Hello there! This is the “Sounds American” channel. In this video, we’re going to talk about the
American consonant sound /h/, as in the word “home.” You can also hear this sound in words like “head” – “who” – “perhaps” or “hero.” We’ll be using a special phonetic symbol – /h/- for this sound. As usual, let’s begin with some phonology. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated :). The /h/ belongs to a category of consonant sounds called the fricatives. This is the largest group of consonants in American English: it consists of nine different sounds! Take a look: So, why are they called the fricative consonants? All these sounds are made by partially blocking the air moving through your mouth, which creates an audible friction. Speaking about the /h/ consonant,
– this sound is slightly different as it’s made by constricting the air flowing between the vocal cords in your throat. Most non-native speakers don’t think that
how they pronounce the /h/ sound affects their accent. That’s not quite correct. This consonant is often mispronounced or distorted. Why? First of all, English spelling doesn’t make
things easier. You’d better get used to it ;). For example, can you point out the words where the letter ‘H’ i s NOT pronounced? Okay, now let’s see how you did: Even if you got all these right, spelling
is just a part of the problem. The other part is that the pronunciation of the American /h/ is not as easy as it may seem. So, let’s find out how to make this consonant. To make the /h/ sound correctly, pay attention to how and where the friction from the air flow is created. Ok. Slightly open your mouth; for now, leave your lips and your tongue in a neutral position. Next, breathe out while you partially bring your vocal cords together. It’ll create some noise, like this: Note that the /h/ is a voiceless sound. Even though it’s created between your vocal cords, you shouldn’t add your voice. So, don’t vibrate your vocal cords,
just let the air out as if you’re exhaling it: Also note that even though the /h/ belongs to the fricative consonants, it’s not made with much friction. Let’s say it’s a 3 on a scale from 1 to 10. However, as with all the other fricatives, the /h/ is a continuous sound. So you should be able to stretch it out. This may sound a little creepy, but let’s give it a try. Ready? Now, let’s try saying it: Now get ready for the tricky part. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. In English, the /h/ is always followed by a vowel sound. Therefore, when you pronounce the /h/, your lips and tongue take the position of the vowel that comes next. Take a look: Did you notice how the position of your lips and tongue changed when you made the /h/ sound? So did the place where you made the friction. Take another look: When the /h/ consonant is followed by a low vowel, such as the /ɔ/ sound, your tongue is placed very low. So, the friction from the airflow happens low in your throat, as we just discussed. But when the /h/ sound is followed by a high vowel, such as the tense /i/, your tongue is raised high. So the friction from the airflow shifts higher, somewhere between your tongue and your palate. If it doesn’t seem simple enough just yet, don’t worry. We’ll practice words with the /h/ sound in a minute. Here are a few typical mistakes that people make when pronouncing this sound. The most common mistake is that some non-native speakers drop the /h/ sound at the beginning of words. It happens because in their native languages the letter ‘H’ is never pronounced in this position. While it’s also true for a few words in English, you still need to pronounce it in many others. Compare: Another typical mistake is that some non-native speakers pronounce the /h/ consonant through a narrow passage between the back of the tongue and the soft palate. Sometimes the back of the tongue touches the soft palate. As a result, they produce too much friction and this makes the consonant too harsh. Compare: Remember, the American /h/ is created with the smallest amount of friction possible. You should never touch your soft palate with the back of your tongue. Now that you’ve learned so much about this sound, let’s do some exercises! After all, this is why you’re watching this video, right? This is how it works. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this: You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word. ♪ We’ll start with the /h/ followed by low vowel sounds. Let’s do it. So far, so good! Now let’s practice the /h/ followed by high vowel sounds. Remember, when you pronounce these words, the back of your tongue should never touch your soft palate. Let’s stop here for a second. Next, we suggest you practice words in which the letter ‘h’ is actually NOT pronounced. So, if you pronounce it, it’s a mispronunciation. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to fix with our exercises. You’re done! Congratulations! All right, time to sum it all up! As always, we couldn’t let you go without a nice pie-chart. Well, two pie-charts this time. 🙂 In English, if a word has the /h/ sound, it’s always represented by the letter ‘h’. However, the opposite is not true: a letter ‘H’ in a word may help to represent a number of different sounds or, sometimes, …the absence of sounds. Take a look: Most often, the letter ‘H’ represents the /h/ sound, like in the words “home” or “who.” Quite often, this letter is part of the ‘TH’ combination which represents either the /θ/ or /ð/ consonants, like in “thing” or “this.” Or it’s part of the ‘SH’ combination, which represents the /ʃ/ sound, as in “she” or “wash.” Don’t forget about the ‘CH’ combination that’s pronounced as the /tʃ/ sound, as in “chair” or “peach.” But wait, that’s not all! The letter ‘H’ is silent in almost 14% of words. Here are a few of them: “cheetah” or “ghost.” But it also helps to represent the /f/ sound in the ‘PH’ combination, as in “phone” or “alphabet.” This letter is simply incredible, isn’t it? Click “Like” if you liked this video. Share this video with your friends, pets, and relatives. Don’t forget to subscribe and stay tuned on our Sounds American channel!