Thursday, August 1, 2013

Part 2 for Learning the Rhythym of American English


Advanced  ESL students  working on accent reduction or as I prefer to think of it; learning an American accent is rhythm.  This is part two of a 3 part blogging series

Another feature of rhythm is trimming.  This means using standard reductions in your speech.  This does not cause you to sound uneducated or sloppy, but rather fluent and smooth  Trimming also includes some of the third feature of rhythm, linking.  Linking is the running together of two words when speaking.  We will discuss linking  in greater detail in part 2, but we will hear a bit about this in this lesson as well.

Contractions are a good way to trim extra sounds from your speech.  Many ESL speakers do not feel comfortable using contractions but they are necessary in spoken English to keep the flow, often what happens is instead of using these shortcuts, word endings such as –ed or articles such as a or the or dropped to maintain the correct rhythm.  This is not ideal as word endings and articles carry important information for the listener.    

Here is a list of some common contractions, there are many more.  Choose one contraction to incorporate into your speech each day.  Use them to become more comfortable with them. 

Is          becomes      "s

have      becomes   've


Had    becomes   'd

not    becomes   'n't


Now in American English using reductions when combing words is a familiar way of speaking.  In most professional fields using these reductions is accepted and expected.  Speaking in an overly enunciated way can feel stuffy or stand offish to the listener.  Having a friendly and casual demeanor in speech is attractive and puts people at ease. 

This list will show you how some common phrases are produced.  This helps with the alternation of stress as these words are of low content or meaning, but are needed to glue the sentence together.

got to                                                gotta
have to                                              haveta
has to                                                hasta
want to                                             wanna
going to                                            gonna
don't know                                       dunno
should have                                      shoulda
would have                                      woulda
could have                                       coulda
may have                                         mayave
might have                                      mighta
used to                                             useda
shouldn't have                                 shoudn't've
wouldn't have                                  wouldn't/ve

The second list is an approximation of how the words sound in connected speech.  If possible you should record yourself (many computers have recording capabilities if you have a microphone) using both the separated words in a sentence and the connected words.  This should help you maintain the alternating stress pattern in your speech as you will "save time" by reducing these low content words and use that time to stress the high content words. 

Remember knowing what to differently is very important, but using what you know is key.  Good luck and look for part 3!

Lynn Founder of:
Accent Master

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