Welcome to today’s forum, the first this month. I hope you know that June is symbolic to our English Class. The reason is that the class started in June 2017, meaning that we should be celebrating our third anniversary any moment from now. Meanwhile, I didn’t say third year anniversary, just third anniversary because year is not required in the expression. It is like saying ‘5 am in the morning’! Is there any 5 am in the afternoon?
But there is another reason I have to underline June in today’s lesson. I want to be sure you can pronounce it well. So, how do you pronounce ‘June’? In the first instance, the pronunciation of the letter ‘J’ at the beginning of the word has something like a D before J. So, it should sound like DJ, not just J. This means we should have DJune, not June. Is this the way you have been pronouncing it?
Secondly – and this is the aspect that is most related to the topic of today’s lesson – the U we have in the word is a long one, not short. I am sure a lot of us miss this point when we pronounce ‘June’. Wrongly, we do not accord it the necessary length; we fail to put the required emphasis on the U. Always remember to make the U elastic whenever you are articulating the word:
jUn – Wrong
JUUn – Correct
Short vs long U
Among other categories of vowels, the short and long U (/u/, /u:/) appear in many words. Because they manifest in different spelling patterns, you have to pay extra attention to them. Remember that when you pronounce the word with the short U, you keep it short; but when it is the long counterpart, you have to demonstrate it by prolonging it.
Consider ‘pull’ and pool. Do you differentiate between the pronunciations of both whenever you are speaking? Congrats if you do, because many other people don’t. In the first word (pull), we have the short U, while, in the second (pool), the U is a long vowel:
pull – pUl
pool – pUUl
Pronounce both words about three times to establish the difference.
Ironically, it is not every time you see the letter u in a word that you pronounce it as U, just as oo does not always become UU. While you have the short U in ‘put’, for instance, the u in ‘rule’ and ‘June’ is long! Also, the double o in ‘stool’ gives us the long U (stUUl), but in ‘good’ and ‘look’, the U is short (gUd, lUk – not gUUd or lUUk).
Here are some spelling patterns for the short U, with examples in each category:
u – pull, put, output, sugar
oo – look, good, book, foot
ou – could, should, would
As I noted earlier, the long U appears in many words with different patterns. Don’t forget that when you pronounce it, you must establish it as a long vowel. For instance, when you pronounce ‘root’, do not be in a hurry in your elocution of the U after ‘r’:
Here are other words in which you find the long U
oo – pool, wool, hoot, roof, mood, food, shampoo, loop, proof, Yahoo, groove
Note that there are some words in which a single o produces a long U. They include:
u – due, suit, rule, ruse, abuse, rude, stupid, tube, student, flute, include
ew – few, dew, mew, new, renew, crew, chew
ou – group, through, route
ue – blue, true, fruit, juice, cue, due, sue, suit
route: rUUt or rAUt?
Let’s conclude by discussing the pronunciation of ‘route’? It is not supposed to be a difficult one going by the explanation I made above. But have you not heard some people pronounce the word as rAUt instead of the popular rUUt – as we have in ‘root’ too? The fact is that in the British English adopted in Nigeria, ‘route’ is to be pronounced as ‘rUUt’.
It is American English that has two versions – rUUt and rAUT. But even then, the first remains more popular. As a result, it is better to pronounce ‘route’ as rUUt, and not otherwise.