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Go Natural English Podcast | Listening & Speaking Lessons

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Jun 30, 2015

Are you familiar with the most common vowel sound in the English language? Well, you are about to meet the “schwa” sound. “What is that”, you say? Well, the “schwa” sound is that “uh” sound that is found in the unstressed syllables of words.


In this podcast, Gabby explains how the “schwa” sound is a lazy utterance that is used instead of the actual pronounced syllable in some words. Gabby provides three examples to illustrate the “schwa” sound – “pencil”, “question”, and “famous.” You will find that a great many English words have this particular sound. By listening to native English speakers, over time you will be able to not only hear the sound, but you will be able to use it yourself. This will help you sound more like a native English speaker.


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Episode transcript below:


Hello, and welcome to the Go Natural English podcast.

I’m your host, Gabby Wallace, your American English teacher and Number One fluency coach.

I’m so excited to bring you the tip today that will help you so much with your English fluency through pronunciation.

Now, before I forget I want to remind you that you can get the free Go Natural English mini eBook just by visiting

Enter your name and email address and I will send you your free mini eBook to help your English fluency immediately.

So, I hope to see you over there as soon as you’re done listening to this quick English tip on the GO Natural English podcast right here.

So, I have a really important tip that I want to share with you really quickly here.

The most important sound in the English language is actually one that you probably didn’t learn in your English class, and that makes me mad because it’s really important.

It’s called the “schwa” sound but the name is not important.

What is important to know is that when you have an English word that has two syllables like, “today” – one, two – “today.”

Two syllables, right?

“Today.” Two parts – we break the word into syllables and there’s two in the word, “today.”

Well, you have one syllable that is stressed and another syllable that is not stressed.

So, we have a lot of words that have two or more syllables in the English language.

You’re always going to have one stressed syllable and another syllable that’s weak could be a “schwa” sound.

So, I’m going to share some examples with you and I want you to listen to see how the weak syllables all sound very much alike.

And that is the “schwa” sound.

It makes a kind of “uh” sound. It’s a funny sound, right?

“Uh” but check it out.

How about the word pencil.”

Do you notice how the first syllable is strong, “pen”, and the second syllable is weak and it sounds like ‘Uh?”

“Pencil, pencil.”

OK, how about the word “question?”

The strong syllable is the first one “quest – ion.”

And the second syllable kind of sounds like “uh” again.

OK, how about the word “famous?”

Well, the first syllable is strong again, “fam” and the second syllable “ous.”

So, even though the spelling is different for all these words, right?

“Pencil” – p-e-n-c-i-l.

“Question” – q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n.

And “famous” – f-a-m-o-u-s.

Even though those spellings are so different those weak syllables – the “schwa” sound makes those weak syllable all sound alike.

One more time – “pencil’”, “question”, “famous.”

OK, and those three words are just three examples off the top of my head.

Now, there are a lot more examples that you’d be able to hear the “schwa” ...