Home / English Lessons / Pronunciation + Listening Practice | Ep. 7

Pronunciation + Listening Practice | Ep. 7

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Intro

Sometimes the most difficult part about learning English can be understanding native English speakers when they speak.

Let’s analyze how a native English speaker might transform the sounds of English in a question as spoken in everyday, casual English so that you can improve both your listening and pronunciation skills.

Analyze:

“Couldn’t you just ask him for me?”

“Couldn’t you”

Native English speakers speak with the goal of efficiency, to say the most they can in the shortest amount of time. This causes us to frequently contract verbs. So here:

  • “could not” –> “couldn’t” [kʊdɪnt]

When we speak quickly and casually, native English speakers sometimes drop the [d] in “couldn’t” in order to speak with even more efficiency. So,

  • “couldn’t” –> [kʊɪnt]

Note the speaker uses the negative contracted verb “couldn’t” in order to imply to the listener that he already thinks the listener “could” in fact perform the action.

“you”

“You” is a function word — a pronoun — which means it doesn’t carry a lot of meaning in the sentence. Because the listener does not need to hear “you” so clearly, we can de-stress it and say it as “ya” [yə].

Notice that when the [t] in “couldn’t” hit the [y] in “you”, the [t] + [y] –> “ch” [tʃ].

  • “couldn’t you” –> [kʊɪn yə]

“just ask him”

“Ask” is the main verb in this question, a content word that carries meaning, so we say it nice and clearly for the listener.

In order to speak with more music and flow, native English speakers connect their speech. That means that instead of stopping between words to take a breath, we connect the words together. This ensures that you hear that consonant sound at the end of one word very clearly at the beginning of the following word. So,

  • “just  ask” –> [dʒəs TÆSK]

Because it is a bit easier and more efficient to connect a consonant to a vowel (versus a consonant to a consonant), we often delete the “h” in function words that start with an “h”, such as “her”, “he”, “have”, etc. Here, we deleted the “h” in “him” to say:

  • [ɪm]
  • “ask him” –> [ÆSKɪm]

“for me”

“For” is a function word, a preposition, that serves a grammatical purpose in the sentence, so we de-stress it. We do not take a breath between “for” and “me”, but we connect the words together for added flow and music.

Even though “me” is a function word, we don’t de-stress the last word in sentences, but we say it nice and clearly.

So,

  • “for me” –> [fər miy].

Got it?

Let’s put it all together and practice.

Listen and repeat

“Couldn’t you just ask him for me?” (3x) 

Remember, you do not need to sound like this when you speak! Don’t worry about trying to sound “perfect” or like a native English speaker. It can sound cool when you speak with an accent in English! What’s important is that you understand native English speakers with ease and confidence.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Elemental English channel on YouTube. Ask your questions in the comments!

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