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How to decode British Connected Speech.

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I want to help with both your listening and pronunciation skills by showing you how British Connected Speech works.  So it makes sense that you get as much opportunity as possible to listen to English spoken at natural speed.   This is why this short course is made up of audio lessons with sound files  rather than only written explanations.  Each section of the course has a sound file in which I talk about one aspect of connected speech and you can hear how the words sound. There will be exercises to do after each section of the course to help train your ear to how this connected speech sounds.     The sound file explanations are recorded as natural speech, I don’t have a script that I am reading.  This means it has all the same features  as natural speech.  I hesitate, I stop, I make mistakes and and I rephrase things.  It’s me talking to you as I would if you were sitting here in my home with me.   But unlike most English speakers I do come with transcripts.  Below each part of the audio lesson explanation you will find a link to a pdf transcript for you to download and read whilst you are listening if you want to do so.

Do you have any questions about why I pronounce things the way I do?  Leave me a question in the comments, email me, or contact me on facebook.    I will answer as soon as I can.

Part 1 Weak forms of words and the English Schwa sound

 

Transcript 1 for part 1 of this audio lesson is here.

Exercise 1     Write down what I am saying?   Which words are stressed and which words are weak?

Do you want milk or sugar in your tea?

Let’s look at what happens here.

  • Do you want is a chunk of language that is very common in the spoken language and so get’s spoken very fast and sounds like this:

 

The phrases Do you want and what do you want are  discussed in detail in this blog post.

  • Sugar   milk     tea      are the main content words and carry the real meaning of the sentence so are spoken clearly.  You can hear them.
  • or     in   your     are weak  and are all pronounced with the shwar, the lazy ehh sound that we make in British English.

Listen next to my explanation of the weak words and the shwar sound in this sentence.

Transcript for part 2 of this audio lesson is here.

Exercise 2     Write down what I am saying.   Listen out for those weak words that are hard to hear.

Let’s look at what happens here:

Have you been in the new pizza restaurant in town or heard anything about it?

The stressed words that are louder are

……been…….. pizza restaurant….. town….heard  anything about…….

From these words we can understand the vital points that allow us to guess the meaning of the sentence.

But let’s look at what those other words sound like…

have you ………….in the ………….in……..or ………………it

This next section is best explained with audio so you can hear my pronunciation of these weak words.   Also see if you can hear  how often I use this schwa sound when I am giving the explanation.

Transcript for part 3 of this audio lesson is here.

Exercise 3   Listen and work out the main points of what I am saying.  If you hear the stressed content words you can often work out what the speech is about.    Write down all the words you can hear and we will look at the weak words in the explanation.

Sorry to disturb you ..do you know where the office diary is?  I need it for the meeting this afternoon.   I need a list of the dates of the staff meetings and a list of the agenda items.   I thought it was on my desk but it’s gone.  Have you moved it or seen anyone with it?

Let’s look at what happens here.

I will mark the stressed words that were easier to hear in red.

Did you hear most of these words?    Don’t worry if you did not hear all of these words.   I spoke very quickly, like I was panicking because I have lost something and need it quickly before going to the meeting!

Sorry disturb you ..do you know where the office diary is?  I need it for the meeting this afternoon.   I need a list of the dates of the staff meetings and a list of the agenda items.   I thought it was on my desk but it’s gone.  Have you moved it or seen anyone with it?

 

So we are left with the weak words, the grammatical function words.

Sorry to disturb you ..do you know where the office diary is?  I need it for the meeting this afternoon.   I need a list of the dates of the staff meetings and a list of the agenda items.   I thought it was on my desk but it’s gone.  Have you moved it or seen anyone with it?

All these weak words are replaced by a shwa  sound.

Let me explain:

Transcript for part 4 of this audio lesson is here.

Remember.

You do not need to speak in this way,  but you do need to be able to recognise the sound of these weak words  when  British speakers do this.

Next week you will receive another email with a link to part 2 of this free course.  If you have any questions or comments please let me know in the comments, or send me an email.   If you have a particular question about English pronunciation and connected speech please let me know and I will try to answer it on the blog or in this course.

Thank You once again for joining Helen’s Language Home.

Helen

 

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