While there are lots of elements to sounding natural in English, I’m going to talk about 4 things that I think are key elements that you need to work on and master. These 4 elements of how to get natural English, focus on suprasegmental elements of English. That is stress, rhythm and intonation.
1) Natural English- Right Syllable Stress in words
Because English is a stress timed language, getting the stress patterns right in longer multisyllabic words is really important to sound natural. You need to 1) attune your ear to hear which syllables in a word are stressed, and which de-stressed. In the de-stressed syllables the schwa vowel replaces the written vowel. 2) practise saying the word with the correct stress patterns. Often that means learning to use the schwa vowel in the de-stressed syllable. For example, it isn’t Around /eɪraʊnd/ , but around /əˈraʊnd/. The ‘a’ becomes de-stressed .
You can find more in depth training on this here.
2) Natural English- Right Word Stress in Sentences
Again because English is a stress timed language, to speak with natural English, you need to learn to mimic the prosody (pattern of stress and intonation), of English in sentences. In this case, this means stressing the words carrying the main meaning in a sentence, and often de-stressing the vowel in the words that are unimportant to the meaning.
For example, in the sentence ‘I was walking to the kitchen with a heavy bag of vegetables.
The words carrying the main meaning are: I, walking, kitchen, with, heavy, bag, vegetables. These words are emphasised.
The unstressed words in the sentence are: was, to, the, a, of. These words become un-stressed by replacing the vowel with the de-stressed vowel, the schwa sound /ə/. So we say wəs, tə, thə, ə, əf. Listen to how I say the sentence and use the schwa vowel in the audio below.
3) Natural English- Linking and Elision
This is another important element to sound natural in English.
We don’t say ‘It is a brown cup’. We link, and say “it’sa brown cup” It’s like ‘it’s’ and ‘a’ become one longer joined up word. Your English flows and sounds natural when you do this. Another example is ” Can I come?” Becomes ” CanI come?” ” I want a cookie.” Becomes, ” I wanta cookie.” etc
Have a look at this link here for more training in this.
4) Natural English- Mimic English Intonation
Literally listen to and mimic the melody of native English speakers or to our trainer in our courses.
Mimic so that where they go up in pitch, you go up in pitch, and where they go down in pitch, you go down in pitch. Also mimic how the speaker groups or phrases the words together in a sentence. You need to work on the melody and phrasing of English and attune your ear to hear it.
You can use the sentences in our training courses, and you can also use poetry and mimic the rhythm and stress and melody patterns. You can find poems being read online if you look up English audio poems. Just make sure it’s the English accent you want. I’ve also put 2 poems in the audio below.
Dance with the waves, move with the sea.
Let the rhythm of the water.
Best wishes, Esther