Lots of learners, whatever their first language, find vowel length difficult especially in words like
Ship / sheep
Live / leave
Rhythm / reason
There are two differences between these vowel sounds. The most obvious is length – you can clearly hear that the vowel in sheep, leave and reason is longer than that in ship, live and rhythm.
The second difference is just as important though – how open your mouth is.
If the only difference you make in the way you produce these sets is in the length, you’ll still find the distinction isn’t as clear as it needs to be for clear and confident communication.
This video on my Instagram account explains this in more detail.
Now you understand the difference, try practising with these pairs:
Bit / beat
Clinic / clean
Rip / reap
And now try the pairs in full sentences:
- The music had a great beat.
- I’d like a bit of cake please.
- It’s important to keep clean.
- I took my baby to the clinic.
- If you work hard you will reap great results.
- I had a rip in my trousers.
Keep practising this pair. It’s one of the most common mistakes I hear and getting this pair right will transform your pronunciation.