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The Importance of Understanding Features of Connected Speech in Pronunciation.

Learners often say:

‘Why do English people swallow their words?. Listening is so difficult as I understand the typescript when I read it, but I can’t understand the speaker!’

There’s a joke where a beginner student enters McDonalds and asks very clearly for ‘a hamburger and chips’, isolating and separating all the syllables in the words in the most intelligible way possible.

The person behind the counter fails to understand the beginner even though

he tries 3 times to ask in his best English for his order.

The 4th time the beginner gives up

and says extremely quickly and

almost mumbles


The server immediately understands him! And proceeds to get his order!

I was teaching a class of beginners last week and was going through the answers to a gap fill listening task. I highlighted examples of how words connect in English. I practiced the connected speech with the class, highlighting the example of where the words connected.

One of the students asked me how they can know when words connect, so thought it would be useful to refresh my memory on some of the main features of connected speech.

Here are some examples to help explain features of connected speech.

Assimilation is a common phonological process by which one sound becomes more like a nearby sound. This can occur either within a word or between words. In rapid speech, for example, "handbag" is often pronounced [ˈhambag], and "hot potato" as [ˈhɒppəteɪtoʊ].

Intrusion is a feature of connected speech. When two words are said together, an extra

sound is sometimes placed between them in order to make them easier to say. When a native speaker says 'I am not happy' there is an intrusive /j/ sound between 'I' and 'am' which makes it easier to say the phrase quickly.

Elision is the omission of sounds, syllables or words in speech. This is done to make the

language easier to say, and faster. Examples of elision are:

'I don't know' /I duno/

'Camera' /kamra/

'Fish 'n' chips'

This youtube clip was also really informative.

On my Delta one of my final assessments was on getting learners to understand that /aijam/ is ‘I am.’ And that ‘your ear’ needs to be ready to understand that pronunciation is a matter of practice and not get too hung up trying to listen for every word. This can help with their listening skills.

What examples of assimilation, intrusion and elision can you list?

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