Conversational speech can feel a world apart from the academic learning of the English language. We have helped hundreds of students master the nuances of clear speech and sound like native speakers. So, don’t let yourself become discouraged.
Several tips can be extremely helpful when it comes to learning to speak clearly in American, Australian, or British accents. At Speak More Clearly, your success is our top priority, and we’ll share every tip and trick to make your journey easier.
Here are four things to know so you can improve the fluency of your speech.
1. Using “W” and “Y” to Help Pronunciation
To speak English well, you need to use the right emphasis and rhythm. Knowing when to link words together will help you sound smooth and not choppy. I’ve written to you before about linking in English pronunciation, but now we’ll look at a different kind of linking.
When an English word ends in the /o/ or ‘oo’ vowel- specifically when the /o/ says ‘oe’ or ‘oo’, and the word immediately following it begins with a vowel, you need to put an intrusive or linking /w/ in the middle. It helps your mouth get from one word to the next more easily.
For example: ‘to a’ (go to a shop), is said, ‘to wa’. ‘Go after’ is said, ‘go wafter’.
In instances where the /w/ sound in the vowel combination ‘ow’ (said as ‘ow’ or ‘oe’), isn’t said, you also need to say the /w/ when the next word begins with a vowel. You need to say the /w/ and run it into the next word.
For example, ‘show us’ is said ‘show wus’, or ‘allow it’ is said ‘allow wit’
If a word ends in an ‘ee’ or ‘ie’ vowel sound, and the following word begins with a vowel, then the linking sound is a ‘y’ /j/ sound.
For example, ‘me and you’, is said, ‘me yand you’. ‘See it’ is said, ‘see yit’. ‘Pie and sauce’ are said, ‘pie yand sauce.’
Practice phrases and sentences:
- To a (to wa); to eat (to weat); to our (to wour); into it (into wit); kangaroo out (kangaroo wout); who ate (who wate); do it (do wit); go under (go wunder); go after (go wafter); no it (no wit);
- We’re going to eat; Come to our party; Go to a meeting; Put the kangaroo out back; who ate my cookies?; Don’t do it; No, it won’t fit; He won’t allow us to go; Show it to me.
- Me on (me yon); be at (be yat); tree in (tree yin); see it ( ee yit); me a (me ya); committee after (committee yafter); try it (try yit); pie out (pie yout); tie a (tie ya); cry over (cry yover).
- Come see me on the show; Be at the station on time; I can’t see it; Call the committee after the meeting; Take the pie out; Tie a ribbon on; Don’t try it; He began to cry over it.
2. Words with Invisible Syllables
The phrase “words with invisible syllables” means words where we leave out one of the syllables in a word written with three or more syllables.
You can break down a word in English into letters and also syllables. (These are chunks of English words that each have a vowel.) Often, you can clap or tap the syllables to figure out how many there are. However, some words are trickier to pronounce because one of the syllables is missing from the spoken word. In these cases, what you see is not what you say. You just have to learn which syllable is ‘invisible’ or omitted and how to say the word.
We’ll go through some common words where this happens. This will also help bring this to your attention, so you begin to listen for this in other people’s speech. Then you can modify your speech accordingly.
A List of Words Where a Syllable is Not Pronounced
- interest (the ‘er’ is missing) – said ‘intrest’
- business (the ‘i’ is missing) – said ‘bisness’
- vegetable (the ‘e’ is missing) – said ‘vegtable’
- chocolate (the second ‘o’ is missing)- said ‘choclate’
- every (the ‘er’ is missing) -said ‘evry’
- family (the ‘i’ is missing) – said ’famly’
- camera (the ‘er’ is missing) – said ‘camra’
- favourite (favorite) (the ‘or’ is missing for British and Australian) – said ‘favrite’
- basically (the ‘al’ is missing) – said ‘basicly’
- Wednesday (the 1st ‘d’ and 2nd ‘e’ are missing) – said ‘Wensday’
3. Wanna and Gonna Contracting Words
Native English speakers contract words and phrases when speaking without thinking about it. Doing so adds speed and ease to speaking conversationally.
To speak English naturally, we often contract two common phrases, ‘going to’ and ‘want to.’ In this training lesson, we’ll practice how to speak English naturally using these phrases and get extra practice using correct English stress and rhythm as well.
The phrase ‘going to’ becomes ‘gonna’ /gənə/, and the phrase ‘want to’ that becomes ‘wanna’ /wonnə/.
Practice using these sentences:
Going to – Gonna
- I’m gonna go to the shops because I’m gonna get some milk for my tea.
- He’s asking if you’re gonna come to the party.
- They’re gonna need lots of chairs if they’re gonna have 100 people there.
- Don’t tell me you’re gonna come to the meeting late.
- Customers are gonna want to know when the sale starts.
- She’s gonna be going home late.
- My professor is gonna go to that lecture as well.
- How many animals are you gonna buy, ’cause you’re gonna have to feed them all yourself.
- James is gonna love that present.
- They’re gonna get a shock if you’re gonna do that!
Want to – Wanna
- Don’t you wanna come?
- He doesn’t wanna know about it.
- I wanna buy that car.
- You wanna eat at that restaurant?
- You’re gonna wanna see what they did to their front garden.
- How many do you wanna invite?
- I don’t wanna disturb you, but I wanna clean the office now.
- She asked if you wanna donate to the charity organisation.
- I wanna go to my sister’s (place), and then I wanna go to the beach.
Also, pay attention to and mimic all the contractions, including the pronoun contractions such as you’re, I’m etc. Oh, and by the way, using the contracted form of these words gets you extra marks in your IELTS or other English pronunciation tests because native English speakers contract these phrases when they speak.
4. Make Your English Flow
Typically, those learning to speak English learn how to pronounce individual words as clearly as possible. However, instruction regarding how to link everything together can be lacking.
One of my students said it all the other day. She said she finally got it. She realized the reason people don’t speak flowing English is they forget to link it up once they learn how to pronounce English.
She said she was so busy being careful to pronounce every word and sound, that she didn’t realize that to sound more natural in English and to speak with flowing English, she had to use the phrasing and linking that native English speakers use.
Three Elements of Flowing English
To ‘link it up’ you need to use linking and elision properly. When you do this, it’s as if the single words being linked, are said as if they are just one big multisyllabic word (we have training on linking and elision in our pronunciation courses).
For example, take the phrase ‘and almost took’. We link the /d/ to the ‘a’ in almost, and we elide (‘elision’ -leave out) the /t/ at the end of almost, because ‘took’ begins with a /t/ anyway.
So, when we speak flowing English, we say ‘an dalmos took’ – andalmostook- as if it was one long, multisyllabic word.
Another example is: ‘I have a book on the table’. In this one, we link the /v/ at the end of have to the ‘a’, and the /k/ at the end of ‘book’ to the ‘o’ in ‘on’. So, we say “I ha va boo kon the table – I hava bookon the table.”
Use contractions. Use the contracted form. Use ‘I’m’ instead of I am; ‘we’re’ instead of we are; ‘she’ll‘ instead of she will; ‘it’s’ instead of it is, etc.
Listen to other English speakers and hear how they chunk words together or phrase words together in a sentence – especially the longer ones, rather than just saying each word separately.
For example, in the sentence, “Please get the two tickets and meet me at the last gate.” You say, ‘Please get the two tickets” as one smooth phrase, and then say ‘and meet me at the last gate’ as the other phrase or grouped words with a slight pause between them.
You make your voice pitch go up slightly for the last vowel in the last word in the phrase (the ‘e’ in ticket), and you make the vowel slightly longer, and then say the next phrase.
Don’t forget, after you’ve learned to say each word and sound clearly in English, you need to link it all together to speak flowing English and sound more natural.
As you continue learning how to speak English fluently, make sure you review these tips. Flowing speech is something you can become good at with practice.