Saturday, October 5, 2013

Link your words (part 1)

Native English speakers link their words when speaking. Understanding and practicing this concept can help non-native speakers not only have better casual American pronunciation, but they'll also be able to understand casual American English.

Linking consonant to vowel

In much of spoken English, our sentences are not made up of distinct vocabulary. It's really a collection of words that have been linked together in chains or varying lengths. Sometimes, when linking causes syllables to be minimized, these chains may even overlap.

There are many ways that this chain forms, but for now we'll talk about consonant-vowel chains. This is when one word ends with a hard consonant, and the next word starts with a vowel sound.

For example, when we say... 

What time is it? wont hear "what-time-is-it?" Rather, you'll hear something like this:

What tie mi zit?

Go ahead and say it as it's written above. The final three words are linked.

Here are some others:

What's new?         What snoo?
It's OK.                  It so K.
I like it.                  I lie kit.
Hold on.                Hole don.
A long time ago.   A long tie mago.

Your assignment: Look for opportunities to link consonant-to-vowel words. Look at street signs, traffic signs, and other road signs. Read them, linking consonant-to-vowel words.  

Here are some examples:

blasting zoe nahead

brid jout

school zoe nahead

do nah denter

thirty fie veest

That's all for today. I'm going to sigh noff.

Abbreviations: the stress is always on the final initial (FYI!)

Practice Proper Stress with Abbreviations

Let's start with an assignment that's simple. Also, the world is your classroom, and there are plenty of examples out there for you practice with.

With abbreviations, the stress is always on the last initial

Acronyms -- an abbreviation of a word or name  -- are everywhere! The Internet, texting, and smartphones have created acronyms at an accelerated rate. These days, we're sending more and more information in less time, and so we abbreviate. These shortcuts have made their way into everyday American speech.

One type of acronym is when we use three initials to identify the word (United States of America = USA).

The important point about pronouncing acronyms is to put the stress on the last initial (the last syllable). If stressing that syllable feels strange or unnatural, just try holding the vowel sound a little bit longer than you did for the other two initials.

Your assignment: Look for acronyms in your daily life and practice saying them with stress on the final syllable. You're using this practice in your everyday life, so pretty soon you'll do it automatically.

  • Here are some examples you might see:
  • Do you watch CNN or HBO? If you're in Korea, how about KBS or MBC? Maybe the BBC?
  • When you read the news, look for stories about the NSA, the TSA, the FBI, or the CIA.
  • Is your TV plasma or LCD? Do you have any IBM electronics in your office?
  • Who is your company's CEO and CFO?
  • Do you know much about the American presidents FDR, LBJ, and JFK?
  • Are you expecting a delivery from UPS?
  • The same rule works with numbers. What's your apartment number? Is it 306? Is your office located in Suite 255? Did you drive on the 405 this morning?
  • If you overhear American teenagers, you might hear "LOL" or "OMG" (probably while they're listening to an MP3).
  • That's a lot of practice. You might have to get some H2O when you're done.