Monday, May 22, 2017


We all want to find ways to relieve stress. But if your first language is not English, you need to add stress to your speaking style in order to be clearer, more persuasive, and seem more knowledgeable.

This is because English is a uniquely “stress-timed language,” while other languages are either “syllable-timed” (all syllables uttered equally) or have structurally no syllables at all (eg. Chinese).

When Americans break a word down into syllables - that is, into sound units, each of which has one vowel sound in it, like in-for-MA-tion) - our mind processes the whole word better if its parts are individualized in some way. We do this by accenting some syllables more than others.

How? By saying a stressed syllable louder or with a rise in voice pitch, by saying it more clearly, or by holding it longer or stopping the voice for a split-second. Or by using several of these techniques at once.

You must learn to identify all the syllables in a word, and to know which ones are stressed. Then practice the most troublesome words. If you don’t, then:
  • Portuguese/Brazilian speakers will say “POL-i-cy” but it will sound like “PO-lice” (wrong word altogether).
  • French speakers will say “He FIXes his car himself,” but it will sound like “He FIX his car himself” (grammar seems wrong).
  • Spanish speakers will say “I in-TEN-ded to tell you,” but it will sound like “I in-TEND to tell you” (tense and timeframe will be misunderstood).
  • Hindi speakers will say all syllables equally fast and with no apparent break, so that “I want to explain this fully and clearly” will sound like “iwanttoexplainthisfullyandclearly” (a jumble of meaningless letters to Americans).
After mastering this, you are ready next time for some important rules for extending this concept to full sentences. Only then can you truly express your bigger ideas with clear comprehension by American listeners.