We will start with the 3 Lip Diphthongs and this first one was always referred to by my speech teacher as “The Killer”. This is because it is mostly very straightforward and easy - until it is followed by an “L” and then it can get quite seriously distorted.
So, are you ready to learn the identity of the vowel sound known as “The Killer”?! It is…
OH as in OH, NO!
This is a falling diphthong and you start in the neutral vowel position, the one for “uh” with your lips relaxed and the centre of your tongue half raised. Then, you MOVE to the “oo” position as in “book” rounding the lips and raising the back of the tongue.
Very posh speakers can start this vowel with “E” as in “Glen” instead of the neutral vowel, and this gives us “E-oo”. They might even use the neutral vowel at the end of the sound instead of “oo” which gives us “AIR”. So instead of “Oh, hello!” you might hear: “Air, hell-air!” Other speakers are more used to saying “aw” as in “for” or “o” as in “coffee” and they can therefore find “OH” a bit tricky.
Can you start to see how you can use phonetics to move from this Standard accent to any other accent in the world? Whenever I learn a new accent from scratch, I often can’t hear precisely what I should be doing when I start work - that is until I compare the new target accent to the equivalent sounds in Standard English - then I am quickly able to get a real handle on the new sounds. So this course not only teaches you speech, but it also teaches you how to hear and reproduce speech much more accurately.
When “OH” is followed by “L” as in “old” there is a danger that the neutral starting sound will become “o” as in “hot coffee” which gives us “old”. Some of the very best professional speakers can be completely undone by just this one sound - I hear it over and over again.
Students will then often over correct and try to sound “more posh” - and so we’ll hear “e-old”.
Try to surgically transplant the correct “OH” sound into the words which have the “L” sound after it. For example:
OH go gold
OH toe told
OH bow bold
Be on your guard against “The Killer” as we work through the exercises: