English Sentence Stress – Speak English fluently

by Louisa / 07 May 2014 / No Comments

Speak English fluentlyEnglish sentence stress – it’s all about being able to understand English better and speak it more fluently, like a native. Many learners say this about English:

”English people speak quickly – I can’t hear every word.”
”English people swallow their words  – I can’t hear every word.”

Sorry learners of English. This is all true. We do swallow some words and so it also sounds like we are speaking quickly because you can’t hear every word precisely.

Why is this?
English is known as a stress-timed language. What does this mean?

This means that stress  generally occurs at regular intervals and so we will ‘swallow’ some syllables in order to keep the rhythm.

Since important words are stressed, we swallow the less important words or syllables. Here’s an illustration from Louisa saying the following sentence. The important words are stressed.

I like dogs and cats and rats and mice

This swallowing of words can make English difficult to follow because you can’t hear every word distinctly.

If you speak  French, Spanish etc.  these languages are  syllable-timed, where each syllable occupies the same amount of time and is generally given equal weight. This means you generally hear every word a Spanish or French speaker says.

So, how can I understand English better and speak more like a native speaker?

1.  Realise you don’t have to understand every word in a conversation. Try just understanding the general meaning. This give you freedom to enjoy interaction.

2.  Practise listening to native English speakers online.  Find a short dialogue with a written tapescript. (Ask your Phone English teacher for these.) Can you hear the stressed words and the  swallowed words? Identify these on your tapescript.  Repeat the dialogue.

3.  Practice with a native teacher who can instantly correct and refine your speech pattern.

4.  Understand it is not quick or easy to hear these differences and speak like a native. It is a gradual change that will happen as you practise your speaking and listening more.

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About the author:

Louisa is Course Director at Phone English. She helped start Phone English after many years of teacher training and materials development at www.global-english.com.

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