All about learning English

Voiced and Voiceless Consonants-2

In English movies, when they are talking about being ‘cold’, or about ‘calling’ someone, the ‘k’ they pronounce is all fancy. Sounds like ‘kh’, but somehow different. Not the sort of ‘k’ sound we make when we we say ‘kapda’ or ‘kaminey.’

Let’s figure out the mystery of those distinct sounds here today. It will take just a few minutes.

The basic idea is that there are two types of sounds in English (and in many other languages, for that matter) voiced, and voiceless. Let’s get a quick look at how they are different.


Voiced and Voiceless Comparison

Now, when WE see ‘car’ we say it as ‘kaar’, basically replacing the original voiceless k’ sound with our own ‘k’ sound, the kind we have in words like ‘kapda’ or ‘koshish.’ The native speakers of English, especially those in the USA and the UK, as it turns out, pronounce the voiceless ‘k’ strictly as voiceless. And because a voiceless sound is not very audible in normal speech, they throw in the voiced ‘h’ sound after it. (They call it an ‘aspirated sound’, but feel free to ignore the jargon.)

Now that you know the difference, If you wish to, you can abandon the ‘Indian ‘k’ in your spoken English, and replace it with the voiceless ‘k.’ And then, for the sake of consistency, also learn to say ‘p’ and ’t’ in the same way.

But here is the important part: you don’t have to. Because your goal should be to speak clear, intelligible English. Your goal is NOT to put on an accent, or to disguise who you are or where you are from.

And also because, frankly, learning a new language and speaking it like a native is just extremely hard—some say impossible—and perhaps not worth the effort. As long as you say ‘car’, and people hear ‘car’, you are doing fine, regardless of whether you used the proper voiceless sound, or a voiced version of it.

Which brings me to my point: Why do we need to learn about this voiced and voiceless sounds distinction at all?

Well, there IS one reason why learning the distinction between voiced and voiceless sounds is important. Extremely important.

I’ll cover this reason in my next post, but by way of a hint, let me leave you with this exercise:

Say out loud, clearly and slowly, the following word pairs. Repeat a few times so you can clearly hear the sounds you are making.

  1. Egg / Eggs
  2. Make / Makes

How did that go? For the first pair, you should have said ‘eg’ and ‘egz’. That is, you said ‘z’ at the end (as in ‘zebra’ or ‘buzz’) and not ’s’ (as in ‘sleep’ or ‘bus’).

For the second pair, you would have said ”meik’ and ‘meiks.’ That is, you said ’s’ at the end, and not ‘z’

Now try doing the reverse: can you say ‘egs’  (with ’s’) and meikz (with ‘z’)?

NO? Let’s discuss that in the next article.

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