Vowel 11 /ɜ:/ is a long vowel sound. It is the last but one of the twelve monophthongs or pure vowels. You can read about how to teach all the other long sounds on our blog
/ ɜ:/ is a unique but difficult sound for most Africans to produce. This is because the sound cannot be found in most native languages.
In Nigeria, many speakers simply replace the sound with another . They simply substitute the ɜ: sound with another convenient for them. For example, some people may say /e/ (the sound in egg) in place of /ɜ:/. So if they want to say the word “FIRST”, they will say /fest/ instead of /fɜ:st/. For “SKIRT”, they will say /sket/ instead of /sk ɜ: t/ .
Sometimes they replace / ɜ: / with the /a/ in ant. So you will hear some people say /konfam/ instead of /kәnfɜ: m/. You may even hear /gal/ for /gɜ:l/
Vowel number 11 is one of the most difficult to teach sounds for both learners and educators. But it is not impossible to learn.
How to teach Vowel 11 /3:/ to Beginners
It is important to note that almost all the spelling variants for the /ɜ: / sound have the letter r in them.
In order to produce this sound correctly, you should practice saying /ә/ and linger on it. Remember that / ɜ: / is a long sound. Listen to the sound here
if you prefer the AmE variation, listen here
Now let’s learn how to teach vowel no 11 / ɜ: /
A Step by Step Guide to Teaching Vowel 11
Write the words skirt and shirt on the board. Ask learners to pronounce both words
Write vowel 11 on the board and the letters ‘ir’ in front of it. produce the / ɜ: / sound and ask the students to repeat the sound.
Explain that letters ‘ir’ say / ɜ: / in skirt and shirt and very many other ‘ir’ words, but that other letters can also make the sound / ɜ: / . Give other word examples (term, learn, burn, journey, turn)
Ask learners to supply more word examples. Use the dictionary to confirm whether the given words have the vowel or not.
Have learners say vowel 11 in isolation and then practice writing it down in their notebooks. You may also have learners pronounce the words slowly at first then rapidly, have them write and read out simple sentences containing words with the/ ɜ: / sound.
More / ɜ: / Word Examples
Vowel number 11 / ɜ: / has many spelling variants. These include, er, ear, ir, our, o, ur. Some word examples are shown below.
Fern /fɜ:n/ germ / dʒɜ:m/
Learn /lɜ:n/ yearn /jɜ:n/
Dirt /dɜ:t/ firm /fɜ:m/
Courtesy /kɜ:təsi/ journey /dʒɜ:ni/
Colonel /kɜ:nəl / Kernel /kɜ:nəl /
Burn /bɜ:n/ turn /tɜ:n/
Vowel 11words in sentences
- It’s my turn.
- He burnt the book to ashes.
- Sweep out the dirt.
- She did not show him any courtesy.
- He came here to learn.
Can you make your own sentences?
Now Take the Quiz to see if you can identify the nine words with the /3:/ sound on the first try. If you don’t get it right the first time, try again and again. You will find that your pronunciation of the sound will get better,
Flip if you think the card has the /3:/ sound