American INTONATION – What They don’t Teach You in School | The Secrets of Native Speakers
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American INTONATION – What They don’t Teach You in School | The Secrets of Native Speakers


Hi. What’s up? How are you? Hey guys, it’s
Hadar and this is The Accent’s Way. Today we are going to talk about American
intonation. Now I know that usually in this channel I talk about pronunciation,
but don’t get me wrong. American intonation is not less
important, and sometimes more important, than pronunciation and this is why I
figured it is time to talk about American intonation. So today I’m going
to open the wonders of American intonation so you can start listening to
English rather differently. When we talk about intonation we are talking about
three things. One is the melody – the music of the language. When I go up in pitch.
When I go down – “Ha-dar” – tuh-TAH. If I take away the words and I just play it, it’s
just like a song or a tune that I’m playing – Tah ta-ta-dah ta ta-ta-dah-ta-tah. So when you’re listening to English or when you’re speaking English you also
want to consider the melody, the notes that you’re using. We’re also going to
talk about stress. Stress is what words you choose to stress in a given sentence.
What are you doing? Or, what are you doing? ‘What’ verses ‘doing’. While there are some
patterns and a neutral way of saying things, there’s also a lot of freedom. Of
course, it depends on the context, the attitude, and many other things, but you
first need to know the building blocks and the basis of what words are usually
stressed and what words are not stressed for the most part. Now, lastly, we have
rhythm. Rhythm is the real deal. Its the feel of the language. It’s really owning
it once you start using American rhythm. Now, you have to understand that English
is a perfect balance between the long versus short, the high versus low, the
stressed versus the effortless, and when you are able to balance between all
these things in an effortless and clear way, this is when you
become a strong speaker who is able to communicate their message in a clear and
confident way. Now today, we’re going to discuss all of these elements but in the
future I will release more in-depth videos about each and every subject with
many, many examples and more explanation. Before we talk about these elements, I
want to talk about the different types of words. So, in English, actually in any
language, the words in the language are divided into two main groups: content
words and function words. Content words are words that deliver the content nouns,
like ‘sister’, ‘table’, ‘school’; verbs ‘go’, ‘run’ ‘swim’, ‘think’; adjectives ‘beautiful’, ‘red’,
‘clean’; and adverbs ‘slowly’, ‘sometimes’, ‘beautifully’ and ‘fast’. The other group is
function words. These are all the small words that connect content words. They’re
essential to create a grammatically correct sentence, but when they stand
alone they don’t signify anything. We don’t know exactly what they mean. We are
talking here about prepositions like ‘on’, ‘in’, ‘at’; verb be – ‘am’, ‘is’, ‘are’; articles ‘a’, ‘an’; determiners like ‘the’, ‘this’, ‘that’. These are the words that non-native speakers
struggle with when they’re trying to construct a sentence because, is it “have been”, “has been”, “had been”? So, when we speak, there is always a strong preference towards
stressing content words. Content words are the important words. If you say “had
been” versus “have been” the message is still going to be clear. But, if you say “red”
instead of “blue”, that’s something completely different. So content words
are always more important and that’s how we treat them when we think about
intonation because content words are the words that are stressed usually, whereas
function words are unstressed. And not only that they’re
unstressed, they were reduced to a point that it’s even not clear anymore and
I’ll give you a few more examples in a second. Let’s take for example the
sentence, and I’m going to say it broken down a little bit, “The glass is on the
table.” “The glass is on the table.” And now I’m gonna talk about all three elements:
melody, word stress and rhythm. So first of all stress. We need to decide what are
the stressed words in the sentence. So let’s first recognize what are the
content words. “The glass is on the table.” we have ‘glass’ and ‘table’, two nouns. And
these are the words that I’m going to stress in this sentence. Not every
content word is stressed the same, but for now let’s agree that these two words
are the words that I choose to stress. This is where melody and rhythm comes
into play. Stressed words are higher in pitch and longer. Higher in pitch, so they
get a higher note TAH-dah. The first note was higher in pitch – TAH-dah –
and they’re longer. Okay. “The GLASSs is on the TABLE.” So notice that I raised the
pitch for ‘glass’ and ‘table’. “The glass is on the table.” Okay. So in terms of melody,
when words are stressed they’re also higher in pitch. Now one more thing I
want to tell you about melody is that every syllable receives a different note
in English. It is not “The glass is on the table” – ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. “The
glasses on the table.” It’s not “The GLASS is ON the TABLE.” Its not every word is
going up and down, but I choose the stress words and then these are the
words that are going to be higher in pitch and from there I either go down or
I go up. Every syllable takes me one step lower or higher. In this case, “The GLASS
is on the” – so I keep going down because these
are not stressed words – “TAY”, I’m starting a new word that is stressed so I’m gonna
go high in pitch. “TAY-ble”. “The glass is on the table.”
So that’s melody what words I choose to stress and go high in pitch for. Now,
while we choose to shine on the content words, the words that bring the content,
in this case glass and tea bowl, by going higher in pitch and prolonging them,
function words play a smaller role in this show. They are reduced. We kind of
want to hide them. We want to reduce them to a point where they don’t interfere or
they don’t compete with content words. So, if we’re going back to “The glass is on
the table”, function words are “the”, “is”, “on”, and another “the”. We reduce the vowel
in those words to a schwa. A schwa is a really reduced vowel sound. It sounds
something like this: “uh”. To make the sound, we just drop the jaw a little bit, the
tongue rests on the bottom of the mouth the lips are relaxed, and we release
sound – “uh” “uh”. So the vowels and the function words reduce through this “uh” sound.
Therefore the word “the”, okay we don’t say “thee glass”, we say “thuh glass.” So the vowel
there is a schwa sound – “thuh” “thuh” – and we connected it. It feels as if
it’s one word “the glass”. “Is” turns into “uhz”. “On” turns into “uhn”, and again we have
another “thuh”. So it’s not “is on the”, its “zun-thuh”, “zun-thuh”. We reduce the vowel and we
connect the words together – “zun-thuh”, “zun-thuh”. “Th’glass z’n’th table”. “The glass on the table.” “The glass on the table.” Now notice what happens, the “is” merges with “the glass” – “the glass’z”. “On” becomes ‘mm’ – “the glass’z’m”. The N and TH connect – “the glass’n’th”. Okay? So we can like took these three words and squeeze them
into one utterance “zun-thuh” “zun-thuh”. “The glass on the table.” So you get a sentence that
is a perfect balance between the high and the low – “glass is on the” – between the
long and the short – “glass is” – right? “Glass” is long, although it’s one syllable, and
“is” is really reduced and also the stress. So I invest more energy and I say a little
louder – “GLASS z’n’th” – to be able to connect the words and to reduce them I have to
say the consonants softer – okay? It’s not enough so I have to invest less
energy in those function words to be able to go through them smoothly and
then be ready for the next content word where I’m gonna go higher pitch and I’m
gonna prolong them. Let’s look at another example, what if I told you that five
words can be shorter than one word with one syllable. Five words are going to be
shorter than one word with one syllable. How? Let’s look at the next example: What
are you going to do? The “do” is the verb here and that’s the word that I’m going
to stress, okay? Stress? Check! I know what word I’m
stressing. Then, I know that in terms of melody, this word is going to be higher
in pitch because that’s the word I want to stress – “do” “do”. So I already know the
ending. The beginning is a bunch of function words, so I’m going to reduce
them. “What” turns into “wh’t”. “Are” turns into “r”. “You” turns into “yuh”. “Going” to turns
into “gunna” “gunna”. So instead of saying “what are you going to”, we say “wadaya gonna” “wadaya gonna”. “Wadaya gonna do?” “Wadaya gonna do?” “Wadaya gonna do?” “Wadaya gonna do?” “Wadaya gonna do?” So the “do” is longer than the entire first part of the sentence. It’s longer
than the entire sentence because five words versus one, one word with one
syllable is longer than the first five, and this is why it’s important to
remember that rhythm is a result of your message – what you’re trying to say. The
words that you stress are going to be longer and louder and higher in pitch.
The words that are less important for delivering your message are going to be
reduced to allow everything else to stick out. In many languages, every
syllable has the same beat. It doesn’t matter if it’s a content word or a
function word, if it’s stressed or unstressed, it receives the same length.
So a sentence like this is going to sound something like “what are you going
to do”, “what are you going to do.” Okay? So “do” is gonna be super short. “What” is going to have the same length. “To” have the same length as “do” – “what
are you going to do” – and then it’s hard to understand what is the important part
here. Okay, of course it’s a simple sentence but if we’re talking about more
complex sentences and there is no hierarchy between the words, it’s really
hard to get your point. “What are you gonna do” “what are you gonna do” “what are you going to do” “what are you gonna do”. Let’s take a look at a sentence with
several content words: There are three coins in the box. “There are three coins
in the box” Here, I chose to stress “coins” and “box”, so these words are high in pitch.
“There are three COINS in the BOX.” “There are” “there are” “there are” – that’s reduced – “there’r three coins in the box.” “N-thuh” “N-thuh” “N-thuh” – also reduced.
“There are three coins in the box.” I can also say “There are THREE coins in the box.” And when you
hear that you know that maybe someone else thinks that there are five coins. No,
there are three coins in the box. Why are you confusing me? There are three coins.
Why did you say there were five? Okay, so it’s the same sentence but
stressing a different word means something slightly different. Now, I want
you to listen up here, and this is really important. When we speak with a foreign
accent, what we do is we apply patterns that we know from our native tongue on to
English. We don’t do it consciously, its just that’s what comes out organically.
Now if we do that, if the patterns of our native tongue are different from English
and sometimes contradictory to the patterns of English, the result is that
the stress is not going to be clear. The message is not going to be clear, because
if you’re applying external intonation and stressing things, let’s say at the
beginning rather than the end, and in English you want to stress the ending
usually, then what happens is that you end up stressing the wrong words.
although you know how to construct the sentence,, the words are accurate, you
don’t make any grammar mistakes. But if you don’t distinguish the right words, if
you don’t stress the right words, if you don’t put the emphasis on the words that
are stressed then you become unclear then people may get something that is a
little different from what you mean. So understanding that, recognizing your
patterns, and listening to how native speakers speak, really helps you
understand how English should be spoken and advances you in becoming a stronger,
a more confident and a clearer speaker. Now I want to ask you – what, from
everything that I discussed today, melody, rhythm, stress, is the most challenging
for you? What are you still struggling with? Please let me know in the comments
below and don’t forget to tell me where you’re from
and what is your native tongue and I will do my best to create more content
and lessons that will help you resolve all the issues that you’re facing. Thank
you so much for watching. Please share the video with your friends if you liked
it and you think that they may benefit from it. And don’t forget to subscribe to
my YouTube channel and click on the bell to get notifications so you know when I’m releasing a new video. Have a wonderful week and I
will see you next week in the next video.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “American INTONATION – What They don’t Teach You in School | The Secrets of Native Speakers

  1. American Intonation is the missing link in Spoken English for non-native speakers! it is not always addressed in English studies although it is one of the most important elements of speech.
    Let me know what is the most important element for YOU? Is it stress? Rhythm? Or melody?

  2. I really like your videos. Anna has a tutorial as well. She said that she learned with your audios. They can help us, and I am sure this is true. Thank you so much. Well, about the question I think is melody and rhythm and not stress.

  3. Melody. Only melody. Everything else is 10% of importance, but gets 90% of time in videos like this.
    Eastern Europe.

    Once I find a helpful video, I will post a link here.

  4. Hi dear
    I'm from Iran. The melody is the confusing point for me.
    It was extremely helpful for me i will focus more and will be mor careful when I want to speak. Thank you🌹

  5. I’m come from Taiwan. The rhythm is hard for me. I’m trying to figure out what’s the difference between native speaker and me these days. I never thought reduce vowel sound is a problem! This video is really helpful for me.

  6. Please, more videos about that content .. I am Egyptian English teacher..I 've been working for 6 years & this will be my 7th .. I ve a problem with speaking fluently in a correct accent .. you are amazing in delivering information
    Thanks a lot for your efforts⚘🌿🤩

  7. Great video! I am a native speaker who has taught English for 15 years and you had me spellbound. Really useful, clearly explained material. Keep it up!

  8. Hello, My name is Murod. I guess my stressing skill is not good enough to emphasize the point of my words. and lack of practicing for speaking makes my English level weird. I'm from Uzbekistan.

  9. Wow wow wow I started to study English in 1992 and that is my first time hearing a professor teaching these fundamentals intonation points Thank you, God bless you.

  10. To learn a language the hardest is the syntax structure. As a native Spanish speaking person,the accents and cadence of a Germanic English intonation is strenuous.My cousin, autodidact, learned by the way of the movies, claiming that Ronald Colman was his teacher.He was born in the 1920s. Professor Hadar,I'm elderly, how can, one learn and internalize the English syntax? The rest ,I think , is academic. My Grammar is written, as I think in Spanish…

  11. From Egypt
    We give every sallaple the same beat sadly in our native language
    So i think speaking English will be a little bit different and difficult so i need your help please

  12. Hi, I’m a russian speaker and your videos are very helpful. Easy to understand how to sound like american english native speaker. Thank you 😊

  13. My native language is Persian. Been teaching English for 15 yrs and still not satisfied with my accent. Your clip was so informative and I wonder if you could go for more in a sentence. For instance: a longer sentence that you mention a reason or you state your opinion on something abstract and it takes at least 10 seconds of speech production. Aside from the pause, division, intonation and voice quality, how can I advance in a way that native speakers wouldn't feel that I am a non-native? Surprisingly, when I go with British accent, on the phone, fewer would guess that. I mean in British, one has the luxury of time so maybe he can pay more conscious time to his accent. I would appreciate it if you tell me what you think.
    Thank you very much for the video

  14. I’m from Korea. First of all, thank you so much for making this so meaningful video and sharing with us. I’m so grateful that I happen to know this video. I will never give up and keep studying with you! Thank you so much😭♥️

  15. I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but I never heard anyone say the C in adjective. It's more like "a-jə-tivs". However, I'm only going by what I've heard.

  16. Portuguese is the type of language you mentioned at 12:00, a syllable-based language. That's why Brazilians speaking English sound very "linear". I never knew how to teach them to sound more natural, but I'm gonna use these tricks now. Americans, on the other hand, pronounce Portuguese with an up and down intonation.

  17. I'm from Kazakhstan and my native language kazakh and It belongs to the Turkic-speaking group

  18. This is very informative, ma'am. Kudos! Subbed to your channel. 😀

    I have a question, though. How are pronouns stressed?

  19. Hi Hadar…I'm from Belfast in Ireland. Did you know that sometimes, as in this video, you speak with a Belfast accent? You say 'strass' and 'affort' instead of stress and effort. Cool!

  20. I am from China ,when I speank english ,I feel that I cannot speak it clearly,and I don't have words in my mind, and I try to imitate ur rhythm stress ,I just feel so weired to speak like that.

  21. Hi ma'am I am Harish Kurrey from India and I have never 🐝 to English medium school but I love English my native English is Hindi and Chhattisgarhi when I speak I don't find words or vocabulary and I feel very sad please help me ma'am I hope you will teach me I love you very much ma'am

  22. What an awesome lesson!
    I'm Brazilian and I speak Portuguese.
    I have such a hard time speaking words that is similar to Latin words, like: psychological (psicológico), exaggerated (exagerado). I never know where I should stress the syllable.

    Thank you for the video. It'll help me improving my listening and comprehension.

  23. I’m from Saudi Arabia and I struggle with intonation, but I’ve been following your videos for a while and my dream is to have an American English accent like yours

  24. Your online lessons have been outstanding! I need you to have a lesson on how to pronounce tt when it comes between two vowels.
    I need you to put more clarification on how to pronounce them as accurately as a native speaker. It would be great if you describe it with tongue movements as you have described that in your recent pronunciation lesson.
    Thanks a million,

  25. Hey Hadar, it's really an interesting topic. I hope to see more videos about function words pronunciation and how they reduced in fast speaking?

  26. Watching your videos I get more and more convinced that you're like the messiah of English teaching. The way you do things on this channel is something unconveyable by words. Thank you

  27. Hi Hadar, I'm from India. I've been in your facebook community for 3 months, it's really helpful. I think I'm fluent, I make people understand what I'm trying to explain, but still, I've an Indian accent.

  28. Thank you! I love how you were able to amphasize the "important" words conveying the real message and the rhythm or tone it gives the the sentence.. thank you again. Keep up the great work .. we love you for it 🙂

  29. More than pronunciation, that’s not the matter right now, because you’re doing an excellent explanation; it’s the lady’s speech you’re pointing as an example in this video . I don’t know what’s the main point she is looking for, but really was driving me almost crazy.

  30. I was loving this video until you taught the audience to smash the "is on the" functions words together until they were nearly inaudible. This is somewhat misleading. Although the concept of relating speech to music is great, "is on the" still needs to be audible and "what are you going to do" is NOT equal to gunna do. "Gunna do" is spoken in parts of America, but in many parts it has a negative connotation and could be considered lazy, improper English. It can also make the speaker seem uneducated. I am a native American speaker from Chicago Illinois. Thank you in advance for allowing my feedback. All in all, I really enjoy your videos, you are very good at explaining things and I like how you encourage students to find their own voice. Learning another language is huge and the world can use more teachers like you. Thank you!

  31. "Content words are stressed usually! Stressed words are higher in pitch and longer." I am from Korea. I am struggling with the stressed words. Thanks!

  32. ur fucking smart!! super useful! the depth of analysis is awesome, the smartness is slightly turning me on 😉 Just wondering if ur analysis was inspired by 'tajweed'!?

  33. I wish I can make my supervisor watch this video. She needs to sound a little more American when she speaks cuz we're always having problems understanding her. Even her emails have accent too. LOL. She constructs English sentences in an odd way. It's very frustrating cuz she gets offended every time we ask her to repeat what she just said. I have a slight foreign accent but I can communicate very well with native speakers.

  34. When I see you , I see you similar to Rachel English.

    It's no bad. 😀 YOU ARE GREAT TEACHERS BOTH!!!

    Follow so. I love your videos.

  35. Very essential topic for speaking or understanding the English from natives
    language. Thank you so much ❤️

  36. New subscriber here! Thank you for this video! I'm from the Philippines. This is very relevant in my job as a Customer Service Representative as I always talk to native English speakers over the phone.

  37. Thanks for your video, It taught me a lot. Cuz I was born in Hong Kong, I don’t have too much chances speaking in English. Could you suggest any methods that I can practice the intonation by myself? Thanks a lot

  38. Thanks a lot. I watched your video again in a long time. I had a question.
    I am form South Korea and I speak Korean.
    There are 2 sentences. “The glass is on the table.” and “The glass is on the table.”
    I reckon the words, on and under, are very important and stressed, so the contents words.
    What do you think about this?

  39. Teacher, your are a wounder girl…….how fast your are speaking…..and since i start to watch you r videos i too start to imitate your style……..i really like it…………….I am form India.- KERALA …working in ABU DHABI………..THANKS for your mind blowing style of teaching…………

  40. I like your video!For real ,that is the best video to talk abou America intonation from I ever seen,And u are so confident,and that is the one of the reasons I like U,hope u can do morrre video like this ,I come f China ,and I’m your big fans now😂

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