The traditional pronunciation (the default setting) of the letters "w" and "y" is "wuh" and "yuh". This –uh part is referred to as a schwa sound. In RS1P the recommended pronunciation is "www" and "yyy" without the schwa, since the schwa is an extra sound. The W/Y Pronunciation option box (under the Options Menu in the main menu screen) allows you to choose between the Traditionalpronunciation of w and y and the RS1P Recommended pronunciation of w and y. To hear these pronunciations in the program, click on one of the option buttons for an example:
The rationale behind the RS1P recommended pronunciation:
The objective in teaching students letter sounds is to enable them to successfully decode unfamiliar words by pronouncing the sounds that letters represent. When a word is unfamiliar to the student, these sounds are then "blended" together to read the word. The more closely the student's sounding out of a word resembles the word being read, the more likely the student is to successfully decode/recognise the word.
Teaching students to correctly pronounce graphemes when reading maximises the likelihood that they will successfully decode unfamiliar words. Traditionally, students are taught that the letters "y" and "w" say "yuh" and "wuh". The "uh" part of the pronunciation is in fact a separate sound, known as a "neutral vowel" or "schwa" in English. In order to understand why it is important to not pronounce the schwa when decoding a word, consider the following example:
Imagine a student is not familiar with a word, say the word "way". If the student has learnt to pronounce the neutral vowel ("uh") in the sounds /w/ and /y/, sounding out the word will sound like:
which when blended together, makes:
Note that "wuhayuh" is a three syllable word! If the student has learnt not to pronounce the neutral vowel ("uh") when pronouncing the letter sounds for "w" and "y", sounding out the word will sound like:
Which when blended together, makes:
Not pronouncing the "uh" at the end of these sounds results in the student saying the sounds in a way that more closely resembles the word being read, thus it is recommended that the "uh" (schwa) sound is not pronounced for the letters "w" and "y" in ReadingSounds™ 1 Pro.
Still not convinced?
Perhaps this example will help. When "w" and "y" are pronounced in words, they behave like "r" and "l" as the sounds /r/, /l/, /w/ and /y/ belong to the same sound family (they are produced in a similar way by our mouths). It seems intuitive that it is best not to put "uh" on the end of the sounds for "r" and "l". This is most easily demonstrated by stretching out the sounds for these letters when saying words. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
When we stretch out the sounds in the word red, we say "rrr-e-d". Notice that the "rrr" does not have a schwa sound. If it did, we would pronounce the word as "ruh-ed". Similarly with lad, if we start the word for a child by saying "lll" (not "luh") then "–ad" can be added to it to make a natural pronunciation of the word "lad". When we identify this letter of the alphabet by its sound, it seems intuitive that we do not say "luh", we say "lll".
This same principal is what guides the RS1P recommended pronunciation of the letters "w" and "y" as www and yyy. For example, when we stretch the /w/ sound in "wet" and then add "–et", the sound for "w" should not be "wuh", otherwise we would say "wuh-et". "wuh-et" sounds a lot less like "wet" than "www-et". Likewise, in stretching out the /y/ sound in "yes" or "yak", "yyy-es" and "yyy-ak" sound more like "yes" and "yak" than "yuh-es" and "yuh-ak".
In our extensive clinical testing, we have found that when this way of pronouncing these letters was supported by parents and teachers, children learning their letter sounds did not have any difficulty pronouncing "w" and "y" correctly (without the "uh"), and often commented on how much easier reading words containing these letters had become! We note, however, that parents and teachers who are used to the pronunciation with the "uh" may find the new way unusual at first. Thus, the program has the option to pronounce these sounds either way.
To change the way RS1P pronounces w and y:
In the Options Menu, click on Recommended to turn on the recommended pronunciation ("www" and "yyy", without the "–uh", or schwa sound). Click on Traditional to turn on the traditional pronunciation ("wuh" and "yuh").