Home / English Lessons / Pronunciation + Listening Practice | Ep. 8

Pronunciation + Listening Practice | Ep. 8

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It can be difficult to understand native English speakers when they constantly change and drop sounds in their sentences.

Let’s practice these changes in sounds that would occur when spoken by a native English speaker communicating casually, in everyday life.

“But if I didn’t have faith, it would be impossible.” (3x)

“But if I”

Native English speakers connect their speech, to speak with music and efficiency, to say the most they can, in the shortest amount of time. Connected speech means that the consonant sound at the end of each word in a phrase should be clearly heard at the beginning of the following word.

So, here:

  • “But  if  I” –> [bə  dɪ  fɑiy]

Notice that in U.S. English, we do not aspirate the “t”, so it sounds more like a [d].

  • [bədɪf]

However, in British English, the speaker is more likely to aspirate the “t”, so that it sounds like a true [t].

  • [bətɪf]

“didn’t have”

When native English speakers speak casually and with the unconscious goal of efficiency, they sometimes delete consonant sounds.

Here, a native English speaker may unconsciously delete the consonant sounds [d] and [t] in order to say more in a shorter amount of time.

“Didn’t” –> [dɪ ɪn]

Did you hear how I deleted the [d] and [t]?

  • [dɪ ɪn]

And 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”, “him”, etc. Here, we deleted the “h” in “have” and de-stressed it to say:

  • [əv]

So, “didn’t have” –> [dɪ ɪnəv]

“faith”

To pronounce that [ey] vowel sound in “faith”, be sure to pull your lips back, so that you include the [y] sound in [ey]:

  • “faith” [feYθ]

iy vowel sound lips back lm ee2

 

Also be sure to place the tip of your tongue between your teeth to create the “th” [θ] sound at the end of the word, or else it will sound like a [t] or a [s].

tip of tongue TH consonant LM elementalenglish2 close up2

  • “faith” [feyθ]

“it would be”

In order to speak with more efficiency, native English speakers drop consonant sounds that would otherwise slow them down.

Here, one way a native English speaker could say this phrase with efficiency would be to:

  1. contract the verb “would”
  2. delete the [t] and only pronounce the [d]
  • “it would be” –> [ɪd biy] or [ɪwʊd biy]

“be impossible”

To create the [iy] vowel sound in “be”, pull your lips back into a smile position:

iy vowel sound lips back lm ee2

(Remember that’s why we say “cheese!” when taking photos–to get a smile position from the mouth!)

Notice that the vowel sound in “be” ends in a [y], so when we connect the speech, we will need to hear that [y] at the beginning of “impossible” nice and clearly.

  • [bi yɪm PɑS sə bɫ]

Pausing

Commas and periods in written English indicate times when a speaker can take a very small pause in speaking. This gives the listener’s brain time to digest and understand the speech.

So, here, let’s take a short pause where the comma is, between “faith” and “it”.

Intonation

To tell the listener that we are done with our sentence, the musical note of our speech will go up on the last stressed syllable in “impossible” and then all the way down. This way, the listener knows that it could be her turn to reply.

Got it?

Let’s practice.

Listen and Repeat

“But if I didn’t have faith, it would be impossible.” (3x)

Remember, you do not need to sound like this when you speak English! Don’t try to sound “perfect”! An accent can sound cool and make you unique.

What’s important is that you learn and implement the rules of English pronunciation so that you can speak clearly and so you can understand native English speakers with confidence.

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