The most indicative thing about American English is that it usually sounds very relaxed. Each word is not pronounced clearly on its own but rather in correlation with other words within the sentence. That’s why you may find native Americans speak in a really fast and swift manner. This has a lot to do with Reduced Sounds. (Prefer to read this in Vietnamese?)
What are they?
In many cases, a word’s spelling may fail to tell you how it would actually sound. Take photograph and photography for an example.
They both have two O’s and an A. However:
- photograph –> stressed on the first syllable – pho –> [‘fodgræf]
- photography –> stressed on the second syllable – to –> [f’tahgr’fee]
You see? Depending on which syllable to pitch your voice, you should adjust the one before or after the pitch word to make it sound natural. To emphasize -to in photography, we can pronounce the -pho part more lightly and with a lower tone.
Just like after you have reached the top of the mountain, there’s no other way but to go down to the valley.
How to practice?
1. Consider Reduced Sounds as “valleys”
For a single sentence, intonation is the mountain, and reduced sounds are valleys. Before reaching the top, you’re down at the valley. After reaching it, you go down again. Picture it like this:
At first, it should sound a bit awkward. Don’t worry, over the course of time, it will get more natural.
2. There are actually a few signs of “valleys”
If a word belongs to one of these groups, it will very likely be a valley in your voyage. They are small words such as:
a. Articles: a, an, the
- I got an A in English –> [äi gädd_ə_ nay ih ninglish]
- What’s the matter? –> [wats th’ madder]
b. Prepositions: to, from, of, in,…
- Show me how to get it. –> [show me hæod*ə* **ged**dit]
- As a matter of fact, … –> [z’mædderə fækt]
c. Pronouns: your, what,…
- What time is it? –> [w’t tyem ‘z’t]
- Tell me when you’re ready. –> [tell me wen yr reddy]
d. Conjunctions: or, and,…
- more or less –> [mor‘r less]
- bread and butter –> [bredn buddr]
e. Auxiliary verbs: can, had,…
- We can try it later –> [we k’n try it layder]
- Can I help you? –> [k’näi hel piu]
There you go. There could be a few more cases, but ELSA already helped you pick the most common ones.
Even though it may sounds easy – go up, then go down – it may require more practice for you to actually speak like native speakers. But I believe the impact it has on your speaking skills will be game-changing. So, are you for it? If you are, I’m with you.
Best of luck, my friends!