO, oo, OO, oo.
Example words. Repeat with me:
Blue, issue, suit, move, influence, two.
I hope this video helps you understand this sound. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.