For your English to sound more natural to your listeners, you have to know how to use word reduction in your speech.
In my previous post, I discussed which words to emphasize when speaking. In American English, there are only one or two words in each phrase that are emphasized: the ones that convey the most relevant information. These information-heavy words are spoken slower and slightly louder than the words around it.
But, what happens to the other words in the phrase? How are they spoken so the phrase sounds natural to your listener?
Words that aren’t emphasized in a phrase are spoken quickly and blend together.
The individual letter sounds in these words are reduced or even eliminated. If you try to accurately pronounce each and every word in a sentence, your speech will definitely stand out, but probably not in the way you want.
Words that are not emphasized include:
Articles – a, an, the
Pronouns – he, she, her, him, it, us, they, etc.
Prepositions – about, by, down, in, of, to, etc.
Conjunctions – for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
Other words that are not emphasized include any word that does not carry the most important information in that particular phrase.
Exceptions to this rule are when you need to correct an error or clarify a statement.
- “We read his review, not hers.”
Let’s look and listen to a few examples:
“Do you want to go?” becomes “Do yawanna go?”
“I’m going to go tomorrow.” becomes “I’m gonna go tomorrow.”
“How do you spell your name?” becomes “Howdya spell your name?”
“I have to leave soon.” becomes “I hafta leave soon.”
“Let me see if I can make it.” becomes “Lemee see if I can make it.”
Remember that not every syllable or word gets equal time when spoken. Knowing which words to speed up and blend together and which words to slow down and emphasize creates the rhythm of American English.
It’s also important to note that this type of word reduction is not considered slang, or improper pronunciation. This is considered a natural process of spoken American English.
Fine-tuning your English pronunciation takes practice, and quite possibly, some guidance. An experienced accent trainer can provide the necessary feedback to improve your rhythm pattern and pronunciation skills.