This is a tricky phrase, but it’s a great one to know. Learn how to say it comfortably in American English, and practice many times to make the TH feel natural!
YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
Today we’re going to go over the phrase ‘happy birthday.’ – Happy Birthday HaQuyen.
– Thanks, Rachel.
– Happy Birthday HaQuyen.
– Happy Birthday Rachel.
– Aw, that’s sweet. Thank you.
This phrase, though just two words, can be kind of difficult. It has the ‘ur’ as in ‘her’ vowel / R consonant sound. That can be tough. Happy begins with an H. Sometimes people’s tendency is to drop beginning H’s. And it also has the TH sound. It’s very common to replace this unvoiced TH sound with the S sound. But we’re going to learn today how not to do that. Happy. Happy birthday. So, in both of these words, it’s the first syllable that is stressed.Happy. Birthday. Let’s begin with happy. It starts with the H consonant sound: hh, hh, hh. It’s quiet, it’s subtle, but you do need to let air pass through your vocal cords to make that sound. Hh, hh, ha-, ha-. The first vowel sound is the ‘aa’ as in ‘bat’ vowel: ha-, ha-, where the lips will pull up a little bit, exposing those top teeth somewhat. Ha-, ha-. And you can see a lot of tongue here, aa, as it is more raised in the back and then coming down in the front.Ha-, ha-, happy. You then have the P consonant sound which will open into the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ vowel: -py, -py. Happy. As this is the unstressed syllable, make sure it is lower in pitch and a little more subtle, a little quieter, than ha-. Happy, happy.
Birthday begins with the B consonant sound where the lips are together, bb, bb, and the vocal cords are making some sound, bb, bb, bir-. It opens into the ‘ur’ as in ‘her’ vowel sound followed by the R consonant sound. These two sounds will blend together into just one sound, rr, rr. Bir-, bir-. For that sound, the corner of the lips will come in, bir-, bir-, so the lips will come away from the face a little bit. Bir-. The tongue position, rr, rr: it’s pulled up and back a little bit, pressing against the insides of the top teeth here in the middle. The front part of the tongue then hangs down, pulled back just enough so it’s not touching anything within the mouth. Rr-th. The unvoiced TH. For this sound, the tongue tip must come through the teeth. So, rr, th, the tongue tip has to come forward. And it will just lightly touch between the teeth there, th, as you let air pass through for the unvoiced sound. Birth-, birthday.To make the D sound, the tongue tip must come back in and reach up to the roof of the mouth, just behind the front teeth. Birthday. It will then stop the sound in that position and come down, -day, into the ‘ay’ as in ‘say’ diphthong. Birthday, birthday. Happy birthday. Happy birthday.
Happy birthday day to you. Happy Birthday dear Rachel, happy birthday to you.
– Thanks guys!
– I think I’m going to have some ‘Birthday Cake’. – While you’re getting that, I’ll get this, and then we can swap.
Did you hear the word ‘swap’? Swap means to switch or to exchange. And then we can swap. Rachel, who was getting one kind of yogurt, wanted to swap with Kara afterwards so she could also get the other kind of yogurt. Swap begins with the S-W consonant cluster. So it will begin with the teeth together and the lips parted for the S sound, ss, ss. Then the lips will come in to make the W sound, sw-, sw-, and the teeth will part. From this tight circle for the W, the mouth will open into the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ sound, swa-. And finally, the P consonant sound, where the lips come together. Swap, swap. Listen again.
While you’re getting that I’ll get this, and then we can swap. And then we can swap.
In New York at the moment, there are several chains of these frozen yogurt stores, where you pick your frozen yogurt. You can get more than one kind. And then there is a sea of toppings to choose from. One of my friends who was at this birthday party chose some toppings that the rest of us thought were a little bit weird. In the following exchange about that, you’ll hear two idioms that we’ll go over.
Spill the beans. Now, I’ve already done a video on this idiom, so I won’t go into detail its pronunciation. It means to tell someone’s secret to someone, or to reveal something about someone that they wouldn’t have wanted you to reveal. When I said it, the final S in the word ‘beans’, which should be voiced as a Z, sounded like an S because I’d started laughing.
The second idiom, It is a free country, or, It’s a free country. Basically this means, I can do what I want, even if it’s not a popular thing to do. It is a free country. So here, the word ‘is’ and ‘a’ both start with vowel sounds, and the words before end with consonant sounds. So we really want to link those up with the consonants that came before. It-is-a. It is a, it is a. The T here is pronounced as a D because it comes between two vowel sounds. It is a, it is a.Now, if you were to say It’s a, It’s a, make sure you get a good strong TS sound there, it’s a, where there’s a stop between the vowel and the S, designating the stop T. It’s a, it’s a. ‘Free’ begins with the F-R consonant cluster. So the bottom lip must move up to the top teeth, ff, to make that F sound. Then the lips come into a tight circle for the R, fr, free, before opening into the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ vowel, where the corners of the lips will pull wide. Free country. The K consonant sound followed by the ‘uh’ as in ‘butter’, the N consonant sound, coun-, coun-. And the second syllable, unstressed, will be lower in pitch, with the T-R sound, -tr-, -tr-. Now, this can sound like a CHR sound, chr, chr. And finally, the ‘ee’ as in ‘she’ vowel sound. Country, country. It’s a free country. Let’s see the whole exchange one more time.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.
– Happy Birthday Rach!
– Thank you! This is a great birthday.