Thursday, May 19, 2005

EFL - Pronunciation2 - rhythm / 영어 발음 도움 2

Rhythm (and weak forms):
4/4 TIME

1) Write "1 2 3 4" on the board, with wide spaces between the numbers.
2) Let students know that sometimes it's useful to think of the rhythm of English as being like music. Demonstrate by chanting (not too quickly), the rhythm you've just written: 1, 2, 3, 4. You can tap, clap or whatever along with the numbers if you like.
3) Write "and" in each of the spaces between the numbers. Practise to the same rhythm, adding the 'and' in a natural manner. Note that 'and' is usually pronounced as a schwaed 'an' or 'and'.
4) Continue in the same way from simply "and", to "and a", then "and then a", and finally "and then it's a" or "and then there's a". So the students are bsically chanting '1, and-then-there's-a-2, and-then-there's-a-3,..." to the same rhythm as the original "1, 2, 3, 4".

5) You can then write a couple of example sentences below, trying to match the stressed words in the sentence with the numbers. Sentences with 4 major stresses are probably best here. Some examples: (the rhythm'll be fast!)
Have you SEEN the NEW SPIELberg MOvie?
D'you KNOW HOW I can GET to SEOUL?
HOW's it GOing with the NEW JOB?

Proverbs are perhaps also good for this:
ACtions SPEAK LOUDer than WORDS.
A WOman's WORK is NEver DONE.
You CAN'T TELL a BOOK by its COver.

Stress and weak forms:

1) You could point out firstly that the stressed words will usually be adjectives, nouns, main verbs, and (much underused in the classroom) adverbs.
(Plus pronouns are emphasised more often than most people realise.)
2) The unstressed words will usually be modals (stressed when negative), auxiliary verbs (ditto), and all those fiddly little 'grammar words' (determiners, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns).
(Often reduced to weak forms with the schwa or short 'I' - can, as, from, that (conjuction), and,...)
3) A good example to illustrate this is poor, grammar-free Tarzan. He speaks only the stressed words: "Tarzan go river catch fish." (Tarzan's going to the river to catch a fish.)


In natural (unscripted) English, we give stress to certain words while other words are glided over very quickly and hardly pronounced at all. (Of course, in trying to make ourselves understood in the classroom there's a nefarious tendency to over-pronounce and all naturalness is lost.) English is considered a stressed ('stress-timed') language while many others are syllabic ('syllable-timed'). That is, in other languages, such as French or Korean, each syllable receives equal importance. There is stress, but each syllable has its own length, and therefore equal time is needed for each syllable.

However, what many speakers of syllabic languages don't understand is that English spends more time on specific stressed words while destressing and quickly gliding over the less important words. An example:

1) Say this sentence out loud (or listen to a native speak it naturally) and count how many seconds it takes:
The great mountain loomed dreamily in the mist. (11 syllables.) Time required? Probably about 5 seconds.
2) Now do the same for the following sentence:
He can come on Sundays as long as he doesn't have to do any homework in the evening. (22 syllables.) Time required? Probably about 5 seconds.
3) They take the same amount of time to speak because they both contain only 5 stressed syllables each. Notice that you needn't worry about pronouncing every word clearly to be understood (native speakers certainly don't). You should instead concentrate on pronouncing the stressed words clearly.

Do some listening comprehension or ask learners to spend some time with native English-speaking friends listening to how we concentrate on the stressed words rather than giving importance to each syllable.

After a while their understanding and fluency should improve as they begin to listen for (and use) stressed words. All those difficult-to-catch words are really not crucial for understanding the sense of an utterance or making yourself understood. Stressed words are the key to excellent pronunciation and understanding of English.

(adapted from

Phrasal Stress:

When we read a sentence normally (without giving any word extra emphasis), each phrase has one word that is most stressed. In a sentence, we tend to put the most stress on the last stressed syllable, showing the sentence is ending.
For example:

(When read slowly and deliberately)
The noisy car / has been parked / in the garAGE.
Many people / often read / the business section / of the NEWSpaper.
("business section" and "newspaper" are compound nouns)

(When said more rapidly, there are fewer pauses and less stress on the content words)
The noisy car has been parked in the garAGE.
Many people often read the business section of the NEWSpaper.

That is, the more slowly you speak, and the more pauses you use, the easier it is to be understand (but the less natural it is).

(adapted from Grove)


Again from Grove, I can't improve on this.

Final comments:

I'd suggest that a basic grasp of the International Phonetic Alphabet could be helpful. Possibly it might stop the practice, pre-ordained to failure, of trying to write a word's English pronunciation in the limited sounds of Korean script, thus cementing the Korean-ness of the pronunciation.

Part 1 - Linking
Part 3 - Intonation

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