43: About the words 'world' and 'word': /wɚld/ and /wɚd/

The /w/, r-controlled vowels, and /l/: lots of opportunity for pronunciation trouble.


Hi everyone, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English Pronunciation Podcast. My name is Mandy, and this is our 43rd episode. I hope you enjoyed last week's video podcast about long and short vowels and the long and short a sound spellings and pronunciations. I was originally hoping to have another video podcast published next week, but it looks like it will more likely be released January 23rd. I was teaching a corporate class intensive this week, and I'm now a little behind on getting the video started. But that reminds me, if you would like Seattle Learning Academy classes to come to your workplace, visit www.seattlelearning.com to learn about class options and details.

Today I'm going to talk about two more difficult little words: the word "world" w-o-r-l-d, and the word "word" w-o-r-d. For some people, the difficulties with these words starts right at the beginning of them, with the w sound. Remember, the w sound is created by making the lips into a small circle. It sounds like this (w sound). You should feel the vibration equally on the top and bottom lip. If you feel more vibration on your bottom lip you are probably accidentally creating a v sound by placing the bottom lip too close to the top front teeth. The v sound sounds like this (v sound). Say the w sound and check that your lips both feel the vibration equally (w sound).

Next issue with the words "world" and "word", the letter o, and the r sound. For most words, the or sound is pronounced like "or". This is not true for the words "world" and "word". In both of these words, the or gets pronounced like a schwa+r, which really just sounds like an r sound. So, don't say wORld or wORd. The sound should go from the w sound immediately into the r sound. Listen closely, world, word. Did you hear it? I'll say them again, world, word.

If you aren't sure what I'm talking about when I say "schwa+r", you should go back and review episode 6, which is all about r-controlled vowels.

Next issue: the word world has an l sound immediately after the r sound. This is a really difficult sound combination for many, many language groups. To get from an r sound to an l sound, your tongue has to make a large movement. The r sound is created with the tongue bunched up at the back of the mouth, way back near your back teeth. The l sound is created by placing the tip of the tongue right behind you top front teeth. So you tongue moves from being mostly at the back of your mouth to the front of the mouth, and it happens very quickly. Listen again "world". Repeat it after me: world. (pause) One more time: world (pause).

Episode 5 was all about r sound and l sound, and has more practice for the r sound/l sound combination.

The final sound of both the words, world and word, is the d sound. Thankfully, that final d sound does not cause too much trouble except that a lot of languages tend to drop the final consonant sound, so just make sure you are actually saying that d sound at the end of both words.

Now that you know all the possible problems with your pronunciations with both of these words, let's practice them a few times.

Repeat after me. I'll say both words, then pause for you to repeat.




One more time:


If you're still having trouble, keep repeating them, again and again, first slowly, then more quickly.

If you're like most non-native English speakers, you are not exactly sure which sounds you are and aren't pronouncing correctly. Well, at Seattle Learning Academy, we understand that problem, and we have created an assessment that you can take which allows you to find that personal information out. You just purchase the assessment from the Pronuncian website, download the script from the email sent to you, and call our Skype phone number from your phone or Skype account read the script into the voicemail. We then receive and score your assessment, and send your results back to you within 5 days of receiving your message. We listen for every sound of American English as well as syllable stress. It is the perfect place to start for anybody who seriously wants to improve his or her English pronunciation.

You can learn more about purchasing the assessment or any other learning material, as well as view lots of free pronunciation lessons, the forums, and the transcripts for all of our podcasts at www.pronuncian.com (p-r-o-n-u-n-c-i-a-n.com).

That's all for today, everyone. You can expect the next video podcast in 2 weeks. Next week I'm planning to have a regular, audio-only show.

This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. Seattle Learning Academy is where the world comes to learn.

Thanks for listening!