One of the most important aspects of learning English is pronunciation. Without clear pronunciation, it is difficult to make yourself understood. However, you might be surprised by the following statement: Pronouncing every word correctly leads to poor pronunciation! Good pronunciation comes from stressing the right words - this is because English is a time-stressed language. In other words, some words - the content words - receive more focus, whereas other words - function words - are less important. Learn more below.
Time Required: Varies
- Learn the following rules concerning pronunciation.
- English is considered a stressed language while many other languages are considered syllabic.
- In other languages, such as French or Italian, each syllable receives equal importance (there is stress, but each syllable has its own length).
- English pronunciation focuses on specific stressed words while quickly gliding over the other, non-stressed, words.
- Stressed words are considered content words: Nouns e.g. kitchen, Peter - (most) principal verbs e.g. visit, construct - Adjectives e.g. beautiful, interesting - Adverbs e.g. often, carefully
- Non-stressed words are considered function words: Determiners e.g. the, a - Auxiliary verbs e.g. am, were - Prepositions e.g. before, of - Conjunctions e.g. but, and - Pronouns e.g. they, she
- Read the following sentence aloud: The beautiful Mountain appeared transfixed in the distance.
- Read the following sentence aloud: He can come on Sundays as long as he doesn't have to do any homework in the evening.
- Notice that the first sentence actually takes about the same time to speak well!
- Even though the second sentence is approximately 30% longer than the first, the sentences take the same time to speak. This is because there are 5 stressed words in each sentence.
- Write down a few sentences, or take a few example sentences from a book or exercise.
- First underline the stressed words, then read aloud focusing on stressing the underlined words and gliding over the non-stressed words.
- Be surprised at how quickly your pronunciation improves! By focusing on stressed words, non-stressed words and syllables take on their more muted nature.
- When listening to native speakers, focus on how those speakers stress certain words and begin to copy this.
- Remember that non-stressed words and syllables are often 'swallowed' in English.
- Always focus on pronouncing stressed words well, non-stressed words can be glided over.
- Don't focus on pronouncing each word. Focus on the stressed words in each sentence.