How To Pronounce The Schwa Sounds
The pronunciation of the different vowel and consonant sounds in English (or any language at all) are not Universal. This is because there are many different dialects of The English Language — both throughout America, and also world-wide. The pronunciations that are presented on GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! are based-upon a combination of both “common usage”, and the most neutral accent used in The International Common Tongue — a.k.a. “American English”.
The pronunciation term known as: “Schwa” is a term which is used to refer to the sound that is made in Spoken English, when a vowel is NOT stressed. It is an extreme shortening of the vowel sound — but it is also a change in the pronunciation of the vowel itself.
The example that is most-often given by teachers, and used in different text-books or videos on the subject (which aren’t many) use is the sound of the letter “e” in The Definite Article, “The” — when it is in-front-of a word which starts with a consonant or a consonant sound.
But this is not the most common sound for what others refer to as “The Schwa“… It is simply the easiest to demonstrate. And this is something that I’ve only heard one other teacher talk about since I made this observation. But even he did not describe it very well.
So Here It Is…
As stated above — the example that is most-often given for what I refer to as a, “True-Schwa“ — is the sound of the letter “e” in The Definite Article, “The” — when it is in-front-of a word which starts with a consonant or a consonant sound.
The next is what I call an “I-Schwa“ — This is when the “Schwa” sound is more like a short letter “i”. But is still cut-off, and is not quite the same as the short “i”. The “I Schwa” can be heard in a lot of words that start with the letter “E”.
The third schwa sound is what I call the “U-Schwa”. As you can probably guess — this is when the vowel is cut very short, and sounds more like the short letter “u”, than either the vowel that is actually is — but also is not a “True Schwa“ either. This is most clearly heard in many words that start with the letter “A”.
Learn More About The Term “Schwa” On Wiktionary — (The Best Dictionary On-Line… no, really!)