Spoken English -- Stress Timing

Saying every word clearly leads to poor spoken English!

Good speech comes from stressing the right words - this is because English is a time-stressed language.

Here's How:

Spoken English focuses on specific stressed words while moving quickly over the other, non-stressed, words.

Stressed words are usually important information words: Nouns e.g. kitchen, Peter, verbs e.g. visit, stand, adjectives e.g. beautiful, interesting, adverbs e.g. often, carefully

Non-stressed words are usually grammar words: e.g. the, a, am, were. before, of, but, they, she

Read the following sentence aloud: The beautiful mountain stood alone in the distance.

Read the following sentence aloud: He can come on Sunday if he doesn't have to do any homework in the evening.

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.

Stressed words are spoken with a higher pitch and more slowly than non-stressed words.

The vowel sounds in non-stressed words often change to /ə/. Listen to the vowel sound in "can" in "He can come on Sunday ...". Compare the vowel sound in "man" with "postman".

When listening to native speakers, focus on how those speakers stress certain words and begin to copy this.

Updated July 20, 2017
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