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Connected speech in English: How to use it to sound even clearer

When we listen to a new language we’re not familiar with, we’ll often find it hard to know where one word ends and the other one starts. Not all of the time, of course. After all, people do pause sometimes to breathe 🙂 But between breaths, it’s really hard sometimes to understand what is said. The reason why that happens is that speakers connect words together. We do that in our first language as well.

But when it comes to a second language we speak, especially in the beginning of our speaking journey in it, we sometimes feel like every word should be pronounced separately and carefully so that we’re extra clear. Moreover, as learners of a second language, we usually tend to rely on the spelling, on the written language, and there – every word is shown fully in all its glory. So we carry that to our speech as well. There’s all the more reason for us to say what we want to say one word at a time.

But actually, not connecting words together can sometimes undermine our clarity. We connect words for a reason. We have a thought and we turn it into words. Those words are not necessarily a full sentence but they are a thought unit. And that thought unit conveys the thought we had and wanted to get across. If we cut that thought group into separate words, our message becomes choppy, our thought doesn’t land as well as it should, and how it is organized with respect to the context in which it is shared.

Knowing how to connect words in English is therefore extremely valuable for us as communicators. Not only when we speak but when we listen to others as well. Because others use it all the time. Therefore, it’s important to know it, notice it and make it our own.

Watch the video below to understand better how you can use connected speech in your speech:

TRANSCRIPT

Podcast intro:

Hey everyone. Welcome to the In Fluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and today we are going to talk about connected speech. Yeah.

Hey everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast. A lot of words on one breath. It is a part of what connected speech is, which is the topic of today’s episode. Connected speech is such an important concept when it comes to communicating clearly and effectively in English, and it’s also a lot of fun. When people start using it more spontaneously, it makes a difference in how we feel and how we sound. And this is why I wanted to talk about it.

It’s funny, when I coach my students in our programs, a lot of times when I ask people, ‘What do you struggle with’ or ‘What do you think your biggest challenges’, a lot of them talk about connected speech. Because either they’re not used to doing it or it confuses them, it overwhelms them, people feel like it means that they have to speak faster. And a lot of times that is totally untrue. A lot of times people might think that they need to work on it while they’re actually connecting all their words together. And sometimes they think it means more than it does.

Sometimes it’s the opposite: people don’t connect words and they’re not even aware of it. And then when they learn about it, it makes a huge impact on their speech. So, I love talking about connected speech, and this is why we wanted to share a bit more about that, what that actually means. Because it doesn’t mean to speak faster or to just reduce words and function words. No, it’s more than that. And I also brought a few fun examples from TV shows of people saying sentences while connecting everything together, we have such great examples.

So whether you are already well versed in connected speech or this is a totally new concept for you, this episode is going to be so much fun for you to practice with and to listen to.

And while we’re at it, this is a quick reminder that if you enjoy listening to the Fluency podcast, if you can take a moment and rate and review the podcast on the platform that you listen to, I would so appreciate it because it would help the podcast reach more people who need it. So, thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy today’s episode.


Video transcript:

Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today, I’m going to talk about a topic that I absolutely love, and I think it is so useful and helpful. And that is connected speech. Connected speech is the idea of connecting words together within the same thought group or unit inside the sentence.

Let’s take, for example, the sentence ‘You already know what I think about it’. So, without connected speech, meaning if I separate the words intentionally, or unintentionally, sometimes, this is what you’re going to hear. “You already know what I think about it”. And when I connect the words together, this is how it sounds: ‘You_already_ know_what_I_think_about_it’.

So, this idea of connected speech is not only to help me sound more American, right, it will eventually cuz this is how it’s spoken. But that is not the purpose. The purpose is that when I connect words together, it is a message that I send that this is a unit within the phrase. And why do we need that? Think of writing an email, sending an email to someone that you care about. And think of you typing out the entire email without breaks, without stops, without spaces – it would be very overwhelming, right? And think as if maybe every word would be underlined. It would be really hard to understand what this email is about: what the message is, what is the important part, how to organize the thoughts.

Now, it will be clear eventually, but the person reading would have to work a little harder to get that. And this is exactly the same with connected speech. Because connected speech on one hand and pauses and breaks on the other is a way for you to organize what it is that you’re saying. And if you separate the words when you speak, it feels like every word is emphasized and the speech is not organized, and it’s harder to receive the message.

So, when you work on connected speech, understand that it’s not an accent thing, it’s a delivery thing, it’s a communication thing. And it will help you organize your thoughts better when you think of connected speech, one. And two, it would help you get to the next stage of what words you wanna stress and what words you want to reduce.

Now, I have a lot of videos that explain that aspect of stress and reductions and all of that, so I’m gonna link to all of those in the description below. Because that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about how to connect the words together.

Now what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna look at a bunch of examples and see what people do when they speak, and we’re gonna analyze it and practice it together. Now, as we go into this exercise, I want you to think of connected speech as if it’s a unit within the sentence, like I said, where one word is connected to another.

Now, there is a technical aspect on how to do it, and I’m gonna cover it today, but this is how I want you to think about it. I want you to think about saying this sentence or phrase without stopping your voice. Because when you don’t stop your voice and you keep your voice going, that’s what connects the words together.

Let’s take the phrase ‘you missed your train’. ‘You missed your train’. If I try to emphasize every word individually, then I won’t connect them: ‘you’ ‘missed’ ‘your’ ‘train’. But when you try to say it while connecting the words, without stopping your voice or breath between those words, that’s where the magic happens.

Listen: ‘you_missed_your_train’. ‘you_missed_your_train’. Right? I didn’t do anything special here. I just didn’t pause between each word. And here’s the thing, a lot of times people separate the words to be clearer, right, so that they’re more understood. Where in fact, what that causes is for people to be less clear. Cuz then the speech sounds like staccato, you know, instead of legato, which is what English requires, in a way.

Now, here is the technical aspect of connecting. When you connect two words, you have a few options. Vowel to vowel – you_already_know, and then we just connect one vowel to another. And sometimes we get intrusive sounds, like in this example right here – you(w)already_know, you know, the W sneaks in to help me connect the ‘u’ sound with the ‘a’ sound – you(w)already_know. Or ‘he is the best’. ‘he_is’, right, if I connect those two vowels – he(y)is – you hear a small ‘y’ sound there. So that’s what happens when you connect two vowels together.

And sometimes when we connect two words, it could be a consonant that connects with a consonant: good_thing, nice_hat. And then we just wanna glue those consonants together without adding vowels in between. Sometimes, and that’s the easiest case when you have a vowel and then a consonant: play_with_me, say_something – that’s pretty easy.

And then, and that is my favorite part, sometimes you have a word that ends with a consonant, and then another word that starts with a vowel. And what happens here is really interesting because what happens is that the consonant of the first word becomes the beginning of the next word, right, it connects to the vowel in the next word.

For example: all_over, all_over. So, I could say ‘all over’ and then kinda like stop my breath in between. But ‘all_over’ makes it smoother, makes it sound like it’s one word, which is what we want, really. she’s_all_over. she’s_all, s_all, right, the Z of ‘is’ becomes the beginning of ‘all’, and the L of ‘all’ becomes the beginning of ‘over’. she’s_all_over. So this is the technical aspect of what’s happening, but remember that the whole idea is to just keep your voice going as you are saying a certain phrase or part of the sentence.

Now let’s look at a few examples and see what that sounds like. “Rach, come on, I’m not gonna wear any of this!” Let’s listen to it again. “Rach, come on, I’m not gonna wear any of this!”. Good. So we have “Rach,”, so there is a break, he’s not connecting ‘Rach’ to anything else. ‘Come on’, ‘come on’ – this is a phrasal verb, and here it’s a unit that is connected. The stress is on the second part of the phrasal verb. And in this case, the M of ‘come’ becomes the beginning of the next word: come_on.

And then he says, “I’m not gonna wear”. I’m_not_gonna_wear. Right? So not only that he connects everything together in this phrase, he’s also reducing a lot of things, right? I am – I’m, not going to – not gonna, wear. I’m_not_gonna_wear. And then we have ‘any of this’, ‘any_of_this’. So, ‘any of this’, this is the proper phrase, but the ‘of’ is reduced to a schwa – uh. He connects the ‘any’ with a schwa: any_uh – that’s the intrusive sound – ‘yuh’. any_uh. And then ‘this’. ‘any_uh_this’. Let’s do it together. “Rach, come on, I’m not gonna wear any of this!”.

Let’s look at another example. “I just don’t wanna take a photo”. A lot of reductions and a lot of connections here. So, the phrase is “I just don’t want to take a photo”. So, “I just”, I j’s, I j’s. She’s not pronouncing the T in the word ‘just’, and that is okay, especially when you connect it to another word that starts with a consonant. You will notice that often people drop the T. Instead of “I just don’t” – I j’s don’t.

Let’s listen to it again in a slower speed. “I just don’t wanna take a photo”. ‘I just don’t wanna’, ‘don_wanna’, ‘don_wanna’, ‘don_wanna’. So we connect everything together. The T’s also dropped between the ‘don’t’ and the ‘want’, right? The T after an N, when it’s unstressed in this case, and a function word, is often dropped. I_j’s_don_wanna, I_j’s_don_wanna, I_j’s_don_wanna, take a photo, right? So here we see what happens when the K sound becomes the beginning of the next part. take_a_photo. I_j’s_don_wanna_take_a_photo. I_j’s_don_wanna_take_a_photo.

Now, here is something important. Even though the example I used has a lot of reductions and she speaks really fast, connecting words together doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go faster, right? So that is an important part. It just means that you don’t stop your breath and voice between words.

Let’s look at another example. “What are the odds?” ‘What are the odds?’ What_are_the_odds? So here we have another reduction of the R – wa-da. So we connect the ‘what’ with a schwa sound, that is the reduction of R. wa-da. And then going into ‘thee-aadz’, connecting the word ‘the’ with ‘odds’. wa-da-thee_aadz? ‘What are the odds?’

All right, let’s look at a slightly longer example, a longer sentence where everything is pretty much connected. Let’s listen. “I picked up a lot about dramatic structure from doing my scenes in acting class.”

‘I picked up a lot about dramatic structure by doing my scenes in acting class’. So we have a few units here, and within each unit all the words are connected. So the first unit is ‘I picked up a lot about dramatic structure’. Everything is connected. ‘I-pik-tuh’ – the T of ‘picked’, I-pik-tuh-p, and yeah, the D is pronounced as a T. I-pik-tuh-puh. So the P becomes the beginning of the next word ‘a lot’. I-pik-tuh-puh-laa-duh – the T becomes at the beginning of the next word. I-pik-tuh-puh-laa-duh-bawt druh-ma-dik. So the T connects with the D, no breaks there. uh-bawt-druh-ma-dik-struhk-ch’r, right? The K sound connects to the S, no breaks there.

This is how it would sound if I did pronounce every word separately. ‘I picked up a lot about dramatic structure’. And quickly: I picked up a lot about dramatic structure. Feels very staccato, right? Feels like, you know, like every word is stressed. Versus: I_picked_up_a_lot_about_dramatic_structure. So notice that I don’t have to go faster to connect the words together. It’s just about this idea of one word going into another. I_picked_up_a_lot_about_dramatic_structure.

And then the next part is: “from doing my scenes in acting class.” ‘From doing my scenes’, ‘from doing my scenes’, from_doing_my_scenes. Almost all connections here are consonant to consonant, right? from_doing_my_scenes. So when you practice it, just make sure that you’re not separating the words. It’s not ‘from’ ‘doing’ ‘my’ ‘scenes’, but from_doing_my_scenes.

And then: i_nacting_class, i-nak-ting, i-nak-ting – the N becomes the beginning of the next word. i-nak-ting. It’s almost like we’re creating new words that are comprised of a bunch of other words. i-nak-ting-klas. Let’s do this one together: ‘I picked up a lot about dramatic structure from doing my scenes in acting class’.

And one last one. “I just said hi”. ‘I just said hi’. Again, another example of ‘just’ that is reduced. The T is dropped and it’s connected to the next word: ai-j’s-said-hi, everything’s connected. ai-j’s-said-hi. I just said connected speech.

All right. Now I wanna hear from you, on a scale of 1 to 10, how hard is it for you to connect words together or even to think about it? 1 – being very, very, very hard, “I never connect my words together and I don’t know how to do it.” To 10 – “Oh, I always connect my speech”, whether you practiced it or it comes organically to you.

Now, I do want you to remember that in your native language, you are very likely connecting the words together without even thinking about it, because that happens in any language. But sometimes when we learn a new language, we try to be clear or we don’t know exactly how to do it or we structure the sentence differently, and we end up separating the words. And like I showed you, sometimes it’s not helpful to do that, on the contrary.

So, in the upcoming week, I want you to think about this idea of connected speech. I want you to think about this idea of keeping your voice going as you’re speaking, especially when you say small parts inside the sentence. And of course, practice with this video a few times until you start feeling it and enjoying it more and more.

Thank you so much for being here. If you don’t follow me on my other social channels, then I’m inviting you to do that. We have my podcast – the InFluency podcast, you can listen to it on your favorite podcast platform, I release there two episodes a week.

You can also sign up for my newsletter to get my weekly lesson to your inbox every single day, along with special things that are happening or events that are happening inside of our community. And you can connect with me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway, or TikTok – @hadarshemeshenglish, where I share daily, fun and helpful content.

Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I will see you next week in the next video.

The InFluency Podcast
274. Connected speech in English: How to use it to sound even clearer
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Learn more about stressed and reduced words in English with these videos:

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for all the enthusiasm you give us to keep learning ! You do a great job and have such a great pronunciation !! 🤗

  2. Hello Hadar

    So entusiatic to learn English with you .
    I love it
    I am learning a lot with your podcasts

    Thank you so much

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