The AH /ɑ/ in father and the UH /ʌ/ in butter can be challenging to pronounce for a couple of reasons. Your native language might not contain these vowels, so you aren’t able to use your knowledge of a familiar sound when you are speaking English. This can make accurate pronunciation very difficult.
Many of my clients also tell me that the AH and UH vowels sound similar, so they have a difficult time hearing a difference between these sounds when native speakers are talking.
But the AH and UH vowels differ in two very important and visual areas: the placement of the jaw and the tongue.
The AH vowel is made with the jaw dropped low, the tongue is pulled back and has some tension. AH, AH, father.
Watch what my jaw does when I say the UH vowel: UH, UH, UH. The jaw closes a little bit. Watch again: UH, UH, UH. The tongue is also neutral and relaxed. UH, butter.
Let’s practice these two sounds with a visual test. I’ll say two words containing either the AH sound or the UH sound. I’ll mute the microphone so you can’t hear what I’m saying - you’ll only be able to see my face. Watch my jaw positioning - open jaw for AH, and a neutral jaw for UH.
1) pop or pup?
Answer: 1st word: pup; 2nd word: pop
2) got or gut?
Answer: 1st word: got; 2nd word: gut
3) talk or tuck?
Answer: 1st word: talk; 2nd word: tuck
4) calm or come?
Answer: 1st word: calm; 2nd word: come
5) lock or luck?
Answer: 1st word: luck; 2nd word: lock
Now let’s practice with phrases and sentences. I’ll use the same words as before. Watch my jaw position and try to guess which phrase or sentence I am saying. And some of these sentences don’t make sense - that’s OK for this type of practice.
1) "Let's pop the tire" or "Let's pup the tire"?
Answer: 1st sentence: “Let’s pop the tire”; 2nd sentence: “Let’s pup the tire.”
2) "This is got" or "This is gut"?
Answer: 1st sentence: “This is gut”; 2nd sentence: “This is got”
3) "Talk my shirt" or "Tuck my shirt"?
Answer: 1st sentence: “Talk my shirt”; 2nd sentence: “Tuck my shirt”
4) "Calm down" or "Come down"?
Answer: 1st sentence: “Come down”; 2nd sentence: “Calm down”
5) "You need to lock it" or "You need to luck it"?
Answer: 1st sentence: “You need to lock it”; 2nd sentence: “You need to luck it”
Thanks so much for watching! And let me know if you’d like some help with the AH and UH vowels!