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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds Consonant clusters and the epenthetic vowel. For some non-native speakers, it is not natural to pronounce consonant clusters in English, like st– or sk– or sp–, as we have them in the words “start”, “school”, and “Spain.” These speakers tend to add to the consonant cluster a so-called “epenthetic vowel”, which you can think of as a kind of additional vowel. In this way, the cluster is broken up into two syllables, Se– –pain or Es– –pain. Compare a language like Spanish, where

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds we similarly find: “Espana.” If you are speaker of one of such languages and attempt to pronounce English consonant clusters, it may help you to begin by lengthening the first consonant, s– so that you, in a similar manner, in effect create two separate syllables. S– –pain. Note in this relation that the vowel in the past tense –ed ending is also not pronounced. “Asked” is not pronounced “ask-id” and does not sound like “basket.” Some non-native speakers deal with consonant clusters by deleting a consonant from the cluster. “West” is pronounced “wes” and “dogs” is pronounced “dog.” Other languages have very few word-final consonants altogether, and tend to add an extra vowel at the end of a word, or to drop the consonant.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 seconds “Duck” is pronounced “ducka” or “da.” While English native speakers may not pronounce consonants in function words in certain contexts, as in “bread and butter”, it is best to try to pronounce all consonants, because they are important for your being understood.

Consonant clusters

English has a range of consonant clusters. Some non-native speakers tend to break them up and insert a vowel. However, this breaking up may influence intelligibility. What could help you pronounce the clusters?

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English Pronunciation in a Global World

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam