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Many students think that learning English is about learning grammar, consonants, vowels,

andvocabulary. These form the basic foundation of a language, however, if you want to
be understood when speaking American English, and if you want to understand native speakers, it is
essential that you improve your stress and rhythm.

Stress
Stressing means that speakers of English make certain syllables and words:

louder

longer

higher in pitch
Basically, stressing means to emphasize a sound. Every word in English has just one syllable
with aprimary stress or emphasis.
However, it is not only essential to stress certain syllables and words, but we must also destress other syllables and words.
De-stressing means that speakers of English make certain syllables and words:

more relaxed

weaker

Examples | Listen & Repeat

Engineer > [en g NEER] (2nd syllable is de-stressed; 3rd syllable is stressed)
English > [ING glish] (1st syllable is stressed; 2nd syllable is slightly de-stressed)
Photograph > [PHO d graf] (1st syllable is stressed, 2nd syllable de-stressed, 3rd
syllable is secondary stress)
Stressing and de-stressing syllables and words gives us rhythm in English.

Rhythm

Rhythm is the musicality of Englishthe ups and downs and the connected speech and
the linking of words, which together, change how we say sentences.
Remember, speaking with correct rhythm (musicality) is essential to being understood when
you speak!
Rhythm comes from the combination of the two types of stress in American English:
1) Syllable stress in words (as discussed above)
2) Word stress in sentences

Word stress in sentences


Americans stress words in sentences that are important to the meaning of the sentence. They
carry thecontent of the sentence. Basically, if you took these content words out of the
sentence, you would not understand the meaning of that sentence.

Content Words

main verbs

nouns

adjectives

adverbs

negatives

wh-words

interjections

Examples | Listen & Repeat

I HAVE to GO to SCHOOL.

I WANT my BROTHER to WIN.

Its NOT the BEST IDEA.

Function Words
Remember, rhythm and musicality in your speech is not just about stressing, but also requires destressing, weakening.
In English we de-stress the non-essential, non-content words in a sentence, called the function
words.These function words are made weaker, and sometimes practically disappear from a
sentence.
Function words include:

articles

conjunctions

prepositions
pronouns

auxiliary verbs

Listen and Repeat

(Function words written in lower case)

I HAVE to GO to SCHOOL.

I WANT my BROTHER to WIN.

Its NOT the BEST IDEA.

Notice, I did NOT say, I HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL, but I said I HAVE to GO to


SCHOOL [ay HAV tGOW tSKOOL].
I said the function words quicker and more relaxed than the important content words. They
almost become part of the content words that follow them [tGOW; tSKOOL].
If I left out the non-essential function words from my sentences, you would still understand the
general idea of what Im saying.

Examples
o

*HAVE GO SCHOOL

*WANT BROTHER WIN

*NOT BEST IDEA

In fact, we hear children speak like this all the time when theyre learning to speak English, and
we still understand their basic messages.

Listen and Repeat

She WANTS to PLAY a GAME.

Id LIKE you to JOIN us for DINner.

Well CHOOSE the WINner on SATurday or SUNday.

MAny of the STUdents are GOing on vaCAtion toMOrrow.