How to RELAX your ACCENT | Part 1 | Connected Speech & Linking in English

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

So, you want to reduce, or relax your accent when you speak English! I’ve got the perfect pronunciation lesson to help you!

This lesson is Part 1 of a series of pronunciation lessons that I created to help you relax your accent and communicate more clearly in English.
It is so important to focus on these things as you start speaking in English; it will help you build your confidence, increase your fluency, improve your pronunciation and improve your listening skills (so that you can understand fast-talking native speakers!)

Watch Part 2 & Part 3 of of this lesson & then practise your spoken English with me in my mmmEnglish imitation courses!

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! I’ve got an awesome lesson for all of you today.

I have got an awesome lesson for all of you today.

What do you notice about the pronunciation of these two sentences? I say them quite differently. Same sentence, quite different. The first time, really naturally. Just like I’d say it to my friends. The second was a little awkward, very clear but a little like a robot, don’t you think? Natural English pronunciation is definitely not spoken perfectly. Words reduce, they contract and they link together. These are the secrets of natural, relaxed and generally a pretty cool English pronunciation.

Now I will warn you that this lesson is advanced pronunciation practice. Now anyone can give it a go, anyone can practise but I want you to know that it’s not easy. It takes practise speaking out loud, listening carefully to native speakers and imitating them. Pronouncing English words correctly is absolutely necessary for all of you.

But to really take your English speaking skills up to the next level, up to the next level, well we need to focus on your natural pronunciation so that you can reduce your accent a little and sound a bit more relaxed when you’re chatting in English.

Let me give a quick shout out to the sponsor of today’s lesson, Skillshare. Many of you out there – hundreds in fact – have already signed up to SkillShare from some of my previous videos and you’ve been sending me messages about the SkillShare classes that you’ve been taking in English. Like, how cool is that?

And I can understand why you’re so stoked about it. They make it so easy to be curious about learning new skills and hobbies that you’ve probably thought about before but never really done anything about. Like last week, I signed up for singing classes. My neighbours are going to be happy! But I would have never done that without Skillshare. It just gave me the opportunity. And for you as an English Learner, it’s such a cool way to learn new vocabulary and explore topics that interest you, that you wouldn’t usually learn when you’re studying English.

So with over twenty-five thousand classes to choose from, you’re definitely going to find something that you love. And a monthly membership is super affordable, especially compared to doing the same classes, offline. I mean, can you imagine paying that?

Our friends at Skillshare are offering the first five hundred viewers from mmmEnglish free. So if you haven’t signed up yet, I think you should. Just use the link in the description below, set up your account with a credit card and of course, you can cancel at any time. All right, let’s get back to our lesson. Let me say it again, English pronunciation is definitely not perfect.

So we’re going to rough things up a little bit this lesson. I want you to loosen up, let your hair down and go with the flow because you just won’t hear a native English speaker say: I have got an awesome lesson for all of you today!

No no no no no no no. In English, words bump into each other. Sometimes sounds change. New sounds can get added in. And sometimes sounds are dropped or just completely eliminated. Natural pronunciation is not something that you can see you can’t read it in a sentence and know exactly how a native English speaker would say it. So speaking naturally is really only a skill that you can develop through practise. By listening to native English speakers and by trying it yourself and that is exactly what we’re going to do today.

We’ll take a close look at linking an important part of natural pronunciation and I’ll explain how it works, where it happens and how you can use linking to reduce your accent and sound more natural when you speak English. Linking is an important part of connected speech in English and there are three main categories to it.

  1. consonant to vowel
  2. consonant to consonant
  3. vowel to vowel

Now there’s a lot to cover here so in this lesson, we’re going to go over consonant to vowel linking. And I’ll go into more detail about vowel to vowel and consonant to consonant linking in another lesson soon.

Now if you haven’t subscribed to the channel yet, please do click the subscribe button and the bell so that I can tell you when the next lesson is ready. And if you need to, just turn on the subtitles down there too.

The most important thing when talking about linking in English is that we’re talking about sounds, not letters. Sounds that you can hear but not the letters that you can see and this is really important to keep in mind. We’re talking about consonant sounds linking to vowel sounds in quite particular situations. When a word ends in a consonant sound and it’s followed by a word that starts with a vowel sound, we can link them.

  • Trip over
  • Hang over
  • Clean up

Consonant to vowel linking happens all the time with phrasal verbs like this. Now what happens all the time in English is that a word that ends in a vowel letter on paper can sometimes end in a consonant sound when spoken Can you think of any examples of this? If you can, write some of them in the comments.

  • They like it loud.

So here, ‘like’ and ‘it’ can link together. Now if we just look at the spelling, ‘like’ ends in E, a vowel letter. But the E is silent in this word so ‘like’ actually ends in a /k/ sound, a consonant sound. So with linking sounds, don’t look for the letters, listen for the sounds. This is the first clue to help you link words together when you’re speaking English.

All right let’s keep going! With consonant to vowel linking, the sounds blend or they push together and this is how native English speakers speak so quickly. We push our words together because it makes it so much quicker and so much easier to say them.

When one word ends with a consonant sound and the next word starts with a vowel sound, we can push them together. The two sounds come together so that they flow.

  • Would you like a slice of cake?

So can you tell me, looking at this sentence, where there is a word that ends in a consonant sound followed by one that starts with a vowel sound? There are two examples here. Both of these vowels are unstressed so the sound actually reduces to a schwa sound. And if you’re not sure about what a schwa sound is, then check out this video next, it will explain everything.

But the /k/ sound from the end of ‘like’ joins with the vowel schwa.

Hear how quick that is when you push those sounds together? There’s no space between these sounds. Don’t take a breath, don’t do anything like that, just combine the two sounds together until they roll smoothly from the /k/ to the sound so it becomes like one word.

Now ‘slice of’ follows the same rules. You blend the /s/ from the end of ‘slice’ and connect it to the schwa sound at the start of ‘of’ which is pronounced. And so it’s smooth and connected, moving from one to the other.

Okay so I think the rules are pretty clear here, consonant sounds at the end of a word linked to a word following that starts with a vowel sound. Simple, as long as you remember that you’re listening for sounds rather than looking for letters, you’ll be fine.

So right now I want to practise with you a little but first I want you to think of your own sentence that includes an example of consonant to vowel linking. See if you can write your sentence in the comments. Practise saying it out loud. And if you see other people’s sentences down there, then try and practise with them as well. Practise the linking between those sounds.

Okay so I’m going to put a sentence right here on the screen and then I want you to listen to me say each sentence. Listen carefully because I want you to listen to how these words connect, where do they link, when they’re spoken. I want you to look at the sentence, listen to me say it and try and work out where this linking can happen. You can write it in the comments so that looks like this. Using little dashes to link those words together.

Okay ready! It’s hot today! Okay.

  • She ate a piece of toast with avocado.

Where are the linking opportunities? Did you get those? Did you hear how those sounds push together? So the words move together in your sentence. Now speed it up, I want you to say it with me. Are you ready?

Nice one! Okay!

  • Did you get a new assignment?

Say it with me. So where in this question can we link words together?

  • She’s sick of waking up early.

Where are those linking opportunities? Or even it might reduce down. There are lots of opportunities to connect these consonants to these vowel sounds, right?

It’s really addictive when you start, isn’t it? You’ll notice all of these opportunities to link words together all the time. And you haven’t even seen part two or part three of these lessons, right? I’ve got more.

  • His room was on the south side of the campus.

Can you say it with me? So we’re replacing the full vowel sound of ‘of’ with the schwa. Nice!

Well I hope that you’ve enjoyed this lesson so far. Remember that this is part one, there’s more coming. And while it may seem complicated at first, when you slow down and you think about it. You’ll notice that lots of small and very common words start with vowels, prepositions, articles, conjunctions these are all great places to start practising linking and connected speech.

Remember to practise with your ears by imitating and copying a native English speaker. This is a really great way to improve your linking sounds and your natural expression. My imitation lessons are a great place to start practising connected speech so you can check them out right here. And with a little practice, you’ll start feeling that flow and that rhythm in your sentences and it will start to impact on the way that you speak English naturally.

Don’t forget that part two and part three so in the meantime while you’re waiting, why don’t you check out these lessons here? That one in particular, where I’ll show you how to focus on your pronunciation and natural English expression through imitating.

Thanks for all of your hard work today that you’ve been writing down there. Make sure you say ‘hi’, you are amazing, I’ll see you next week.

Links mentioned in the video

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