Unit 24 - Spelling the 'schwa' sound.

Teaching point The schwa sound is the most common vowel sound in the English language. It is also the cause of lots of spelling mistakes.

Read these words aloud in your normal voice:

Spelling the schwa sound in English language
parrot
Spelling the schwa sound in English language
lion
Spelling the schwa sound in English language
camel
Spelling the schwa sound in English language
zebra


In each case, the vowel in the second syllable has a weak sound:

In parrot and lion, you cannot hear the sound /ŏ/.
In camel you cannot hear the sound /ĕ/.
In zebra you cannot hear the sound /ă/.

In fact, the sound in each case is more like a soft /er/ or /u/ sound. The word 'schwa' is German but has its roots in the Hebrew word for 'emptiness' – apt because it can sound like there is no vowel there at all.

Click here to hear the schwa sound.
Listen hard or you might miss it!

In dictionaries and the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) the schwa is often represented by the symbol Ə

next part of the spelling course
Go to a test in spotting the schwa sound.

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Unit 24: Spelling the 'schwa' sound - the neutral vowel
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