English Pronunciation: Connecting Two Vowel Sounds
In American English, when two separate vowel sounds are next to each other, we naturally connect them with a light Y or W sound. This is a subtle point of pronunciation. It is useful if you are aiming for fluency or if it will improve your ability to understand American speakers.
Many double vowel spellings have only one sound–for example, “oa” indicates a long O sound as in “boat.” Usually, two vowel sounds (notice this is about sounds, not letters) will be next to each other when a prefix, such as “re,” “pre,” “pro,” or “co,” is combined with a word that begins with a vowel. Also, some prefixes have double vowel sounds, like “bio” and “geo.”
The small Y or W happens because Americans are not precise with vowels. We have clear sounds, but we are comfortable switching from one sound to another as we speak so that there is a blending sound in between.
|Words with Y Sounds||Pronunciation|
|Words with W Sounds||Pronunciation|
Note: even if the Y or W is on the stress, it is lightly pronounced–it’s a blending sound that connects vowels. On the other hand, if you usually speak these words with a slight break between the vowel sounds, you may try fully pronouncing the Y or W in order to get used to this change. Ultimately, these blending sounds should be part of the natural movement from one vowel to the other.
Study all vowel sounds or learn the sounds of the alphabet. Learn other ways to sound American.