Introduction Other Vowels Video

Introduction

The English alphabet consists of twenty-six letters. Twenty-one of those letters are consonants (b, c, d, f, et cetera). The other five letters are vowels: a, e, o, i, and u.

Those five letters, plus the letters w and y, are used to spell the fifteen vowel sounds of English. The fifteen vowel sounds of English are organized into the following categories:

long vowels
short vowels
other vowels

Each category has five sounds.

Review

Here is a quick review of long and short vowel sounds. The pronunciation of long vowels is the same as the names of the vowels themselves, a, e, i, o, and u:

long a: /eɪ/ is pronounced as (long a), and is the vowel sound in the word 'cake'
long e: /i/ is pronounced as (long e), and is the vowel sound in the word 'keep'
long i: /ɑɪ/ is pronounced as (long i) , and is the vowel sound in the word 'bike'
long o: /oʊ/ is pronounced as (long o), and is the vowel sound in the word 'home'
long u: /yu/ is pronounced as (long u), and is the vowel sound in the word 'cute'

The five short vowel sounds are the sounds usually associated with a single vowel at the beginning of a word or between two consonants.

short a/æ/ is pronounced as (short a), and is the vowel sound in the word 'cat'
short e/ɛ/ is pronounced as (short e), and is the vowel sound in the word 'bed'
short i/ɪ/ is pronounced as (short i), and is the vowel sound in the word 'sit'
short o/ɑ/ is pronounced as (short o), and is the vowel sound in the word 'top'
short u/ʌ/ is pronounced as (short u), and is the vowel sound in the word 'sun'

A previous understanding of long and short vowels is helpful when learning about the five remaining "Other Vowel Sounds." We recommend watching the Introduction to Long Vowels and Introduction to Short Vowels videos before watching this video.

Other Vowels

The five vowel sounds in the other category do not follow any spelling patterns that allow them to be grouped together; they are simply the remaining vowels after discussing long and short vowels. The other vowels are not less important than long or short vowels. ESL and ELL students and teachers must be able to recognize all fifteen vowel sounds in order to fully understand English pronunciation patterns.

The five other vowel sounds are:

oo sound/u/, which is pronounced as (oo sound), and is the vowel sound in the word 'soon'
other u/ʊ/, which is pronounced as (other u), and is the vowel sound in the word 'put'
aw sound/ɔ/, which is pronounced as (aw sound), and is the vowel sound in the word 'dog'
oi sound/ɔɪ/, which is pronounced as (oi sound), and is the vowel sound in the word 'join'
ow sound/aʊ/, which is pronounced as (ow sound), and is the vowel sound in the word 'down'

Here is a brief introduction to the five individual other vowel sounds.

oo sound /u/

The oo sound is pronounced as (oo sound). It is the vowel sound in the word soon. The letters oo are the best known spelling of the oo sound.

The oo sound is very similar to the long u sound. The only difference between the oo sound and the long u sound is that the long u sound begins with a quick y sound.

Listen to the difference:

oo sound (oo sound) soon
long u (long u) cute

The oo sound can be spelled in all of the ways that the long u can be spelled, including u_eue, and ew. Note the following examples:

u_e spelling

oo sound: rude
long u: cute

ue spelling

oo sound: blue
long u: fuel

ew spelling

oo sound: chew
long u: few

other u sound /ʊ/

The other u sound is pronounced as (other u). It is the vowel sound in the word put. The other u sound is confusing because it shares the single-vowel spelling with the short u sound and the oo spelling with the oo sound.

Notice the similar u spelling while listening to the difference between the other u (other u) and the short u (short u):

other u (other u) put
short u (short u) sun

Notice the similar oo spelling while listening to the difference between the other u (other u) and the oo sound (oo sound):

other u (other u) good
oo sound (oo sound ) soon

aw sound /ɔ/

The aw sound is pronounced as (aw sound). It is the vowel sound in the word dog. The aw sound has many different spellings, and only the two most common spelling are mentioned here: aw and o.

Examples of the aw sound when it is spelled as aw, include the following:

sawraw, and law.

The aw sound can also be spelled as a single letter o between two consonants. This can be quite confusing because the o spelling has three possible pronunciations: aw soundshort o, and long o.

Notice the similar o spelling while listening to the difference between the other u (other u), the short o (short o), and long o (long o):

aw sound (aw sound) dog
short o (short o) top
long o (long o) most

Two-sound vowels

Two-sound vowels (also called diphthongs) include a w sound or a y sound during their pronunciation. The final two other vowel sounds, the ow sound (ow sound), and the oi sound (oi sound) are two-sound vowels.

ow sound /aʊ/

The ow sound ends in a brief w sound and is pronounced as (ow sound). It is the vowel sound in the word down. The ow sound can be spelled ow or ou. The ow spelling is confusing because it can be pronounced as the ow sound or the long o sound.

Notice the similar ow spelling while listening to the difference between the ow sound (ow sound) and the long o (long o):

ow sound (ow sound) down
long o (long o), known

The ow sound can also be spelled ou as in the words houseout, and count.

oi sound /ɔɪ/

The oi sound ends in a brief y sound and is pronounced as (oi sound). It is the vowel sound in the word join. The oi sound is spelled oi and oy, and no other vowel sounds share those spelling.

Examples of words with the oi sound spelled oi include:

coin
joint
avoid

Examples of words with the oi sound spelled oy include:

boy
joy
annoy

Conclusion

The five other vowel sounds: oo soundother uaw soundow soundoi sound, are the remaining sounds after discovering the long vowel and short vowel sounds.

In order to have a complete understanding of vowel pronunciation, it is important to be able to identify all fifteen vowel sounds. Multiple spellings for the same sound and shared spellings for different sounds should be understood so ESL/ELL students can make correct pronunciation assumptions. Only when all the vowel sound possibilities are established can ESL/ELL students be confident in their pronunciation skills.