Spelling the English Vowels

By 18 November 2018 Video lessons 2 Comments
Spelling the English Vowels

Hi there! I’m your English coach Christina, welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll learn American culture and business know-how to become confident in English.

If someone asked you on the spot, how would you spell the name “Aliea” in English? Try spelling it out loud, just to test yourself…

Not so easy with all those vowels, huh? But don’t worry, that can happen to everybody. Even though you’ve learned the alphabet in English, sometimes you’ll make mistakes like these.

The trouble with spelling vowels in English

The sounds of the vowels get mixed up–and it breaks your flow. Or worse, you give the wrong email address or spelling for your name. I want to help you get better!

You’ll also find today’s lesson in “What was that?”: How to correct 50 common mistakes and avoid confusion in American English”, my new, practical guide to avoid most common English mistakes you will never make anymore!

Spelling vowels in English

In the English language, vowels have a specific sound when you’re spelling them out:
A (= /ay/), E (= /ee/), I (=/aï/), O (= /o/), U (= /you/), and Y (=”why”)

For example:
“Hi, I’m Leah. That’s L-E-A-H.” (/ee/, /ay/)
“The wifi password is Faespoil22 : F-A-E-S-P-O-I-L 22” (/ay/, /ee/, /o/, /aï/)
“My name’s Aleia.”
”Oh! I’m sorry, can you spell it?”
”Sure, A-L-I-E-A.” (pronounced /ay/-/ell/-aï/-/ee/-/ay/

My students don’t really make mistakes on the U, O and Y…

But I often hear English-learners mix up the sounds of A, I and E.

confident conversations in english

Click the image for details

Where does the mistake come from?

The thing is, you know the correct spelling, when you think about it. You’ve learned it in the alphabet, probably with the great “♪ABCD♪” song!

But in a real conversation, when you’re spelling a word, you go with your guts. And that’s when your instincts rely on your own language, and you get confused. Especially if the letter names in English are the opposite of the letter names in your native tongue!

To be fair, the English letters can have many different sounds once they’re in an actual word. Even on their own! After all, “a cat” doesn’t use the sound “ay” at all.

So how can you override your gut-feelings?

Useful tips for spelling vowels in English

There are two useful tips you can use!

The first one is:
Try to think of a word that is easy to remember, and associate it with the letters. Say them both out loud several times.
This will help you remember if the letter is pronounced /ay/, /ee/, or /aï/.

For example:
For the letter “A” (/ay/), remember the song “YMCA” !
For the letter “E” (/ee/), you have all electronics: e-mail, e-book, eBay
For the letter “I”, /aï/, Steve Jobs can help you with the iPad, iPhone… or for a more poetic inspiration, just remember the I in “I love you” !

My second piece of advice is more general:
Any time you’re spelling, and the other person might have trouble understanding or you want to be extra clear, use a Spelling Alphabet!

You might have heard of the International Spelling Alphabet, “Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta…” but you can use your own favorite English words as well!

How to Pronounce the English Vowels

  • “That’s ‘a’ /ay/ as in alpha.” or “a as in America”
  • “That’s ‘e’ /ee/ as in echo.” or “E as in Elephant”
  • “That’s ‘i’ /aï/ as in India.” or “I as in International”
  • “That’s ‘o’/o/ as in Oscar” or “as in Orange.”
  • “U as in Uniform”, “U as in USA.”
  • “Y as in Yankee”, or “Y as in Yellow.

It’s a great reflex to have when you have to spell a word on the phone with a bad reception, too!

So to recap:
– The vowel names in English are A, E, I, O, U
– When you’re spelling in English, don’t trust your gut. Try to remember the words you associate with each letter.
– You can use a Spelling Alphabet to be 100% clear.

Your turn, now!
Practice spelling these words out loud: Valerie – Pierre – machine – Cecilia.
And tell me: Which words would you use for vowels in your own Spelling Alphabet, to make the letters easy to remember? A as in…., E as in….?

Write your answer down in the comments!

There are many more mistakes that I want to help you with. That’s why I’ve created a new ebook, “What was that?”: How to correct 50 common mistakes and avoid confusion in American English.

It includes 50 short, easy-to-learn lessons so you correct your common grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation mistakes. It also includes common idiomatic expressions and American culture do’s and don’ts, helpful quizzes to get you remember what you learn, and so much more!

Go to this page and get your copy now.

Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!

American accent

More good stuff...

Click the image to learn more

Pronunciations of “i” in American English
Understand Real American English: The Flap T Sound
Pronunciations of -ough


Leave a Reply

Get your free email templates now