I’d like to start this tongue twister with this anecdote: Four campers- two Americans and two Germans- are in the forest at an open fire when the Germans go to the camper to get some Frankfurters for the fire. Seconds later they come back screaming “BEER!” As big of beer fans as they are, the Americans run to the camper, assuming they are getting a good deal on a bottle of beer. However, as they arrive at the camper, they’re greeted with this:
By the way, that is a BEAR- as in BÄR in German! And by the way, it is scientifically proven that bears drink beer as seen in this video below:
As a tip, if a German says BEER in distress, ask them if they mean BEAR!
This is one of the most common problems we have with pronunciation of words in English. People see the spelling of English words but pronounce them in their foreign language. This example of the mispronunciation of BEER and BEAR is a classic example of such, both in general as well as in this segment of tongue twisters dealing with the long –E- in English.
Long –E- words feature the following word categories, all of which have the common denominator of stretching the mouth horizontally, “Eeeeeeeeeeeee.” :
-EE-: Words with –ee- also at the end, such as: deed, see, bee, ween, beech, need, steel, seem, queen, street, coffee, squeeze, freeze, committee, fifteen, teenager, etc. And yes, BEER falls here. The exception is the word “been” because it has the short “-e” pronunciation.
-EA: Many words, mostly with the endings of –ch, consonant+ e, -d, -l, -m, -n, -r, -on and –t fall into this category, such as the following: reach, clean, beam, seam, leave, treat, rear, real, deal, reason and season.
Keep in mind, that words, like READ and LEAD also have the short –e pronunciation, but different functions. Read is a homophone, whose short –e form is past tense. Lead (long –e) means to direct a group (German: Führen) but the short –e form means a metal found in water and pencils (German: Blei).
-IE: Like in the first two categories, one will find quite a few –ie- words whose pronunciation has the long –e-. Examples include: chief, field, ariel, adieu, thief, premier, and hygiene.
Please note that words with –ie at the end, have the long –i- pronunciation, such as die, lie and pie.
-IE_E: Words with –ie plus a consonant + e ending also have the long –e sound. Examples: believe, relieve, perceive, piece, achieve, butadiene, apiece, niece.
-Y: Most words with a consonant plus a y will also have the long –e- sound, such as the following examples: body, marry, vary, wary, dairy, very, wavy, Navy, family, baby, cherry, thirty, memory, baby.
Yet take care that words with the following consonant+ y ending end with a long –i- sound: -l, -n. –p, -p and –r. Examples: cry, try, lying, rely, apply, reply, xylophone.
_-E: Yet as a general rule, words with the consonant+ e at the end, unless a vowel predates the ending, always have the long –e for sound. Examples include: Japanese, Chinese, delete, concede, gene, these, geese, complete, interfere, here, severe, theme.
To sum up, long –e- words can be found in words that either have –ee-, -ie-, -ea, spellings as well as with an –e at the end, keeping in mind the exceptions. Any questions?
If not: here’s a youtube video with a guide on pronouncing the words in long –e- form. This is done in a form of tongue twisters and like in the previous Tongue Twister articles (click here and scroll to see the rest), you can listen then pause to allow yourself or your class to practice.
And yes, we have bears drinking beer in this video! 😉 Enjoy! 🙂