Understand Fast English | Practise With Me!

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Can you understand fast-talking, native English speakers? In this lesson, I’m sharing all the secrets to fast English, so that you can understand fast-talking native English speakers easily, and sound more natural when you speak!

Get ready to practise with me out loud; this is a pronunciation lesson!


Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Are you ready for today’s lesson?

You are about to learn all of the secrets to help you understand fast-talking native English speakers.

I want you to think back to the last time that you sat down to watch an English movie or maybe your favourite English TV series. Have you been to the cinemas to watch the new Matrix movie? Or maybe you’ve watched The Sex and the City reunion recently? Or whatever else you’re into.

You’ve got your popcorn, you’ve got your soft drink, you’re looking forward to this show right but then you start watching… Come again?

Today you are going to learn exactly what native English speakers do to speak fast so that you can understand more English and so that you can sound more natural when you speak English as well.

There’s lots to go through in this lesson so I’ve created you a free worksheet so that you can go through all of the pronunciation points that I explain in this lesson today. There are some really common phrases and expressions to help you practise out loud with me.

Make sure you click on the link down in the description below, right below this video. Go and get that worksheet right now.

We’re gonna watch my complete lessons about connected speech, the secret to understanding fast-talking native English speakers.

Make sure you’re ready to practise out loud with me, that’s what it’s all about. Let’s get into it.

Hey Lady! is an online community where women from around the world meet to practise speaking English together. It’s the easiest way to find English-speaking friends and to get regular practice, the practice that you need to speak English confidently and fluently. Hey Lady! is a safe and supportive space for women with an intermediate to advanced level of English.

Come and visit us at heylady.io and discover the English-speaking version of you today.

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. 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 practice 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 linking.
  2. Consonant to consonant linking.
  3. And vowel to vowel linking.

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.

Consonant to vowel linking

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 out.
  • 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, like.

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, 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 the vowel sound, we can push them together. The two sounds come together so that they flow.

  • Would you like a slice of cake?

Say it with me.

  • 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.

Like a and slice of.

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, like a. Hear how quick that is when you push those sounds together? Like a.

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. Like a.

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 of.

And so it’s smooth and connected, moving from one to the other. Slice of.

  • Would you like a slice of cake?

Okay, so I think the rules are pretty clear here. Consonant sounds at the end of a word link to a word following that starts with a vowel sound. Simple. But 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.

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 it 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?

Ate a.
Piece of.
Ate a piece of.
She ate a piece of..

  • She ate a piece of toast with avocado.

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?

  • She ate a piece of toast with avocado.

Nice one. Okay.

  • Did you get a new assignment?

Say it with me.

  • Did you get a new assignment?

So where in this question can we link words together?

Get a, for sure. Get a.

And new assignment.

  • Did you get a new assignment?

Remember that this is part one, there’s more coming.  And while it may seem complicated at first, this kind of linking is quite straightforward 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.

Consonant to consonant linking

Today we are going to concentrate on consonant to consonant linking.

  • Small lake.

So here we have a word that ends in the consonant sound and the word following also starts in the same consonant sound so it makes sense to pull together these sounds right so that they become one, it’s much easier.

  • Small lake.

There’s no pause there at all, no break in the sound. It’s just one continuous sound.

  • I went to Japan.

Went to. I went to Japan.

  • Do you like my stylish shirt?

Stylish shirt. Do you like my stylish shirt?

Now this all seems pretty straightforward, right? Consonant followed by the same consonant. You can push them together and make the sound flow quickly without pausing between those two sounds.

Now there are some consonants that can link to different consonants which is a little unusual but when that happens the sound changes. It creates a different consonant sound.

So let’s look at an example.

  • Would you buy it?

Now let’s speed that up a bit to regular pace.

  • Would you buy it?

So can you hear that /dʒ/ sound in there? Would you.

Now if we just say would by itself there’s no /dʒ/ sound. There’s also no /j/ in you either, right? So the D at the end of the word would can link to the you at the start of you but when we do this it creates a new sound. The /dʒ/ sound.

So actually in any situation where one word ends in a /d/ and it’s followed by a word that starts with a /u/, often it can combine to create the /dʒ/ sound. Would and you, would you.

  • Could you?
  • Should you?
  • Did you?
  • Had you?
  • Do you?
  • Do you wanna?

So as the auxiliary verb do reduces down to just the /d/ sound here we can also link it just like the other examples to say:

  • Do you wanna?

And check out how that too reduces down to the schwa sound. Instead of too.

The schwa is another important feature of fast connected speech in English, in spoken English. So if you need to check out what the schwa is, maybe have a reminder, this whole lesson here focuses on the schwa sound. It’s a good one to watch next.

Now there is another exception that we need to talk about here. Those times when a word ends in a /t/ sound and it’s also followed by the /j/ sound.

So there is a change in these sounds when we link them together. The sounds /t/ and /j/ together can create /ʈʃ/

  • Did she hit you?
  • Don’t you have one?

Don’t you becomes don’t you.

  • Don’t you have one?
  • Didn’t you?
  • Can’t you?

See? There are so many really common word combinations there, ones that you can definitely start practising right now today even in simple conversations.

And there you have it! They are the simple principles of consonant to consonant linking in spoken English but now I think we should practise a little. Do you want to practise a little with me now?

  • She hates sandwiches with avocado.

So here in this sentence the /s/ at the end of hates pulls together with the /s/ from sandwiches. Hates sandwiches.

And the TH sound can link to the following vowel sound. With avocado.

  • Did you get a new watch?

Where can we link here? You’re right! Did you. We can link there. We can link get a. New watch.

  • Did you get a new watch?
  • She’s always saying she’ll live to a hundred and one.

Where can we link?

She’s always, definitely.

She’s always saying.
She’ll live.
Hundred and.

So there’s a cheeky little vowel to vowel link in there too by the way if you know about those. To a. But that’s the next lesson.

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.

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

Vowel to vowel linking 

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. 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.

They’re – 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 don’t say make, 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.

  • I asked for two orders of chips.

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.

I asked. There is an extra sound in there if you can hear it. I asked.

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 E and words that start with the short A, 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. 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?

I asked.

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?

  • 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? High.

  • Do it.

This one is the /w/ sound. Did you get that?

  • She always.

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.

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 four in American English and four 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 as in door.

  • Your eyes.

So technically here I’m linking two vowel sounds together. Your eyes. And we do that with the linking R. 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 so let’s practise with a few example sentences now. 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, all 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. 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 to 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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