Accurate pronunciation. Everyone needs it that wants to be fluent in any language. Because we focus on mastering your everyday English skills on this blog, skills needed to excel in your daily life, today we are focusing on an important pronunciation principle in American English, BR and BL consonant blends.
In today’s lesson you’re going to learn:
what consonant blends are
why mouth positions are so important in pronunciation
more about BR and BL consonant blends + practice exercises
What is a consonant blend?
Before we talk about a consonant blend, let’s review what consonants are.
Vowels are the letters A – E – I – O – U
Consonants are all the other letters of the alphabet: M – L – D – F – C – R, etc.
*IMPORTANT: As you begin to learn pronunciation, you most likely start with the alphabet and practice the letters individually. This is essential to know how to form the sounds in English. But what about when letters and sounds blend together?
A consonant blend produces a very particular sound, and a combination of 2 or 3 letters. However, normally, in these clusters (blends), you hear the 2-3 sounds in the pronunciation of the word.
There are tons of combinations. Today, we are focusing on the blend B+L and the blend B+R. Those are sounds that are difficult and that often generate confusions between Engish learners.
First, start with the letter B individually and then try to practice with words.
Example: Baby and boy
When you are practice, exaggerate the sound to teach your mouth on how to say the letter.
Example: Later, Louisiana
Focus on the mouth position and everything that is part of that sound.
*A great lesson to help you with the “R” (and “er”) sound can be read by clicking here.
Now that we know how these letters sound individually, what about when we say things like “blend” or “bread“? Notice how different the mouth position is when I say these words (*watch the video above*). Even though the B, perhaps, starts the same, the next sound is so important to how the mouth transitions and moves to create the sounds that are coming next. Immediately, my tongue is ready, it is in the position to go to produce the “BL” sound. And it’s quite different than the “BR” sound.
You know how important it is to study, practice and try to improve your pronunciation skills. So, try to record a video of yourself or practice in front of a mirror. Six weeks from now, do that again and check how you’ve improved. Use these video recordings as a progress check and motivation!
Here are some sentences to help you practice. Watch and notice my mouth positions as you review today’s video lesson.
Bridge – We must cross the bridge.
Breath – I have good breath.
Bread – I love bread.
Bright – The moon was bright last night.
Bleed – I cut myself, I hope I don’t bleed.
Bled – I cut myself and I bled.
Blame – Never blame your sister for something you did.
Blonde – Some of my hair is blonde.
Minimal pairs are a great way to practice and differentiate sounds in English, especially the sounds we’re reviewing today. Minimal pairs are words that are almost identical, however, they have one differing sound.
These are basically same, except for the “R” and “L”.
Notice the mouth position and how quickly it changes. Even though we start with B, we quickly change to BR or BL. The mouth immediately closes and pushes forward for the “R” and opens up for the “L”.
Other consonant blends
I mentioned that are tons of consonant blends. There are a lot of other different and popular sounds like FL or FR.
FL – Flake
FR – Frown
Let’s take a quick moment to notice how this sound, the “F”, changes in mouth position when alone and in a blend. When you make that individual F, your top teeth are on your bottom lip, but that can change because of the next letter. If I have an L (flake), my F mouth position stays the same, with my top teeth on my bottom lip, because the L and the F sounds are quite similar. I don’t have to change my mouth position too much.
However, the “F” and the “R” mouth position are quite different. Because of that, the “F” in “frown” start with my teeth on the inside of my bottom lip, with my lips curled out. Again the best way to review this, is in the replay of the video.
Practice makes perfect
Learning pronunciation is all about listening and practicing. Practice with the shadowing technique and reading the following sentences, recording & checking your video with mine. Make sure that you check your mouth position and the sounds – are they similar?
Follow these steps to help your improvement.
1. Start recording the sounds:
…. and then the combinations
2. Then, practice saying the words:
3. Whenever you are ready, repeat the sentences:
Blend the brown ones.
He blew over the bridge.
The bloom is bright.
The blonde broke the vase
4. Work on minimum pairs and repeat the following words quickly.
Your mouth is not used to making these sounds, so you need to repeat these steps as much as you can to build you pronunciation muscles.
So now, you have sounds, blends, words, and sentences that you can practice and repeat to get comfortable with. Six weeks from now, record a new video and compare it yours from today to see how you improved.
Good luck and until next time,
Happy Studying! ♥
Learn even more with me
I have a monthly program, the Phrasal Verb Conversation Club, that you can join at any time to improve your natural English and conversation. This week, we are talking about pronunciation and we are focusing on the consonant blend TR. So, I want to invite you to join the Conversation Club, to continue learning more pronunciation, to continue learning this natural English with me, and to continue getting guided step-by-step to improve your natural everyday English skills.
If you want to join me and learners around the world, learn more natural English, learn more phrasal verbs, then come inside the club. Click here for more information or sign up for details below:
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The Conversation Club will provide you with 6 group conversation calls to practice with a real teacher and a group message community to connect with other members.
You will also get weekly English lessons to help your vocabulary, listening, reading, pronunciation, and more!
Try the Club for 1 week, free! Join the 1-week free trial here.