Syllable Stress

Syllable Stress

In every lesson, you will practice syllable stress as you repeat words. Remember that a syllable is a beat. The words learn, stress, main and page have one syllable. The words business, perfect, order and minute have two syllables. The words confident and diagram have three syllables. The word explanation has four syllables. Pronunciation has five syllables. 

How to Speak with Syllable Stress

To speak with good stress:

* Let the tone of your voice be a little bit higher on the stress.
* Make sure that the vowel on the stressed syllable is clear and strong.

If you believe that you are not at all musical, don’t worry! The voice naturally rises and falls as we speak. Think about going up-to-down or down-to-up. This should help you gain the minor change in pitch. Here is a visual way to think about it.

Watch Video Lesson

In American English, most of the vowel sounds (the sounds of A, E, I, O and U) are large sounds. The only short, quick sounds are the Short E, Short I and Short U, as in metsit and up respectively. When stressing a syllable, use a clear vowel sound. Most of the sounds on the unstressed syllables are shorter or reduced. For instance, in vacation, both of the A’s can have a Long A sound as in rain, but the first A usually reduces to a light u sound as in vu-CA-shun

When you reduce unstressed vowels, the stressed vowel sounds are more clear. This is one the keys to American English pronunciation.

Note: Many longer words have 2 strong vowel sounds. For instance, conversation has a clear O and a clear A. 

If changing your pitch seems very difficult, here are two simple techniques:

1. Force yourself to say a long word, like pronunciation, in only one pitch, as if tapping one note on a piano repeatedly. For most people, this will not come naturally, and you will sense the small change in tone that is natural to you. This is all you need.

2. Try moving your hand in up-down motions as you practice syllable stress. The visual and sensory effect will help you change your pitch.

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