Did you know that there is not one but two idiot sounds in the phonetic chart? In this video, pronunciation expert Adrian Underhill looks at the visibility and the physicality of these sounds, helping learners with the long vowel sound /ɜː/ and the most famous of all the phonemes, the schwa /ə/

Tip 1 /ɜː/ 





Tip 2 /ə/ 

Many unstressed vowel sounds tend to become schwa. Because it is a short and unassertive sound, there is a danger that in focussing on it in classroom sentences, it might lose its naturally weak character. However, the following is a simple exercise you can do to highlight how often the schwa occur in sentences:

  • Prepare a short text (three or four lines long). Wherever a schwa would be said in a word – insert a gap-line instead of the vowel(s).
  • Leave all other vowels as they are. In class give out the text and explain what you have done.
  • Ask learners to go through the text and work out what the missing written vowels must be. This will raise awareness about the many ways that the schwa sound can be spelt in written English.