How to spell words that begin with a /s/ sound

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How to spell words that begin with a /s/ sound

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Seven sisters cycled through the city centre wearing smart suits and soft socks. Do you know why some of those words begin with the letter s and some with c? Listen to Neil and Catherine find out the secret in 6 Minute Vocabulary.

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Neil
Hello! And welcome to 6 Minute Vocabulary with me Neil…

Catherine
… and me Catherine. Today we’re talking about how to pronounce words that begin with the letter c.

Neil
We’ll look at lots of examples…

Catherine
…we’ll give you a quiz and we’ll leave you with a top tip for remembering new English words.

Neil
So, to start off, let’s listen to Maria. She works in a circus - do you like circuses Catherine?

Catherine
When I was a kid I think I wanted to join a circus. These days I’m not so sure. Performing animals not my thing really.

Neil
Well Maria is a circus performer - she’s not an animal - and we’re going to hear her talking about how she started in the job.

Catherine
And here’s a question to think about while you listen:

Neil
What didn’t Maria do at weekends? Here she is.

Maria
I started performing in my family’s circus when I was nine years old. I loved it. At the weekends, me and my sisters didn’t go to cybercafes or the cinema or hang around the park smoking cigarettes like other teenagers. We practised performing. I celebrated my 16th birthday by learning to ride a cycle that was only 20 centimetres high! My brother’s bike was so high it reached the ceiling!

STING

Catherine
So Maria had an interesting childhood, didn’t she?! And we asked you: what didn’t she do at weekends?

Neil
And the answer is: She didn’t go to the park or the cinema like other kids.

Catherine
No. She practised performing. And cinema is an important word in the show today because we spell it with a letter c, but we pronounce it with a /s/ sound. We don’t say ‘kinema’, it’s cinema. A lot of words that start with the letter c are pronounced with a /k/ sound, like cake… crime, count, my name Catherine, card, lots of them…

Neil
But most words that start with the letters c-i are pronounced with a /s/ sound. Words like cinema, cigarette, and circus. And that’s rule one. Listen again.

Maria
I started performing in my family’s circus when I was nine years old. I loved it. At the weekends, me and my sisters didn’t go to cybercafes or the cinema or hang around the park smoking cigarettes like other teenagers.

Neil
Good. Now let’s see how we pronounce words that start with the letters c-e. Listen to this clip and see if you can spot those words.

Maria
I celebrated my 16th birthday by learning to ride a cycle that was only 20 centimetres high! My brother’s bike was so high it reached the ceiling!

Catherine
So we had three c-e words there: all pronounced with a /s/ sound. We had celebrate, centimetre and ceiling. That’s our second rule.

Neil
And perhaps you spotted our third rule in that last clip…

Catherine
Yes, well done if you’ve already noticed that words like cycle and cybercafe are pronounced with a /s/ sound even though they are spelt with c-y. Here’s the whole clip again.

Maria
I started performing in my family’s circus when I was nine years old. I loved it. At the weekends, me and my sisters didn’t go to cybercafes or the cinema or hang around the park smoking cigarettes like other teenagers. We practised performing. I celebrated my 16th birthday by learning to ride a cycle that was only 20 centimetres high! My brother’s bike was so high it reached the ceiling!

IDENT
6 Minute Vocabulary from BBC Learning English.

Neil
And we’re talking about how to spell words that begin with the /s/ sound. When a word starts with the letters c-e, c-i or c-y, we usually pronounce it with a /s/ sound.

Catherine
Right, it’s quiz time! How many words in these sentences are spelt with the letter c at the beginning? Number one, listen carefully. I can’t see my cycle anywhere.

Neil
And there were two words with c at the beginning - can’t and cycle.

Catherine
Excellent! Number two: Christopher has gone to the cinema but Colin is coming to the cybercafe.

Neil
There were five that time: Christopher, cinema, Colin, coming, cybercafe.

Catherine
OK. And get ready for number three: Crazy coloured circus clowns create chaos in cinema circles.

Neil
And that was a whopping eight words beginning with the letter c. Crazy, coloured, circus, clowns, create, chaos, cinema, circles.

Catherine
And congratulations if you got them all right! That’s the end of the quiz.

Neil
And here’s a top tip to help you with new vocabulary. When you learn a new group of words, try to put them together in one long crazy sentence like you heard earlier. It’ll help you to remember them.

Catherine
Top tip, Neil! There’s more about this at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Vocabulary

Both
Bye!

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