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Connected Speech Practice | English Pronunciation Lesson

As we’ve already discussed in the introductory lesson on connected speech, native English speakers connect words in their sentences in order to add:

to their English.

Connected speech helps English speakers speak with rhythm by stressing content words and de-stressing function words, which creates music in their sentences.

In connected speech, English speakers connect:

  • [c+v] | Consonant + vowels
  • [c+c] | Consonant + consonants

 

How to Improve your Pronunciation and Connected Speech

Students always ask me how to improve their English pronunciation. One of the keys is to practice. The more you consciously practice and become an active English speaker, listener and self-monitor, the more these rules can become a part of your natural language.

Practice

A great sentence to practice connected speech (and other pronunciation rules) with is the line from the movie Forrest Gump:

“Life is like a box of chocolates.” 

[lɑiyf ɪz laiyk ə bɑks ə tʃɑk lɪts]

Part 1) “Life is” [lɑiy fɪz]

  • “Life” [lɑiyf] ends in the consonant sound [f] and is followed by the vowel sound [ɪ] in “is” [ɪz]. Because we connect (C+V), we don’t say “life — is” [lɑiyf  ɪz] as two separate and distinct words. But we push forward that consonant sound [f] and connect it to the vowel sound [ɪ] to say “life is” [lɑiy  fɪz].
  • So, to review, instead of saying “life is” [lɑiyf  ɪz] — with a breath in between words — we say “life is” [lɑiy  fɪz], because we connected the [f] in “life” to the [ɪ] in “is”. [lɑiy  fɪz].

Do you hear how much more musical and efficient that is? 

  • “life is” [laiy  fɪz]

 

Part 2) “like a” [laiyk ə]

  • “Like” [laiyk] ends in the consonant sound [k] and is followed by the de-stressed vowel sound [ə] “a”. Because we connect (C+V), we don’t release the “k” [k] in “like” and say “like  – a”  [laiyk   ə] as two separate and distinct words. But we push forward that consonant sound [k] and connect it to the vowel sound  [ə] “a” to say “like a” [laiy kə].
  • Once again, instead of saying “like – a” [laiyk  ə] — with a breath in between words — we say “like a” [laiy kə], because we connected the [k] in “like” to the [ə] “a”.

So far, we’ve changed “life – is – like – a” [lɑiyɪz laiyə]  to:

  • “life is like a” [LAIYF fɪz LAIY kə].

 

Notice how the content words (“life” and “like”) are stressed, and the function words (“is” and “a”) are de-stressed and shorter in duration.

 “life is like a” [lɑiy fɪz laiy kə]

Part 3) “box of” [bɑks ə]

  • “box” [bɑks] ends in two consonant sounds [ks] and is followed by the de-stressed vowel sound [ə] from “of” (note: “of” is de-stressed, so we delete the [v] sound for efficiency). Because we connect (C+V), we don’t release the “x” [ks] in “box” and say “box of” as two separate and distinct words. But we push forward those two consonant sounds [ks] and connect them to the vowel sound  [ə] (from “of”) to say “box of” [bɑksə].

Part 4) “chocolates.” [tʃɑk lɪts]

  • The second syllable in “chocolates” [tʃɑk lɪts] is de-stressed so much that it disappears. So, even though “chocolates” looks like a 3-syllable word, “cho-co-lates”, there are only two syllables: “chocolates” [tʃɑk  lɪts].

Putting this all together, without connected speech, the phrase would sound like:

“Life is like a box of chocolates.” 

[lɑiyf ɪz laiyk ə bɑks əv tʃɑk lɪts]

but with connected speech, we say the much more musical version:

“Life is like a box of chocolates.” 

[LAIYF fɪz LAIY kə BAKSə tʃAK lɪts]

Remember, to improve your English pronunciation, you just need to become aware of the rules of how English is spoken, and then practice them.

For more advice on how to improve your English pronunciation, check out:

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Elemental English podcast on iTunes.

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4 comments

  1. hey, i have a question, that is the “of” in the sentence where we need to speak weaker and quicker. for instance, “ratheld finally has a grab of it”
    so, how do i pronoun it in a smooth way?Thanks for the help ! 🙂

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