Placement and American English

In this American English pronunciation video, We’re going to talk about aa, aa, aa, and placement in American English.

I’ve found myself talking about placement a lot recently in my online course, and with my private students. This is because placement can effect the quality of a vowel, the sound of a vowel. Take, for example, AH and UH. The difference in the tongue position, in the lip position, jaw position, is very subtle. The sound is effected as much by the placement as by the change in the mouth position. AH — I feel that vibrating more here in the mouth. Ah. But UH, uh, I feel that more here. Ah, uh. The core sound of American English is, uh, very grounded here in the chest. But for other languages, there’s some manipulation in the throat, in the neck, that causes the placement, uh, to rise further up into the face. So if you’re trying to speak American English but all of your placement is here, you’re going to lack some of the quality of the vowel, uh, uh, that we need.

If you’ve never thought about placement before, this can be a pretty confusing concept. It’s not something you can see, like adjusting a lip position. But, it can make a big difference in your sound. As a first step, I invite you to just play around with placement like I did in the introduction of the video. AA. Point, ah, and try to feel the vibration there. Uh. Pay attention to what subtle differences are changing. Maybe there’s some tension in the neck and then a relaxation as you move from one placement to another.

Keep in mind we’re not changing the pitch of the sound, we’re changing the placement. Aa, aa. Same pitch, same vowel, different placement. Once you’ve been able to start feeling your voice in different places in your mouth, start trying to think about getting it down here. This requires a full relaxation of the throat. No muscles here should be engaged. Uh, uh. So when the throat relaxes and opens up, it allows the voice to settle down here. Uh, uh. If you’ve always spoken with a high placement, it might feel like your throat is already relaxed because that is what is natural and normal to you. So, try to push your placement really far forward. And see what changes happen to make that sound move forward. Aa. If I make that sound, I feel, aa, a tightening here, in my throat. So I know if I want to bring it back, I have to relax that. Aa, aa.

If you have a hard time hearing the difference between between Ah and Uh, ah, uh, thinking about placement may help.

As you work on your speech, think about the fact that the core sound of American English is uh, placed here, uh, uh. You may find that the quality of your vowels improve, and that you start to sound more American.

That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.

I’m excited to announce that I’m running another online course, so do check out my website for details. You’ll find on there all sorts of information about the course, who should take the course, and requirements. I really hope you’ll check it out and consider signing up. I’ve had a blast with my first online course, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you.

Don’t stop there. Have fun with my real-life English videos. Or get more comfortable with the IPA in this play list. Learn about the online courses I offer, or check out my latest video.

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