Monday, May 15, 2017


Every language has its own “music,” its unique rhythms, a distinct upward and downward flow, some staccato passages and other lingering stretched out sounds. English can be as different from your first language as a waltz is from a tango, a march is from a ballad. But is your ear tuned to hear it?

American English is relaxed, fluid and lyrical. It is unevenly paced, glides along with some sounds held longer than others, moves up at predictable times, and usually ends with a downward plunge.

If you do not learn to recognize and employ these musical qualities, your English pronunciation will lack the flavor and power to persuade, explain, appeal to, and connect with your listener.

Take time to listen to the music of native speakers of English. Listen to the changing patterns that indicate the moods behind the sentiments. Warm up to the subtleties of regional accents and the personality and charm behind the words.

Listen to clear native speakers, such as actors, broadcasters and some teachers. Listen as they move quickly from one word to the next, when they linger on a single word and stretch it out, or when they stop for an instant before, or sometimes after, a key word to give it importance. Listen to American English until the shape and flow of this language becomes familiar and natural to you. Then after listening, you are ready to analyze the details.

Next time, we shall begin to explore specific elements of American music. We’ll start with the critically important area of “stress and emphasis,” which does not exist very much in most languages. Without sufficient stress and emphasis, your American listeners will be confused or bored, and may even tune you out!