Index | Home Page | Next -----------"Schwa" the neutral vowel (a weak central vowel sound)
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Read aloud in pairs, making syllables with /ə/ very weak, and syllables with // non-existent:
A:___What do you think is th/ə/ probl/ə/m b/ə/tween the English /ə/nd the Americ/ə/ns?
B:___That's /ə/ very int//resting questi//n, because both nat/ə/nalities share /ə/ comm//n langu/ə/ge /ə/nd are usually on th/ə/ same side in war-time, yet they rarely speak well /ə/f one anoth/ə/r on /ə/ pers/ə/n//l lev//l.
A:___Are we talking /ə/bout /ə/ struggle for superior/ə/ty?
B:___Yes, b/ə/t we meas/ə/re our superior/ə/ty in differ//nt ways. Ours is cult/ə/r//l and historic//l. We believe we're more civ/ə/lized. We're the country of Shakespeare /ə/nd the industri//l revoluti//n. Americ/ə/ns visit Engl/ə/nd in search /ə/f cult/ə/re /ə/nd hist//ry.
A:___So in what ways are they superi/ə/r?
B:___Well, obvi/ə/sly in size. Everything's bigg/ə/r - their country, their sal/ə/ries, their roads, their comp/ə/nies. Theirs is th/ə/ land of MacDon/ə/ld's, Coc/ə/ Col/ə/, Micr/ə/soft /ə/nd IBM. They /ə/njoy telling us th/ə/t they're th/ə/ best.
A:___/ə/nd are they right?
B:___Yes, if you meas/ə/re s/ə/ccess purely in doll/ə/rs, but there're two points here. Firstly, many English people actually b/ə/lieve th/ə/t "Small is Beautif//l". They pr/ə/fer countries where you don't get mugged in parks /ə/nd subways.
A:___What's the oth/ə/r point?
B:___I was coming t/ə/ that. It's th/ə/ differ//nce in char/ə/ct/ə/r. Maybe you think you're th/ə/ best in th/ə/ world, b/ə/t you don't go shouting /ə/bout it from the rooftops. Americ/ə/ns lack our mod/ə/sty /ə/nd reserve. They're prob/ə/bly warm/ə/r /ə/nd more friendly, b/ə/t they're oft//n very loud /ə/nd extr/ə/vert t/ə/ go with it.
A:___So you pr/ə/fer the British char/ə/ct/ə/r?
B:___Not entirely. We tend to be rath/ə/r oblique in our conv/ə/rsati//n. When Americ/ə/ns speak, you c/ə/n take them liter/ə/lly, b/ə/t when English people speak you have t/ə/ read b/ə/tween th/ə/ lines.
A:___We say one thing /ə/nd mean /ə/noth/ə/r?
Print out any one of the following dialogues; go through it, marking (with a pencil) syllables which are "weak" /ə/ or "non-existent" // when the dialogue is spoken.
Then read the dialogue aloud with a teacher or another learner.