Updated: Feb 28, 2022
You can spend years learning the American accent, but you'll never get it quite right unless you pay attention to the rhythm of English.
This lesson accompanies the YouTube video "Rhythm Lesson for Accent Reduction" found here:
After you watch the lesson, you want to keep practicing with the repetition audio, which can be found here:
English has stress-timed rhythm. This means that there is about the same amount of time between each stress in a spoken phrase. Other languages are syllable-timed. This means that each syllable gets the same amount of time when it is spoken.
When you speak English without stress-timed rhythm, native-speaking listeners have to focus extra hard to concentrate on what you’re saying. Native speakers have heard stress-timed rhythm since birth and depend on it. Native speakers grow weary faster when they have to listen to English without stress-timed rhythm. To hold your listening audience, you must practice stress-timed rhythm.
To learn good English rhythm, we need to know what words get stress, how to make the stress and what to do with the words and syllables that don’t get stress.
WHAT WORDS GET STRESS?
Content words and loud function words receive stress while soft function words do not.
Content words are nouns, verbs, adjective and adverbs. Loud function words are question words, negatives, and demonstratives. Everything els
e is a soft function word: articles, prepositions, pronouns, etc!
HOW DO WE STRESS WORDS? UNSTRESS WORDS?
1. stretched out, full vowel
1. quick, reduced vowel
3. higher pitch
3. lower pitch
4. Use a rubberband to practice saying the quote below. Stretch the rubberband out when you say the vowels in bold.
Nothing but Money is sweeter than Honey
5. Practice making stresses about the same distance apart from each other. Make sure the words in capital letters are always the same distance apart from each other. Clap when you say these words. Your clapping should keep an even tempo, like a metronome. The function words in between will have to be SQUEEZED between each clap.
CATS CHASE MICE.
The CATS CHASE the MICE.
The CATS will CHASE the MICE.
The CATS have been CHASing the MICE.
The CATS could have been CHASing the MICE.
Practice identifying words that get stress. Put a O over the syllables that should be stressed and a ï over the syllables that should be unstressed.
I didn’t wash the car.
Her friends were from Alaska.
I think we should give her a job.
The police are searching for the girl’s murderer.
They learned about the class through word of mouth.
Are you looking for a new job or are you taking a break?
He works as an engineer for a company called Array Networks.
Once in a while, I give in to my appetite and eat a glazed donut with a cup of milk.
It’s better than going to work.
Her birthday was on Thursday.
We needed to call them at ten.