IMPORTANT is a hard word to pronounce — learn how to say it with Stop T’s in this American English pronunciation lesson.
YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over the pronunciation of the word ‘important’.
This is a tough word, and I’ve gotten lots of requests for it. Thanks for putting in your request, I’m glad to do it for you.
I’m going to give you two different ways to pronounce this word. Either one is okay, one is more common. Neither of them are what you’ll find when you look in a dictionary. If you look in a dictionary, it says the pronunciation is: important.
Important, with two fully pronounced True T’s. Dictionaries haven’t really caught up when it comes to the habits of Americans and the pronunciation of the letter T. ‘Important’ is way over-pronounced. Check out the series Tom and made where we only used True T, no reductions, and no contractions by clicking here or in the description. You’ll see how unnatural it sounds. So the pronunciations we’ll study today will involve Stop T’s. The natural way to speak American English.
This is a three-syllable word with stress on the middle syllable: im-POR-nt, da-DA-da, important. That means the middle syllable will have the up-down shape of stress and will be the loudest, longest, clearest syllable.
The first T comes in the pattern T-schwa-N. If you’ve seen my video on ‘mountain’, then you know this is a Stop T. Mount-ain, stop the air. Import-ant, stop the air. Don’t make a True T sound, important. The second T can either be a Stop T or a True T: important or important. Let’s watch up close and in slow motion to see how these sounds are made.
The jaw drops just a little bit for the opening vowel, the IH as in SIT vowel. The tongue tip is down and forward. Then the lips come together for the M sound. The lips are in position for the P, closed. The next sound is the AW as in LAW sound.
But when AW is followed by the R consonant, it is not a pure AW anymore. Instead of AW, it’s aw, aw. My lips are rounding a bit more, AW, aw, and my tongue pulls back a little bit. That brings the sound further back in my mouth. –Po-, -po-, instead of aw, aw. The reason is the R. The tongue pulls back and up for the R, so it’s influencing this vowel. I’m blending the R position with the pure AW position to get impo-r-. Let’s see what this R-influenced AW vowel looks like.
The lips release from the P into this modified AW. Notice how the lips are quite rounded—more rounded than in a pure AW vowel. Also, see how the inside of the mouth is dark. We don’t really see the tongue. This is because it’s pulling back. Impo-. As the AW moves into the R consonant, the lips relax just a bit. The tip of the tongue is pulled back and up.
Remember that this is our stressed syllable, im-por-. –Por-. Make sure you give it some length, and that the pitch falls off, up-down, impor-. This is the character of a stressed syllable.
Now we have another unstressed syllable. The front, flat part of the tongue goes to the roof of the mouth for the N. Don’t worry about making a clear schwa sound. Go from the position of the R, with the tip pulled back and up, into the N, with the front of the tongue against the roof of the mouth. Stop the air for just a second before you make the N sound.
It’s not “porant” [2x], smooth, but –portant [2x] , with a Stop. Make this stop once your tongue is in position for the N. Portant. To finish, you can either stop the air at the end, important. Or, you can make a True T, important, tt, tt.
Important, important. Either way, we stop the first T. This word is tough, but watch this video several times, practice out loud, slowly, and I think you’ll start to get the hang of it. If there’s a word or phrase you’d like help pronouncing, put it in the comments below.
Also, I’m happy to tell you my book, American English Pronunciation, is available for purchase. If you want an organized, step-by-step resource to build your American accent, click here to get the book, or see the description below. I think you’re going to love it.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.