Vowels and Consonants: Q, X, H, and J

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For our last post on the sounds of the 26 letters of the English alphabet, we have some more letters that do not fit so neatly into nice groupings. The letters “Q” and “X” have been paired together as they both can be easily understood as combining two sounds that we have already learned. In the case of “Q”, the sound is /k/ followed by /w/, and for /x/ it is /k/ followed by /s/.

Our other two letters just don’t pair at all. /h/ is a unique sound in English pronunciation as it is our only voiceless glottal fricative,. This is a sound that starts in your vocal cords, while not being a voiced consonant. The letter “J” is an Affricate Consonant which starts as a Stop Consonant and becomes a Fricative. The letter “J” often takes a lot of practice for young children. Without any further delay, let’s get on to the phonics lesson!

If you need any more help with vowels and consonants, check out our Vowels and Consonants Resources for lessons, flashcards, and articles.

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How to Pronounce Q

In English, “Q” is a strange letter as it is almost always paired with “u”. Due to this, when teaching basic English phonics, it is better to learn them as a joint “qu” sound. The /qu/ sound sounds like “kwuh”. It is a more complex sound than others we have learned in previous phonics lessons, and it may take some time to master.

It may be best to teach this to your child by combining the /k/ and /w/ sound that we have already learned. Start by pulling your tongue back against the soft palate (like /k/), and then, as you release, make the gliding /w/ sound. This will take some practice to have your mouth get used to transitioning between these sounds, no worries.

The IPA symbol for /q/ is kw.

Common Words with /q/:

  1. Quiet
  2. Quick
  3. Question
  4. Quilt

How to Pronounce X

The letter “X” is rarely used, and it has few examples of words that actually start with it. Those words that do start with X, rarely use the /x/ sound. The /x/ sound is mostly used at the end of words. /x/ is a combination of two sounds /k/ and /s/. The sound starts with the hard /k/ and ends with a /s/ to make a “ks” sound. Your child may need to spend a lot of time practicing to be able to switch quickly between these sounds so that there is no pause between them. Like /q/, /x/ will take a lot of practice to completely master.

The IPA symbol for /x/ is ks.

Common letters with X:

  1. Fox
  2. Fix
  3. Box
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How to Pronounce H

The letter “H” is oftentimes paired with other letters such as ch, sh, th, and this sometimes confuses young learners. So what sound does /h/ itself actually make? The /h/ sound is very quiet, and it comes in two varieties, voiced and unvoiced. In this lesson, we will focus on the unvoiced /h/. The unvoiced /h/ sound is very easy, simply restrict your throat and push air out of your mouth. Your mouth should be open and tongue out of the way, but don’t worry about it too much. Make sure you do not make the voiced /h/, you can check by placing a finger on your child’s vocal cords when they make the sound, there should be no vibration.  

The IPA symbol for /h/ is h.

Common words with /h/:

  1. His
  2. Her
  3. Hot
  4. Him
  5. Hit
  6. Hat

How to Pronounce J

The letter “J” sounds like the letter “G”, but it is formed in a slightly different way. This is further confused because in some cases the letter “G” makes the /j/ sound (as in George, both G’s make a /j/ sound). Where /g/ is formed at the back of the throat, /j/ is made with your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Start with your tongue curling up so that the tip of your tongue almost touches the roof of your mouth. It is better to keep your tongue loose during this. As you push the air through, pull your tongue back and away from the roof of your mouth to make a “juh” sound. Like /g/, /j/ is a voiced consonant, so you should be able to feel your vocal cords moving when it is done correctly.

Teacher’s Tip: Most of the letters that we have learned in this phonics lesson, especially /j/, /q/, and /x/, will probably take your child some time to perfect. Use your patience and practice often. If they still don’t understand, we can take a look and see where the problem is.

The IPA symbol for /j/ is dʒ.

Common words with /j/:

  1. Juice
  2. Jump
  3. Jam
  4. Junk
  5. Jungle
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Other Vowel and Consonant Lessons That You Might Like

click here to download our free vowels and phonics flashcards
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How to Teach Your Child Vowels and Consonants

  1. Print out our flashcards or make your own. You want to make sure the flashcard has the letter on one side and a picture on the other for your child to associate with the sound.
  2. Teach the name of the letter and the sound that that letter makes to your child. If you do not feel confident in making the sound correctly yourself, you can use the videos we have provided in our Member’s Section.
  3. Teach your child the word that is associated with this letter ( A is for apple, /a/ /a/ apple). If possible, have them draw the word it is associated with.
  4. If your child is old enough, teach them how to write the letter (both the small and big version). Make sure to emphasize the name and the sound that the letter makes while your child is writing.
  5. Verify with a teacher or native English speaker that your child is making the sound correctly

After Your Child Has Learned This Sound

Once you know your child is making the sounds correctly, you should look to practice phonics as much as possible. Basic phonics are incredibly important, and getting this right now will help your child in the future. Remember that the more one-on-one practice time you can give your children, the better they will be in their English pronunciation. It also does not need to be textbooks and flashcards memorization, here is a list of fun activities you can do to practice with your children. No one knows your child better than you, make English time more fun by pairing it with activities they like to do. Anything from coloring, reading, or more active games will be helpful if they are practicing and thinking about the sounds and letters.

Practicing should continue for a while, but when you want to teach something new, you can begin to look at a different phonics lesson. Links for all of these can be found above. As well, you can check their progress on their English pronunciation with some of our assessment quizzes in our Member’s Section.

I Have More Questions

If you have any more questions about this phonics lesson, practicing these sounds, or where to go from here, we have a couple of resources for you here at The Learner’s Nook.

  1. Here is a glossary of terms we use in these guides which may help clear up some confusion.
  2. Here is a diagram of a mouth with labels if you do not understand which part of the mouth should be moving.
  3. Here you can see a general overview of how to teach phonics to your ESL children which may be what you are looking for.
  4. Join our members club to book some time with us to ask us your questions.

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