Pronouncing /ʌ/ and /æ/ in IELTS Speaking

In a lesson the other day, one of my students was talking about her favourite pop group in Japan. This was what I thought I’d heard:

Their music is a lot of fun.

When I began giving feedback on her speaking techniques, she realised that I had misunderstood what she’d said. What she’d meant was:

Their music has a lot of fans.

I only discovered this when she typed the correct word in the chat box. Apparently, the problem lay in the difference between the  /ʌ/ and /æ/ sounds, and in this case, the mispronunciation had caused some confusion for the listener. In this earlier post, I wrote about the importance of producing sounds in IELTS Speaking so that you can be understood. It is crucial that you do this in the interview. Of course, the examiner is not going to pick on every single mispronunciation that occurs. But if the error is consistent and causes some difficulty for the listener to understand you, then this might affect your band score.

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Glen Eric Huysamer via Compfight

Here are some exercises you can practise to help you differentiate the sounds:

Listen carefully to some of these sentences and choose the correct word.

  1. Man or Men? Did you see the man/men?
  2. Cap or Cup? Have you seen my cap/cup?
  3. Cut or Cat? There’s a cut/cat on the arm of the sofa.

Now, record your speech and compare it with the recording. Please note the recording tools may not work on mobile devices.

Until next time!

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