English is a communication system in which words and phrases work in conjunction with grammar and pronunciation. The aspects of pronunciation are as follows:
The vowels are A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y. However, there are 15 different vowel sounds. Some are quite different such as the sound in pat. This sound is often confused with either pot or pet.Listen - pat, pot, pet
Consonants are all the other letters. Some examples of consonant sounds are /b/, /k/, /th/, /r/, /l/. Pronunciation of the individual sounds can be difficult, but we need to move quickly beyond individual sounds to consonant clusters, such as /str/ in street or /rld/ in world. Some simple techniques will help produce these sounds more comfortably. Sometimes, the word can be made simpler. Months, for example, can be pronounced /mons/ - 1 month, 2 mons, etc. Asked can be pronounced /ast/, as in I /ast/ you a question.Listen - 1 month, 2 months Listen - I asked you a question
Most likely you know that in every word 1 syllable is stressed and the others are not. This is too simple and inhibits communication. Linguists, academics who study language, say there are actually 6 levels of stress. Needless to say, learning or teaching 6 levels of word stress is too difficult. Learning 3 levels of stress is fairly easy to learn and allows you to speak much more clearly. An example is cancellation. The word has 4 syllables - can, cel, la, tion. The word stress is CAN cel LA tion, where CAN is semi-stressed, cel and tion are unstressed, and LA is stressed.Listen - cancellation
Rhythm is very similar to word stress. Whereas word stress is about 1 word, rhythm is related to groups of words - phrases, clauses, sentences. Some words are clear and others are unclear, for example the phrase MAY i HELP you? If you notice, both cancellation and May I help you? have the same stress pattern.Listen - Cancellation. May I help you?
Another illustration of rhythm is the following:
KIDS PLAY GAMES
theKIDS PLAY theGAMES
theKIDS havePLAYED theGAMES
theKIDS willhavePLAYED theGAMESListen to the lines above:
In each line, there are 3 beats, so each line is spoken in relatively the same amount of time.