Hello there! This is the “Sounds American” channel. In this video we’re going to talk about the American r-colored vowel /ɝ/, as in the word “first”. You can also hear this sound in words like “girl,” “her,” “learn,” or “word”. We’ll be using a special phonetic symbol – /ɝ/ – for this sound. American English is known for its r-colored vowels. You can’t speak like an American if you don’t know how to pronounce them correctly. So, what exactly are the r-colored vowels? Let’s take these two words: [fist] [first]. Their spellings differ by only one letter: the letter ‘r’. However, there’s a dramatic difference as to how they’re pronounced. Listen: /fɪst/ – /fɝst/. Did you notice that the vowel sounds are different? The vowel you hear in the word “fist” is the /ɪ/ sound and the vowel in the word “first” is the /ɝ/ sound. Let’s take a closer look at how the word “first” is spelled. See how the consonant ‘r’ comes after the letter ‘i’? In American English when the ‘r’ follows a vowel in the same syllable, it forms a new sound, called an r-colored vowel. In the word “first,” this r-colored vowel is pronounced as /ɝ/. Note, that the /ɝ/ is not a variation of the /ɪ/ vowel or the /r/ consonant. It’s a distinct sound of American English. Check out a few more pairs of words. Did you notice what these words have in common? Despite being spelled with different vowel letters, these words have the same r-colored vowel sound: /ɝ/. Also, note, that the /ɝ/ is used in stressed syllables ONLY. What happens in “weak” syllables, like in the word “teacher”? The /ɝ/ has a “weak” counterpart, the r-colored vowel /ɚ/, but we’ll talk about this sound in our next video. And now let’s focus on how to make the /ɝ/ sound. OK. Pronunciation of the r-colored vowel /ɝ/ is very similar to the /r/ consonant. To make the /ɝ/ sound, open your mouth a little and leave your lips neutral or round them slightly. The /ɝ/ is a tense vowel sound, so your tongue, mouth and throat should be tense, when you pronounce it. Raise the front of your tongue toward the alveolar ridge behind your upper front teeth, but don’t touch it. Curl back the tip of your tongue Now slightly lower the center of your tongue and raise its back. Note that your tongue should be very tense. Remember, the tip of your tongue should be curled back and it should never touch the alveolar ridge behind your upper front teeth. Now, let’s try saying it: /ɝ/ /ɝ/ /ɝ/ Now, let’s practice the /ɝ/ sound in some words. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this: You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word. ♪ Repeat each word after the speaker and try to copy the pronunciation as best as you can. Let’s begin! Let’s pause for a second and check on how you are making the /ɝ/ sound. The tip of your tongue should be curled back and raised toward the alveolar ridge behind your upper front teeth. Your tongue and your throat should be tense. Let’s continue practicing. You’re done! Congratulations! Let’s summarize what we’ve covered in this video: In American English, any time in any word, when you see a vowel followed by the letter ‘r’ in the same syllable, you have an r-colored vowel sound. The r-colored vowel sound /ɝ/, as in the word “first” or “circle” occurs only in stressed syllables. The /ɝ/ has a weak version, the r-colored vowel /ɚ/, as in the word “teacher” or “color” that is used in unstressed syllables. By the way, did you know that the tense /ɝ/ and the weak /ɚ/ are the only r-colored monophthongs? This means, that the /ɝ/ and the /ɚ/ are single distinct sounds. All the other r-colored vowels are diphthongs and there’s even a triphthong. Take a look: /ɪr/ as in “clear” /ɛr/ as in “care” /ɑr/ as in “card” /ɔr/ as in “corn” and /aɪr/ as in “fire.” Awesome, isn’t it? We’ll talk about these sounds in our next videos! Stay tuned on our Sounds American channel! Don’t forget to subscribe!