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Let’s go back to Ivelin’s introduction and listen to her recording one more time.  What part of her speech do you think gives her the noticeable “Spanish accent”? Is it the vowel sounds? The consonants sounds? The intonation? Or, something else?

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Let me explain the first thing that jumps out at me:  Her WORD STRESS PATTERN. Every language uses a different stress pattern, or rhythm.  Ivelin’s native language is Spanish, which uses a completely different rhythm or stress pattern than English.

To understand what I mean, listen again and you will hear her putting an extra emphasis on certain words. Some of these words are not usually the stress or content words in English. This is one of the things that is creating her “accent”. See below for the first two wrongly stressed words that caught my attention. The words that, I thought, Ivelin stressed or emphasized are underlined.

….I have been living in the…..

I am a student at Language On in Miami Beach.

 


 

Accent Reduction Tip #1

⇒ Word Stress

In English, we usually place extra emphasis on the content word. The content word is usually the noun and comes at the end of a thought group or sentence. Please note, there may be more than one stress word per sentence.

In other languages, speakers often emphasize or STRESS the verbs or adjectives. In English we usually stress the NOUNS.

          OTHER LANGUAGES                       TYPICAL AMERICAN

        She’s a nice girl.                               She’s a nice girl.

            She speaks English.                        She speaks English.

 

When there are two or more STRESS WORDS in a thought group or sentence, we usually stress the last one more.

She’s a nice girl and she speaks English.

I like bacon and eggs. I like bacon and eggs for breakfast on Saturday.

           

NOTE: We don’t always stress the noun. We stress the word which holds the most importance in the thought group or sentence; these are called CONTENT WORDS. The ‘small’ unstressed words are called FUNCTION WORDS. The stress can change the meaning of the sentence. Look at the sentences below.

She likes Italian pizza.

She likes Italian pizza.

She likes Italian pizza.

She likes Italian pizza.

 


 

Accent Reduction Tip #2

⇒ Understanding Stress

When we stress, we elongate the main vowel.  Say the word “amazing”. Now say it like your favorite American reality TV star (if you have one, that is).  Chances are the second time you said it you said “amaaaaaazing”.  That’s right! The main vowel in the word is eloooongated.

How many times have you gone to Starbucks only to have them spell your name wrong on the cup?  It’s probably because you aren’t elongating the right vowel in your name.  I know your next question, “How do I know which vowel is the main vowel?”  Well, that’s coming.  Stay posted and you will learn about syllable stress!

 


 

Ivelin’s Homework (and yours, too!)

Ivelin was assigned with the task of identifying the proper word stress pattern in her initial recording. It’s not as easy as you might think, as I said it’s “usually” the noun, but not always.  Ivelin will have to to learn about stress patterns when it comes to adjective, names, numbers, acronyms, compound nouns, phrasal verbs, and abbreviations.

Stay posted for Lesson 2 of 26 where you will be able to hear Ivelin’s improvement and compare it to your own. In the meantime, if you are interested in reducing your accent, don’t hesitate to contact us to see how we can help. Half the battle is starting so why wait?

Turn your Language On!

 

Instruction for Private Accent Reduction Classes is provided by Premium Languages, the private tutorial, foreign language, and test preparation partner of Language On. Courses provided by Premium Languages are not accredited by CEA and do not qualify for F-1 (student) visas.
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