English Communication Confidence Blog

De-Emphasized Words in American English

Apr 29, 2022

Have you gotten a strong handle on the theory behind word emphasis, but you still aren't as successful as you'd like when it comes to highlighting your focus words. Try practicing de-emphasis as a way to get there. 


Video Transcript:

Hi everybody. It's Jill Diamond. Welcome back to my YouTube channel. Today I want to talk about the importance of de-emphasized words. So often I focus on FOCUS words to make sure that you're emphasizing the right words when you speak. However, it's really important that you also know how to de-emphasize the words that are less important.


And this was a request that came in from @Hosam Medhat. So I want to thank you very much for your request. Here we go. So imagine this sentence. "The new job is going to be great for him. The new job is going to be great for him."


If you give equal stress and you say, "The new job is going to be great for him," it's a little hard to understand. Listen, again, "The new job is going to be great for him." So I'm emphasizing the focus words, but I'm not de-emphasizing the structure words. So listen to it now. "The new JOB is going to be GREAT for him. The new JOB is going to be GREAT for him." So I use the schwa sound to help me find the reduction in the structure words. It's really important, not only to emphasize the key words, but to de-emphasize the words that matter less. So remember to like to share, to subscribe to my channel, and thank you so much for watching today.


Check out these FAQs related to today's post:

Q. When reading out loud in English, how can I know if I am emphasizing and de-emphasizing words correctly?

A. One trick that I love is reading out loud quietly. The lower our volume, the less vibration we get in our heads. That vibration can distract us and make it harder to hear ourselves. When we lower the volume, we can tune into our voice and we can even think better which can allow us to use the American accent tools better. So, find one of your favorite authors, pick up a business journal, or you can even try a children's book and start reading out loud highlighting the information words. Then, you can read the same section again and put your attention on the Structure Words. But this time, remember that those words have less emphasis. That means, they're shorter in length, they have less volume, and the pitch is lower, too. And finally, take out that audio recording app on your smartphone and record yourself reading the passage in a regular volume. Listen back and see if you got the contrast between stressed and unstressed words. 

Q. How often should I practice this exercise?

A. Contrast between stressed and unstressed syllables and words is one of the hardest things for non-native English speakers to get. So, the more you can practice, the better you'll get. To avoid burnout, however, make your practice sessions short. Our brains remember what we need them to do through repetition. That means it's less about the length of time you spend in your studies and more about the consistent and repetitive nature of your studies. Does that make sense? So, mark your calendar, if you are like me, for five minutes/3-4 times a week. You can write fun phrases on your agenda like: "Word Stress Practice," or "American Accent Time." But, whatever you do, it's about frequency more than the length of each practice session. Good luck!

Q. What is a trick to doing this right?

A. Well, how about pulling out all the information words first and saying them in a loud, long, and melodic way. Then, take all the structure words (those ones that you want to de-emphasize) and say them, JUST THEM, in a quieter, shorter, less melodic way. You can go back to just the information words and then just the structure words until you can string the whole sentence together with rhythm contrast. The idea is that you'll remember the volume, length, and pitch of each of the words. Below is the breakdown of which words fall into which categories just in case you'd like some help there. Go after it!


new job be great 


The is going to be for him

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