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English Pronunciation Pod 74

Saturday Dec 11th, 2010
English Pronunciation Podcast 74-
The Rhythm and Intonation of English- Choosing the "focus word" in a phrase.

How to speak English clearly with the correct rhythm and stress.


In this week's podcast, we're going to continue to learn how to speak in the rhythm of American English.
Speaking in the rhythm of English, will make you sound more like a native speaker and more
importantly, it will be easier for people to understand you. In order to speak with the right rhythm, you have
to stress the right words and right syllables. Stressing the wrong words can be confusing to your listener.

In every phrase, there is usually one word which receives the most stress.
This is known as" the focus word" and using focus words in your speech is a key part to being understood
by native speakers and an essential part of speaking with an American accent.

If you haven't already listened to poddcast #57, I recommend that you do so before using this one.
Podcast 57 explains the rules for choosing the focus word in full detail.

The focus of this week's podcast is:

  • To practice using focus words in some key American expressions.

As we learned in podcast 57, in any phrase or sentence, certain words receive more stress - their vowels
are longer and the pitch of their stressed syllable is somewhat higher. These are known as content words.
Content words include verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, wh questions words (what, where, who, how, why and when)
and demonstratives (this, that, these and those).

These types of words are usually the most important and newest pieces of information in our conversation.

We also learned that there is usually one word which receives the most stress and this is known as the focus word.
We learned that the last content word of a phrase is often the focus word.


She found a new job.

Notice how I stress the words "found", "new" and "job". Notice how these words are content words-" found" is a verb, "new" an adjective
and "job" is a noun. Notice how their vowel is longer and the pitch is slightly higher.

She found a new job.

Also take note how one of these words is stressed more than the others- it is the focus word.

Can you hear the focus word?

She found a new job.

The focus word is "job". Notice how it comes at the end of the phrase as focus words often do.

Exercise: Please listen and repeat paying careful attention to the rhythm stressing "found" "new" "job" and making "job" the main focus word.

She found a new job.

Today we're going to review this important material and practice using focus words when we speak.
Having clear focus words is very important because focus words highlight to our listener what the most important part of our message is.
Having clear, prominent focus words will make your speech much more understandable to a native speaker .

Avoid these Mistakes

It's very important to master this pattern. Many students of English make the following two mistakes:

Mistake 1) All of the words of their phrase are stressed too evenly.

This is confusing to the listener because the American ear has been trained to listen for content words and to listen for one main focus word.
Without those signals in the right place, it's not clear what the point of the speaker is.

Mistake 2) Stressing the wrong focus word.
Some English students use focus words but choose the wrong one.
They might choose a content word that comes earlier in the sentence. Again, this is confusing to the American listener because we are
accustomed to generally hearing the main focus word at the end of the phrase.

So let's practice using focus words in some key expressions of English. Pay careful attention to your rhythm.
Remember to make the stressed syllables of the focus words longer and with a higher pitch.

*Really try to feel the rhythm and intonation of the sentence- almost like it's music.

Exercise: Listen and repeat: (Focus words are in bold italics.)

I'm reading a good book.

Did you get my message ?

I'll have it done by Monday .

What time will you be back? .

You mean the world to me. (Most important person in my life)

I'd like to make an appointment.

Practice is Key!

Learning to speak English in the correct rhythm abd with a standard American accent is a gradual
process but if you work at it regularly and practice as often as you can, you're going to improve!

The Right Training Tools for Better Pronunciation:

It's important to have right training tools in order to improve your accent.

That's why I recommend that you check it out my English Pronunciation Course in mp3 format- Best Accent Training mp3s!

No matter what your first language is, Best Accent Training has the lessons you need for speaking English clearly and correctly.

All the sounds of English in one course!

Best Accent Training mp3s contains all the sounds of English with step by step instructions and practice exercises.
You'll get all the vowels of English, all the consonants, syllable stress lessons, intonation and rhythm lessons and connected speech!

Best of all, Best Accent Training is a fast and easy download that you can put on your mp3 player and take with you wherever you go!
I specifically designed it for that purpose.

Any questions, comments or suggestions ? Contact us at:   contact@englishpronunciationpod.com

Thank you and see you next time!




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After practicing with Best Accent Training daily,
I can say that my English communication has improved 100%. "

- Domingo Ponce Rodriguez- - Marketing Manager USA (Spain)

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