American English Pronunciation: -TION, The SCHWA, & Accents

Do you struggle with understanding American English pronunciation? Do you ever feel like you think you understand how a word sounds, but then you hear a native speaker say it differently? Well, don’t worry! American English has a lot of variations in accents and these variations can make words sound different, which is why we’re focusing on two important things in today’s lesson.
In today’s lesson, you’re going to learn:
  • about the Schwa in American English
  • variations of the -TION ending
 Let’s do it!

The Schwa: What is it?

The Schwa sound is the most common sound in American English, and is the unaccented vowel in a word. It is identified in the dictionaries with this symbol:


I’ve already taught another lesson on the Schwa before. You can review the video lesson and learn all the details here. You can also read the lesson notes here.

The Schwa: Does the sound vary?

Depending on the region you are in the US, of course, you can hear the difference in pronunciation. The Schwa is one example of the variation of accents from region to region.


I got some of my students thinking about the difference when I posted this picture on my Instagram. This lesson was inspired by the word generation, from that post.


In this post, I asked how many SCHWA sounds were present in this word. Some said, 2; however, when I (a native-[American] English speaker) say this word, I pronounce it with only 1.


-TION: How do we pronounce it?

Well, a great way of learning more about how to pronounce any word correctly is by using the dictionary. My favorite is the Learner’s Dictionary because it is made for English learners.


Dictionaries tell you the different English pronunciation and phonetic symbols. They show you how to pronounce a word. Moreover, if you notice, the word generation has the ə (the upside down e), which is the Schwa sound, twice.
generation /ˌʤɛnəˈreɪʃən/
So, do I say the word incorrectly?


The answer to that is, no.


*Watch the video above and listen to how I pronounce the word generation.


When I say the -TION sound, I don’t make the Schwa sound.  I pronounce the -TION like the -SHIN. It’s important to note that both ways are correct. And as an English learner, you need to get comfortable with a variety of accents so you don’t get confused if you hear both variations of the pronunciation.


*So, what accent should you learn? The answer is: it doesn’t matter. Unless you work with English speaker from a specific area. Then, you might want to take a look at the accent for that region and practice the accent you need more.


Other words with the -TION.
Again, according to the dictionary, the word sounds like:
preparation /ˌprɛpəˈreɪʃən/
protection /prəˈtɛkʃən/
*Don’t forget to watch the video above, so you can see that I pronounce these words differently from what the dictionaries indicate.


Practice Makes Perfect

Write your own sentences below the YouTube video using words that end in -TION. Then practice reading your sentences aloud and the other comments that you read.

For example:

Wow, this video gave a lot of information!

I hope this video helps you sound and speak more confidently in your everyday English conversations.

Until next time,

Happy studying! ♥

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