Can You Correctly Pronounce This Common Little Word?

Good Pronunciation Begins with a GOOD IDEA.

English pronunciation is difficult primarily because English spelling does not consistently predict English phonemes. Syllable stress is also tricky – what part of the word should you stress? (hold longer and say louder). So-called rules are riddled with exceptions. Even short, common words can be tricky.

And now for an example…. the common little word “idea.” It looks simple, right? You have been saying it for years and you don’t have to think about it… or do you? Sorry, but if you are Dutch, you may be saying this word incorrectly.

The key to pronouncing this word is to break it down. First consider the syllables. There are three, so you will need three recognizable units of sound to say this word. Like in ge-zel-lig. Three syllables. I-de-a. One-two-three.

Now begin with the I. That is the long English I as in iPhone and iPad. Got that? OK. Then say the alphabet letter D. It rhymes with these words (me, we, see, tree, three). Finally, say the A. This A has the sound we use to make these words: bus, but, under, cup, sun and love. When you say these words, be sure the vowels rhyme.

Finally, put in the stress. It goes in the middle on the D. So now try it. Say i-D-a. That’s it. This word is shaped like a little pyramid, with the high point in the middle. iDa.

If you find yourself saying I.D. (which means identification as in driver’s license or passport) or ideer, just pause and try it again.

Now practice with typical phrases like–
What a great idea.
I have no idea.
That idea stinks. 🙁
That’s an innovative idea.
That’s a bright idea.

(For you grammar nerds, the sound at the end of idea is called the schwa sound and is usually symbolized in a dictionary by an upside down e.)

The English Center specializes in pronunciation support and accent reduction. Read more about private English lessons.

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