How to pronounce words with the suffix ‘-ial’

When I studied linguistics at the university, my favorite class was Phonology. During the class, we would get lists of words in different languages, try to figure out the common denominator between different pronunciation patterns, and discover the rule behind it. I loved it. I used to look at the board, process all the sounds in my head, say them softly out loud, and pretty quickly I’d have the answer. I was almost always the first to raise her hand.

So, when I was sitting at home the other day preparing an exercise for my students, I noticed that the suffix ‘ial’ in words like ‘memorial‘ didn’t sound the same as the ending in words like ‘confidential‘, and I immediately got into my ‘phonology student’ mode.  I had to find out why this happens!  My heart started beating with excitement, I stared at the computer, ignored all sounds around me (including my daughter’s voice asking for water), processes the words and BOOM – I had the answer.

I figured that knowing this rule would not only help you pronounce any word with the suffix ‘-ial’ correctly, but would also bring some sense into this very inconsistent language. Here’s what I discovered: (and don’t miss out on my free practice below)


You always hear me say that in order to assimilate a new topic you have to practice it. This time I decided to do something about it! Here’s a FREE audio practice so you could practice what you’ve learned in the video. Click and Sign Up to download.
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