How to RELAX your ACCENT | Part 3 | Vowel Linking in English

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

So you want to reduce, or relax your accent when you speak English? You are in the right place! This lesson is Part 3 in a series that I have made to help you RELAX your English accent and sound more natural when you speak!

We’ll focus on vowel-to-vowel linking. Learning to sound more relaxed in English is important to build your confidence and increase your fluency. Understanding linking and connected speech in English will help you to improve your pronunciation AND your listening skills so that you can understand fast-talking native speakers!

Watch Part 1 & Part 2 & practise your spoken English with me in mmmEnglish imitation courses.

Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! This is part three in our pronunciation series about connected speech. We’ve been talking about the way that sounds link together in spoken English, connecting words. And sometimes even changing sounds as words are spoken quite quickly in English.

Today we’ll focus on an advanced element of connected speech, linking vowel sound to vowel sound – so stay tuned.

Okay as I said, this is quite an advanced pronunciation lesson, but I absolutely recommend that you keep watching, even if you don’t consider yourself an advanced student because understanding how sounds influence each other and change in spoken English will allow you to be aware of it. It will allow you to hear connected speech when you’re listening to native speakers and help you to understand them more easily.

The way that native English speakers speak is just not perfect. You won’t hear a sentence where each word is perfectly separated. Well, unless you’re talking to Siri.

Emma: Hey Siri, how old are you?
Siri: I am as old as the Eastern wind and as young as a newborn caterpillar.

And if you want to sound more fluent and more natural when you speak English, then connected speech is a really good place to start. In the first lesson of this pronunciation series, I talked about consonant to vowel linking. It’s up here if you haven’t seen it.

But I talked about how words that end in a consonant sound can link to words that follow them when they start with a vowel sound. Like this:

  • It’s an interesting opportunity.

In the second video, we went over consonant to consonant linking. When words that end in a consonant link to the following word if it starts with the same consonant sound. It makes sense. It does make it easier and quicker to say sentences when we reduce the number of sounds that we need to say.

But we can also link consonant sounds to completely different consonant sounds. And when that happens, the sounds can change.

  • Don’t you want to?

Today we’re going to go one step further and I’ll show you how to link vowel sounds to vowel sounds in spoken English. And this can be a little tricky so before we get started, I need you to relax. Don’t worry about how these words are normally spoken. Just take it easy. Listen to the sounds and just try to copy the sounds that I make, all right? Sounds are really influenced by the other sounds that are around them in a sentence and natural spoken English is really a skill that you need to develop through practice and by listening to native English speakers, by imitating them or copying them and trying it for yourself, right?

And that is exactly what we’re going to do today. You’re going to learn it, you’ll understand it and then we’ll practise together at the end of this lesson.

And if you haven’t subscribed to my channel yet, then do it now. Show your support for mmmEnglish and click the little bell so that I can tell you when the next lesson is ready for you. And if you need to, turn on the subtitles that I’ve written for you. You can also slow down the speed of the video so that you can listen to it at half pace if you need to. All of these tools are here for you inside Youtube.

When we link consonants we often connect or blend or even sometimes change sounds into new sounds. But linking vowel to vowel sounds is a little different. We actually add a new sound, a consonant sound, to link two vowel sounds together, which might sound a little crazy – I get that.

Emma, isn’t the whole point of connected speech to make it easier and faster to say a sentence?

Yes! Absolutely, and it will make sense soon once I explain all this to you. We link vowel sounds when one word ends in a vowel sound and the next word begins with a vowel sound. It can feel kind of awkward or strange to link two vowel sounds, it’s not very natural. It feels kind of strange, right? A little uncomfortable.

When we link vowel sounds to other vowel sounds, we actually add a new sound to make it easier and quicker to keep that sound happening. All right? But these sounds are not written. You can’t see them and you can’t hear them when you say each word individually, it’s only when they’re pushed together.

Now remember, just because a word ends in a vowel, doesn’t mean that it ends in a vowel sound. You’ve got to be really careful with linking. We’re talking about sounds not letters. So you need to be concentrating.

For example, the word ‘make’ ends in the letter E, a vowel. But the final sound is a consonant. We say ‘make’. It ends in a consonant sound. The /k/ sound.

The word ‘by’ ends in a consonant letter, but the sound is a vowel, so we can link ‘by’ to a word following if it starts with a vowel. So don’t focus on the letters that you see, think about the sounds that you hear. Close your eyes if you need to.

All right, enough talking. Let’s look at some examples and get going here.

  • I asked for two orders of chips.

Where are the linking opportunities that you see here? Any opportunities to link vowel sounds. Which words end with a vowel sound and then are followed by words that start with a vowel sound? I’ll give you a few seconds to choose. All right, there are five vowel sounds at the beginning or end of words in this sentence.

Now since we’re focusing on vowel to vowel linking sound, let’s forget about ‘of’ right now. That’s consonant to vowel linking right there. There is an extra sound in there if you can hear it. We have to pay close attention to the vowel sounds here and the position of our mouths as we make this sound. We have ‘I asked’.

So we need to move our mouth quite a bit between these two vowel sounds. And when we do that quickly, if we do that really quickly right now. That /j/ sound naturally occurs. As we move quickly between those sounds, we naturally create that /j/ sound. It’s one continuous sound, there’s no break between the vowel sounds.

Let’s look at another example.

  • Two or three.

Can you hear that /w/ sound in there? The most important thing to keep in mind while you’re linking sounds together is we’re trying to create just one long continuous sound. There’s no pause, right? The sound flows from one sound to the next.  And when we link vowel sounds, one of these two sounds will naturally occur if the sound is unbroken. Whether to add the /j/ or the /w/ sound will depend on which vowels are being linked. So the /j/ sound is added between words that end in the long /iː/ and words that start with the short /æ/, right?

Now you could write down and memorise all of these linking sounds which is great, I really think that you should just try and hear those sounds between the words. The added sound should flow and it should make it possible to say the two sounds without pausing. It’s pretty easy to hear the incorrect option or even to feel it yourself if you say it out loud, it doesn’t make sense to add /w/ between ‘I asked’ because your mouth has to come into this very tight, small position, right?

It doesn’t really make sense, whereas the /j/ sound helps us to flow between ‘I asked’.

Let’s try a few more examples together. I’m going to say two words separately and I want you to link them. Say them out loud wherever you are, decide whether you need to use the /j/ or the /w/ sound to link these words, right? You need to say it out loud. Ready?

  • three oranges

Did you add the /j/ sound? That’s correct. What about…

  • high apartment

Again, the /j/ sound and notice that high ends with a -gh but it actually ends with a vowel sound. A little tricky, huh?

  • do it

This one is the /w/ sound. Did you get that? The /j/ sound. One more.

  • go over

This all makes sense, right? Just practise combining these vowels out loud, all right? You can say them, you can whisper them, you can yell them, whatever makes you say it out loud, pull these vowel sounds together and practise using those linking sounds.

And while you’re at it, can you think of any other examples where you can add linking sounds between two vowels? If you can think of some examples, add them to the comments and don’t forget to include the linking sound that you’re using to connect those vowels. See if you can write a few in the examples and I’ll come down and check them in a little while.

Now there’s an interesting little rule here for British English pronunciation and Australian English pronunciation – which is how I speak. There’s actually a third sound that you can link between vowels, the /r/ consonant sound. The linking /r/ doesn’t occur in American English pronunciation because the /r/ consonant sound is always pronounced at the end of a word whereas in British English or Australian English, it’s not.

Let’s look at the number four as an example. It’s pronounced /fɔːr/ in American English and /fɔː/ in British English or Australian English. You don’t hear that consonant sound at all.

Now I talk about these pronunciation differences between British and American English in this lesson here if you want to go a bit further. But the reason why it’s important now is the /r/ linking sound occurs between vowels in British English pronunciation. All right, so look at this example.

  • your eyes

Now in British and Australian English pronunciation, you don’t hear that /r/ sound at the end when it’s pronounced. The final sound of that word is a vowel sound, it’s /ɔː/ as in ‘door’. So technically here I’m linking two vowel sounds together. And we do that with the linking /r/.

In American English, this is just the standard consonant to vowel linking but in British English, we actually have to add that sound. It’s not there when we pronounce this word in isolation, all right?

Let’s practise some more.

  • our olives
  • hear over

Now this linking /r/ sound probably makes quite a bit of sense to you since the letter itself is actually there. But I just wanted to highlight how this happens in British English and Australian English. I’m wondering if you can think of any more examples like this. Can you think of any where you add or I would add an /r/ linking sound between two vowels?

  • discover our
  • fever on

If you can think of any more examples, add them to the comments. So let’s practise with a few example sentences now. I’ll put a sentence right up here and I’m going to read it aloud for you. Listen for the extra linking sounds and try to hear them yourself. But I also want you to say the sentence out loud, see if you can feel which sound is the correct sound. Saying it yourself is going to help you to feel that transition between the vowel sounds, right? Practise as much as you can out loud and as exaggerated as you can.

  • She asked her English teacher for help.
  • She takes care of her uncle because he’s very old.
  • They got here the day after you arrived.

All right there you have it! Over the past three lessons, we’ve covered three important areas of connected speech in English: consonant to vowel; consonant to consonant; and now vowel to vowel.

Now you really have a good understanding of connected speech in English, how it works where it happens and how you can use linking to speak more fluently and just sound more natural as you speak, even speed up your speech in some ways.

So let me know in the comments if you’ve enjoyed these lessons about connected speech and if there are any other pronunciation lessons that you want me to teach you. Just remember that all of this takes practice. You can’t expect to just suddenly wake up and perfectly link sounds in English. It takes regular practice. Both your ears and your mouth.

My imitation lessons are a great place to practise so you can test out your linking skills right here in this lesson or you can check out that one there, which I’ve picked out especially for you. I’ll see you in there!

Links mentioned in the video

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