Thursday, December 08, 2005

How do you pronounce the letter "I" in English words?

That's a difficult question to answer. English is notoriously bad for keeping to set rules of pronunciation. Some might say that there aren't any rules at all. There are, however,a few guidelines that may help you to guess, so here goes. Basically, there are two sounds for the letter "I" short /I/ like in hit, ship, sick and long /ai/ like in time, smile, wine, white, site. Can you see anything in common in each set of words? Notice that in the first set, the i is followed either by one or two consonants, but no vowels. In the second set, the consonant after the i is followed by a vowel. This vowel softens and lengthens the i to /ai/ (which rhymes with "eye", by the way). The many exceptions to this guideline are normally due to the strong/weak alternation in intonation. A good example would be divide, which is pronounce /dIvaid/, the stress (accent tonique) being on the final syllable. This is complicated stuff, don't worry if you are more confused now than you were before you began reading. Just keep listening to English every day and you will learn to pronounce words naturally.


MacGyver13 said...

Once during a training course, we worked on homophone words: we had to write them down while listening to the teacher...we were supposed to write two or more words each time.
It's useful to memorize sounds and words because the couples of words are definitively associated in your mind by the same pronunciation
Thus you memorize the words and the pronunciation, and if you fail with one, you go get the other one (into the same drawer of your mind ), the twin...and that's it !
Anyway,you're right, listening to english on a regular basis makes all the difference.


Charles said...

Here is a great pronunciation course in mp3 format that will teach you all the sounds of English and their spelling patterns: Lots of listening and speaking exercises!