Listen to a story about the Christmas season and why it’s sometimes stressful!
You’ll also learn how about a common vowel sound in English that doesn’t exist in many other languages!
Welcome to the English Teacher Melanie Podcast, a podcast for intermediate to advanced English learners who want to improve their English listening and speaking skills!
Each episode includes a story and a pronunciation tip. In the story, I use core vocabulary, the most common words in English, to tell a real world story. The pronunciation tip will help you understand natural spoken English.
You’ll hear the story twice. The first time, the story is a little slower than normal. It sounds funny because I used editing software to change the speed of the story and make it slower. After the pronunciation tip, you’ll hear the story again, but at a regular speed.
For me, the Christmas season begins with my town’s Santa Claus parade at the end of November. It’s a fun community event. I also enjoy watching Christmas movies on TV. It’s a popular tradition to watch your favorite Christmas movies every year. My neighborhood always looks festive at Christmas because so many families decorate their houses. My next-door neighbor has a giant inflatable reindeer outside his house and it makes me smile! And, of course, I enjoy spending time with my family at Christmas, because that’s what’s important.
Christmas can be a lot of pressure, and there are some things I don’t like. You’re supposed to be happy all the time because “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” You have to spend a lot of money to buy the perfect presents for everyone. And you have to be busy, because the busier you are, the more fun you’re having and the happier you are! It’s stressful and it’s a lot of buildup for just one day.
I don’t enjoy Christmas shopping. Every year I say that I will get my shopping done early, and every year I’m at the mall a couple days before Christmas with all the other last-minute shoppers! My family is difficult to buy for. I usually end up wandering around the mall waiting for gift ideas to jump out at me. I do, however, enjoy wrapping presents, and I enjoy seeing how happy people are when they open their gifts.
Learn more: English Vocabulary: Christmas Collocations
When I was a kid, my brother and I would wait on the stairs until our parents woke up and then we would run downstairs and open all the presents. I don’t remember what we did for the rest of the day! We may have spent time with relatives, but when you’re a kid, Christmas is all about toys. Now Christmas is all about family and the fun part is watching my niece and nephew open their presents. I spend Christmas day with my family, which includes my mom’s sister and her family, and my mom cooks a big dinner for everyone. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful day with your family, too!
THE [ʌ] VOWEL SOUND AND WHERE YOU CAN HEAR IT IN THE STORY
This transcript uses IPA symbols to represent sounds and teach pronunciation. Learn more about the IPA here.
I’m going to say a list of words from the story. Listen carefully, and try to figure out what all these words have in common.
was / wʌz/
Did you hear the same vowel sound in all of those words? All of these words have the vowel sound [ʌ].
English learners are often surprised by this because this sound is spelled with different vowels. You’ll notice that money, fun, couple, and what all have the [ʌ] vowel sound, but the sound is spelled differently
Also, this sound doesn’t exist in most languages, so it takes some practice to learn when to say it.
It’s a very easy sound to make. Think of the vowel sound in the word up.
Your entire mouth is relaxed. Your lips are slightly open. The back part of your tongue raises slightly.
Practice this sound:
You might recognize this sound. It’s the same sound as the reduced vowel schwa sound [ə]. The only difference is that the schwa sound is shorter because it occurs in a reduced syllable. The sound that I’m talking about in this pronunciation tip occurs in a stressed syllable.
I’ll say the list of words again. Listen, and repeat after me:
was / wʌz/
- What’s your favorite holiday?
Leave me a comment below!