The schwa is the most neutral vowel sound in English. In order to produce it, simply relax your jaw, lips, and tongue, and release a very short ‘uh’ sound. If you’re not sure what ‘uh’ sounds like, try to insert a sound between K-G. Most likely the sound between the K and G will be the schwa.
What makes it tricky?
The schwa doesn’t have a usual spelling pattern and can be represented by any vowel letter (or even combination of letters).
Here are some words with schwa sound:
How to identify it?
But just because the schwa is represented by different letters, this doesn’t mean it’s completely erratic. It's a reduced vowel and it's made only in unstressed syllables in words with two syllables or more (although not all multi-syllable words use a schwa).
Why is it important?
Not producing the schwa doesn’t necessarily mean you will not be understood. However, using the schwa will definitely help:
1. Your listening comprehension: Native speakers use it all the time. It’s the most common vowel sound in English.
2. Your pronunciation of long words: You’ll invest less energy in confusing long words if you use the schwa in some unstressed syllables.
3. The delivery of your message: Less important words (usually, function words) are reduced and therefore contain a schwa sound rather than a pure vowel sound.
4. Your speech and rhythm: You will sound more natural.
Watch the video to get the full picture and understand when and how to use this sound.
What words with the schwa sound do you tend to mispronounce? Can you think of at least three words with a schwa sound in them? Let me know in the comments below.