Hello there! This is the “Sounds American” channel. In this video, we’re going to talk about the American vowel sound /aɪ/, as in the word “like.” You can also hear this sound in words like “child”- “hi” – “sky” or “height.” We’ll be using special phonetic symbols — /aɪ/ — for this sound. Let’s start with a small experiment :). Take a look at these two words: They differ by their vowel sounds: the /ɑ/ in “spa” and the /aɪ/ in “spy.” Now, watch and compare what happens when you pronounce these vowels: Do you see the difference in how your tongue and jaw move? When you pronounce the /ɑ/ sound, your tongue and jaw move into one position only. When you pronounce the /aɪ/ vowel, they move from one position to another. The /ɑ/ is what is called a “monophthong,” which means “a single sound.” So, you pronounce only one sound. The /aɪ/, however, is a “diphthong.” It means that it’s made by merging two single sounds into one. That’s why your jaw and tongue change their positions as you make the first sound and then connect it to the second. There are three diphthongs in American English, the /aɪ/, the /ɔɪ/ and the /aʊ/, as in the words “by,” “boy,” and “bow.” We’ll cover the /ɔɪ/ and the /aʊ/ in our future videos. As for the /aɪ/, let’s find out how to pronounce this sound. To make the /aɪ/ diphthong correctly, you need to pronounce two sounds and make a smooth connection between them. This is how you do that. Start with making the /ɑ/ sound. Open your mouth as wide as possible. Relax your lips and allow them to rest in a neutral position. Flatten your tongue and place it very low in your mouth. The tip of your tongue should be touching the back of your bottom front teeth. Next, connect the /ɑ/ to the /ɪ/ sound. Smoothly move your jaw up, until your mouth is almost closed and push your tongue forward, raising it high in your mouth. The first sound in a diphthong is typically longer and louder. So, make sure that you pronounce a nice and full /ɑ/ and then connect it to the /ɪ/. Now, let’s glide from the /ɑ/ to the /ɪ/ and blend the two sounds together: When you pronounce words with the /aɪ/ sound, try to avoid the most common pronunciation mistake. Many non-native speakers reduce the /ɪ/ sound in the /aɪ/. As a result, the whole sound gets distorted, and it may lead to misunderstandings. Compare: Remember, even though the /ɪ/ is more relaxed and the shorter part of the diphthong, you need to pronounce it completely. Now, let’s practice the /aɪ/ sound in some words. This is how the practice works. You’ll see a word on the screen and hear its pronunciation. Like this. You’ll have a few seconds to pronounce the word. Make sure you complete this part, as this is the only way to learn to speak with an American accent. Let’s begin! You’re done! Congratulations! At the beginning of this video, we said that there are three vowel diphthongs in American English. You may ask, what about the vowel sounds /eɪ/ and /oʊ/? Great question! There’s a debate among linguists, about whether these sounds are “monophthongs” or “diphthongs.” Here’s what we think: The vowels in diphthongs are connected with a long, gliding movement. On the one hand, the /eɪ/ and the /oʊ/ sounds are pronounced with similar gliding movements. So, they are kind of like diphthongs and we even represent them with two symbols each. On the other hand, this movement with the /eɪ/ and the /oʊ/ is not as noticeable as with the other diphthongs. So, they are somewhere in between. We admit, they can be diphthong-ish, but it’d be more logical to consider them as single vowels. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions! Come back soon and stay tuned on our Sounds American channel!