Executive Communication Coaching

Archana Parmar

How to learn the rhythm of English Language

Whether we like it or not, people who articulate well, both privately and in front of a group, are generally perceived to be more intelligent and possess greater leadership qualities. -Zig Ziglar

English is a language of rhythm where the speaker alternates between stressed and unstressed words at regular intervals, with the stresses falling within content words.

Learn to identify the content words and syllables to be stressed in those words.

Rhythm- the way stressed and unstressed syllables make patterns in speech.

While speaking in English language, we usually give more stress to content words, mainly nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and less stress-to the supporting words, such as pronouns, determiners, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs.

The content words help us create an image in our head; they give us the main idea of the story and tell the listener where to focus his or her attention. Practising this helps our listener to be able to grasp the main content of our speech. Hence, it is highly recommended that we make the content words easier to hear by bringing attention to them, i.e, by stressing them.

Samantha is going to chair the meeting.

On the other hand, the supporting words (also called the grammatical support or function words) are the words that are used to make our sentences grammatically appropriate. If we do not make the appropriate use of the supporting words in our sentences, our listener would still get the main idea of what we are saying with little bit of difficulty but it certainly will not make us a proficient user of English Language.

Samantha chair meeting.

Once you learn to differentiate between content words and function words and use the same appropriately, it will be easier for you to learn the rhythm of speaking English Language by focusing on the stressed and unstressed syllables of those content words.

In every sentence we have stressed (content words) and unstressed (supporting words) words, it is the combination of these two that creates the melody or the rhythm in the language.

The stressed words are the ones where we emphasize or say a syllable or word more strongly as compared to the other parts of the word or sentence, which makes those “stressed” syllables and words more noticeable. While unstressed remain unnoticeable or they are not supposed to stand out from the rest of the words in a sentence.

When it comes to ‘stressed words’, they are put in two categories:

  1. Syllable stress
  2. Word stress

According to the Oxford dictionary, “syllable is a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; for example, there are two syllables in water and three in inferno.”

While speaking English language, stressed syllables are louder than non-stressed syllables. Also, they are longer and have a higher pitch.Whereas grammatical words (such as auxiliary verbs, prepositions, pronouns, articles,…) usually do not receive any stress.

Ironically, there is no rule about which syllable is stressed in a word with more than one syllable. You will need to learn the stress of words by heart.

Word Stress: While stressing syllables in words, we use the following features. Such as:

  • The stressed syllable is l-o-n-g-e-r 
  • The stressed syllable is LOUDER 
  • The stressed syllable is pronounced more clearly -The vowel sound is purer.
  • The stressed syllable engages larger facial movements – especially wide opened mouth/jaw/lips. 
  • The stressed syllable has a Change in pitch, which means it is spoken at a higher pitch than the syllables coming before and afterwards.

While the word stress is accent on one syllable within a word, Sentence stress is accent on certain words within a sentence, which gives a rhythm to spoken English. It gives music to the language and at the same time it changes the speed at which we speak or listen to the language.

Given below is an example of how the sentence stress can change the meaning altogether.

Veronica is driving to the venue.

Veronica is driving to the venue.

Veronica is driving to the venue.

Veronica is driving to the venue.

Veronica is driving to the venue.

Veronica is driving to the venue.

 A learner who can balance the rhythm of the language is more likely to sound both natural and fluent speaker of English Language.

28 thoughts on “How to learn the rhythm of English Language”

  1. Hi Archana! I love the way you have explained stress words here. Longer and louder – a great way for people to remember how to stress words! Keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. You have been able to help the learners on some formulae, When they follow they will get results. Its fantastic.

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