Let's start with the [æ] sound. Although it's not a common sound, [æ] is very distinctive to the ear, and is typically American. As its phonetic symbol indicates, [æ] is a combination of [ä] + [e].
To pronounce it, drop your jaw down as if you were going to say [ä]; then from that position, try to say eh. The final sound is not two separate vowels, but rather the end result of the combination. It is very close to the sound that a goat makes: ma-a-a-ah!
If you find yourself getting too nasal with [æ], pinch your nose as
you say it. If you include the (oo) sound with it, you will have [æu] as
in down or out.
The [ä] sound is a more common sound than [æ]. To pronounce [ä], relax your tongue and drop your jaw as far down as it will go. As a matter of fact, put your hand under your chin and say [mä], [pä], [tä], [sä]. Your hand should be pushed down by your jaw as it opens. Remember, it's the sound that you make when the doctor wants to see your throat.
Last is the schwa, the most common sound in American English. It is a neutral vowel sound, [uh]. It is usually in an unstressed syllable, though it can be stressed as well.
Check Your UnderstandingClick the number. Listen to the following words and choose the one you hear.