Saturday, 19 October 2019

Silent "-e": words beginning with "w/wh"

Ex. a. Add an "-e" to the spelling of the following words to form new words and write the difference in the pronunciation of the vowel. Change the spelling from "w" to "wh" or conversely if necessary.

wad, wag, war, win, whip, wit, wok

b. Transcribe the following pairs of words phonemically.

will - while, whirr - wire, wall - whale, whiz - wise

a. wad-e /ɒ/ - /eɪ/, wag-e /wæg/ - /weɪdʒ/, war-e /ɔː/ - /eə/, win-e/whine /ɪ/ - /aɪ/, wipe /ɪ/ - /aɪ/, white /ɪ/ - /aɪ/, wok-e /ɒ/ - /əʊ/,
b. will - while /wɪl - /waɪl/, whirr - wire /wɜː/ - /waɪə/, wall - whale /wɔːl/ - /weɪl/, whiz - wise /wɪz/ - /waɪz/

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Silent "-e" and changes in pronunciation

English contains thousands of words in which the final letter "e" is called 'silent e'. In fact, however, it is a sign that the previous vowel sound is a long vowel or a diphthong. Sometimes other changes in spelling and pronunciation occur as well. Some sources call it 'magic e', as it is supposed to 'make a vowel say its name'. Look at the following example:

The vowel "e" is called 'ee' /iː/. The word 'pet' is pronounced /pet/, and the name 'Pete' is pronounced /piːt/.

The same is sometimes true of the letters "a", "i", "o" and "u". Of course there are exceptions: 'come', 'some' 'one' have a 'silent e' but retain a short vowel.

When a vowel letter is followed by the letter "r" and "-e" is added, the 'magic e' rule does not apply and other changes take place. Note that Exercise 3 describes non-rhotic pronunciation (no /r/ after vowels).

Ex. 1 Add an "-e" to the following words and write how the vowels change when a new word is formed (look at the example above).

A: mat, man, pan, can, tap, fat, hat, pal
E: met, den
I: thin, lit, pin, spit, spin, win
O: cod, con, mod
U: hug, cut

Ex. 2 Change the letters "-ck" to "-ke" to form new words and write how the vowels change when a new word is formed.

A: back, lack, rack, tack   I: lick, pick, hick   O: jock, pock, stock   U: duck, luck

Ex. 3 Add an "-e" to the following words and write how the vowels change when a new word is formed (look at the example above).

A: bar, car, far, mar, scar, star   E: her, sever I: sir, fir  O: cor, for, lor

Ex. 1
A: mat-e, man-e, pan-e, can-e, tap-e, fat-e, hat-e, pal-e /æ/ - /eɪ/
E: met-e, den-e /e/ - /iː/ 
I: thin-e, lit-e, pin-e, spit-e, spin-e, win-e /ɪ/ - /aɪ/, NB. thin /θɪn/, thine /ðaɪn/
O: cod-e, con-e, mod-e /ɒ/ - /əʊ/
U: hug-e, cut-e /hʌg/ - /hjuːdʒ/, /kʌt/ - /kjuːt/

Ex. 2
A: bake, lake, rake, take /æ/ - /eɪ/, I: like, pike, hike /ɪ/ - /aɪ/ O: joke, poke, stoke /ɒ/ - /əʊ/, U: duke, Luke /ʌ/ - /uː/

Ex. 3
A: bar-e, car-e, far-e, mar-e, scar-e, star-e /ɑː/ - /eə/
E: her-e, sever-e /hɜː/ (weak /hə/) - /hɪə/, /ˈsevə/ - /sɪˈvɪə/
I: sir-e, fir-e /ɜː/ - /aɪə/
O: cor-e, for-e, lor-e no change /ɔː/

This time I got a little help from:

Magic -e is described at Teflpedia:

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Facebook groups for Polish EFL teachers 2

This is the second part of my post about Polish language Facebook groups for English language teachers.

Anglistów blogi edukacyjne - grupa dla Czytelników is a group for blogging teachers like me as well as teachers looking for fresh ideas. It may even be of use to people studying English on their own. Some of the blogs are written in Polish, some others in English; some contain ready exercises to print out while others offer practical tips for teachers rather than exercises as such. Whether you want to spice up your teaching or gain new followers of your own blog, this is a great place for you.

Uczę Dorosłych - grupa dla nauczycieli języków obcych used to be a group for professionals teaching English to adult learners, and seeing that English is the most popular foreign language in Poland, it still attracts more English teachers than teachers of other languages. Similar to Nauczyciele Angielskiego, a group mentioned in Part 1, it contains a wealth of information about a wide range of topics. The major differences are that discussions about any language are welcome (English, German, French, Spanish and occasionally other ones) and of course teaching English to children and teenagers is excluded as irrelevant. As regards English teachers, the group is particularly useful for professionals teaching Business English, English for Special Purposes (ESP) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP), preparing their students for international examinations or working abroad.

Książki językowe is a place where you can buy or sell new or used textbooks, grammar books or dictionaries as well as foreign-language fiction or non-fiction. Sometimes recordings on CDs, audiobooks or board games are on sale too. Again, all languages are welcome but English prevails. Thanks to the group I have bought both textbooks and novels in English. Facebook terms and conditions regarding buy and sell groups apply, as do other regulations, e.g. against selling photocopied books or writing off-topic posts.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Facebook groups for Polish EFL teachers 1

In this post I'd like to recommend a few Facebook groups for English language teachers that I belong to. They're all in Polish, but then again, most of my readers are native Polish speakers.

Nauczyciele angielskiego is the largest, most popular group for English language teachers in Poland. Started in 2012, managed by four Wonder Women (you know who you are) and boasting over 23,000 members, the group is a veritable cornucopia of information regarding teaching English in Polish schools: curricula, materials, textbooks, classroom management, dealing with difficult students and helicopter parents, working at state and private schools and an immense number of teaching ideas. The group organises annual conferences (sing. Zlot) which attract over 120 English teachers from all over Poland as well as TEFL publishers, authors of materials and teacher trainers. Yours truly has had the honour of giving three opening speeches: in 2017, 2018 and 2019, two of which concerned English pronunciation. Since the first Zlot of 2015 the interest in the group and its events has exploded.
Most of the members are English teachers working for state schools, but many work in kindergartens, independent (private) schools, universities, colleges or private language schools. Native English speakers are in a minority, particularly those who are not fluent in Polish, but even with a little Polish it's possible to find a lot of information and participate in conversations. The group has quite a few trainee teachers who are still learning the tricks of the trade. Some of the group members are academics like myself and mention the group to their students in English departments, thus adding to the snowball effect of its popularity.
The group is neatly organised, the posts having keywords or tags, so you can easily find your way when searching for a particular topic.

Codzienna kawa nauczycieli angielskiego is the off-topic "daughter" group of Nauczyciele angielskiego, managed by the same admins. A picture of a cup of coffee greets the members every morning, hence its name. In the group you'll have a chance to talk about anything except for TEFL or school matters; discussions range from gardening, cooking or buying shoes to fixing computer bugs, with lots of humour, puns, memes and links to British comedy shows thrown in.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Pronunciation of "be-"

Polish speakers of English often mispronounce the initial letters "be-" as simply /bɛ/ or sometimes /bi/. In fact, the pronunciation differs depending on whether the first syllable is stressed and the vowel qualities are quite different from Polish vowels.

Ex. 1 Put the following words in two categories according to how "be-" is pronounced.

a. /bɪ/ b. /be/
because, Bentley, below, become, Belgium, between, Benjamin, bespoke, berry, bemoan, bench, bereave, beneath, best, beseech, before, beckon, begin, beget, bewitch, beyond

Ex. 2 Fill in the gaps with some of the words used in Ex. 1. Put the words in the correct form if necessary.

a. Brussels is the capital of ...................... .
b. Hugh knew he had to either lie to his wife or risk a terrible row. He was ...................... the devil and the deep blue sea.
c. Cruel fate ...................... the family of their youngest child.
d. In yesterday's lecture the professor ...................... the state of education in the digital age.
e. It would be ...................... me/my dignity to beg my boss for a pay rise.
f. The audience were fascinated, as if ......................, as the opera singer sang a difficult aria without a single false note.
g. The king doesn't buy ordinary clothes like common people. He has a ...................... tailor who makes all his garments.
h. Having lost all his money, the aristocrat ...................... his creditors to cancel his debt.

Ex. 1 a. /bɪ/ because, below, become, between, bespoke, bemoan, bereave, beneath, beseech, before, begin, beget, bewitch, beyond
b. /be/ Bentley, Belgium, Benjamin, berry, bench, best, beckon

Ex. 2 a. Belgium, b. between, c. bereaved/bereft, d. bemoaned, e. beneath, f. bewitched, g. bespoke, h. beseeched/besought

Friday, 13 September 2019

Pronunciation of "ough"

The sequence of letters "ough" is arguably one of the most infamous cases of English spelling. It can be pronounced in at least five different ways in ordinary words and some more in proper names. Here, as usual, we are concerned with RP.
I used toPhonetics at

Ex. Transcribe the following words paying special attention to the letters "ough". They can be pronounced in the following ways:
/ə/, /əʊ/, /aʊ/, /ɒf/, /u:/, /ʌf/, /ʌp/

though, dough, through, borough, thorough, hiccough, Slough, enough, cough, Loughborough

/ðəʊ/, /dəʊ/, /θruː/, /ˈbʌrə/, /ˈθʌrə/, /ˈhɪkʌp/, /slaʊ/, /ɪˈnʌf/, /kɒf/, /lʌfb(ə)rə/

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Pronunciation of digraphs beginning with "e"

I wrote the transcriptions in Ex. 1 using ToPhonetics at

Ex. 1 Look at the following words and write how to pronounce the digraphs beginning with the letter "e". Note that in some words the letters in question belong to different syllables (so the letter combinations are not technically digraphs).

EA   read (infinitive), read (past), lead (verb), lead (metal, Pb), Reading, dream team, create, reapply
EE seem, keep, need, week, peek, deer, leer
EI beige, foreign, heist, neighbour, receive, reign, reindeer, weird
EO neon, Leo, deontic, deodorant
EU Europe, eulogy, reuse (verb, noun)

Ex. 2 Are the following pairs of words pronounced the same?

a. sweet - sweat   b. peel - peal   c. wheel - we'll   d. peek - peak   e. way - whey   f. wether - weather g. wheat - wait   h. meet - meat   i. pear - peer   j. tear (crying) - tear (rip)


Ex. 1
EA /riːd/, /red/, /liːd/, /led/, /ˈredɪŋ/, /driːm tiːm/, /kri(ː)ˈeɪt/, /ˌriːəˈplaɪ/
EE /siːm/, /kiːp/, /niːd/, /wiːk/, /piːk/, /dɪə/, /lɪə/
EI /beɪʒ/, /ˈfɒrɪn/, /haɪst/, /ˈneɪbə/, /rɪˈsiːv/, /reɪn/, /ˈreɪndɪə/, /wɪəd/
EO /ˈniːən/, /ˈli(ː)əʊ/, /di(ː)'ɒntɪk/ or /deɪ'ɒntɪk/, /diːˈəʊdərənt/
EU /ˈjʊərəp/, /ˈjuːləʤi/, /riːˈjuːz/ (verb), /-s/ (noun)

Ex. 2 Ex. 2 a. no, b. yes, c. yes, d. yes, e. yes, f. yes, g. no, h. yes, i. no, j. no