My favourite letter, A. oh boy what a pain you are. Ah like Apple or Ai like Rain? or maybe Eh like break, or Or like August.
Are you ready to dive into the Letter A? It’ll be long and complicated, so prepare yourself, get popcorn, go to the toilet. If these kids can do it, so can you. Okay, let’s go!
Always the first
Letter A has always been the first letter of the alphabet. From the Semitic language ‘aleph’ (meaning ox) it’s the first letter of every alphabet that uses Latin script. Aleph is still the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and in Arabic the first letter ‘alif’ is also an /a/ sound. In Cyrillic alphabets the first letter is A and in Greek it’s called ‘alpha’ and in both is pronounced like ah as in father. Even in Japanese the first sound in the syllabry is /a/.
Please think of some words that begin with A… how about…. about, acid, add, aeroplane or airplane, afraid, ahead, aid, almost, amazing, and, apple, aqua, arm, ask, attach, autumn, average, awkward, axe, azure.
All words that start with A, they must all sound the same, right? Here are the words written in IPA (international phonetic alphabet). Don’t panic even if you don’t know IPA, look at the first symbol of each word.
|and||ænd / ənd / ən|
|ask||ɑːsk / æsk|
There are five different symbols starting these words/ ə,æ,ɔː,ɑː,e/ so that’s five ways to pronounce letter A and that’s only counting A at the start of words. Within words you’ll also find /Ι/, usually when A appears with another vowel.
Listen and practice, notice the shape of your mouth at the start of each word.
The word ‘And’ has three different pronunciations depending on the sentence and how fast you’re speaking. Many of the words have different pronunciations depending on your accent. I’ve used British pronunciation here, because I am, but I’ve shown the word ‘Ask’ with two pronunciations. /ɑːsk / with a long /a/ sound is British English according to the dictionary, but I say /æsk/ with a short /a/.
So now what?
When children are learning their ABCs in school across the English speaking world they learn A is for Apple so let’s start with /æ/, which you can read more about in the next post.