Mastering a second language doesn't come without challenges, right? Sometimes we need to compartmentalize the learning to really get good at the individual parts. But, once you are an advanced speaker of English, it's essential to grasp how the components of speech work together. Let me show you how some of the frameworks inside The Diamond Method support one another.
The Relationship Between English Rhythm & Fluency
There are 6 Frameworks within The Diamond Method. You may know them by now: Thought Chunking, Emphasis, Rhythm, Melody, Diction, and Flow.
In many of my programs, we go one by one through them to learn and apply how they function in American English. Here’s the thing though, in reality, these speaking tools must work together if you're gonna speak in a native-like way.
When they function as a whole, they offer a polished sound to your American Accent and allow you to communicate confidently in English.
And so today, I thought I’d talk about how Flow and Rhythm work inside of each Thought Chunk.
Essentially, English is a stress-timed language which means that we have long and short syllables throughout each phrase we speak.
If we start with the concept that each phrase we speak is a Thought Chunk, then we can look inside the Thought Chunk to see what’s happening as we communicate.
The Thought Chunk is a group of words that creates a meaningful thought. I’ll refer to it as a spoken phrase at times during this post.
The Flow is the connection between words within each Thought Chunk. Flow is comprised of four specific speech techniques: Contractions, Reductions, Linking, and The American Flap Sound.
And Rhythm. Rhythm is the result of having created Flow within each Thought Chunk.
You see, because English is a stress-timed language, we can't give equal stress to every syllable as is done with syllable-timed languages like French, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, and Turkish to name a few.
If you do not speak English with syllable contrast, you can sound robotic. The aim is to get the rhythm of each spoken phrase by using the flow techniques until you get to the emphasized FOCUS word.
Any time you reduce a word or link words together, you'll naturally make some syllables short and others long. Hence, you apply the correct rhythm to your speech.
Here's the trick, you have to speak each Thought Chunk on one breath. It's the continuous flow of air combined with the connection between words, that will give your spoken phrase fluency.
So let's go over some of the basic Flow techniques and see how they support rhythm.
The American Flap Sound
Unlike the Brits, Americans, quite often, switch up the /t/ sound for a soft /d/ when the /t/ is written between two vowels. There are other ways in which we create flap sounds in American English, but this is the primary one we'll look at today. We get the flap sound with a single, quick flip of the tongue against the gum ridge behind the upper front teach. Words like little, better, and water sound like lidle, beder, and wader with the faint /d/ sound.
When we do this correctly, we have long, stressed syllables, and short, schwa syllables. Perfect!
There's a myriad of ways American English speakers reduce words. I bet you're familiar with reductions like gonna and wanna. Yes? Going to becomes gonna and want to becomes wanna. The only way you’ll sound natural when you say these reductions is if you make one syllable long and the other short. Just like with the flap sound. Do you know which syllables need to be long in these two examples? Basically, we’ve taken the preposition to and reduced it to a schwa sound. That means that we have to lengthen the first syllables of the words because they represent the verb which is more important than the preposition. We’d say: Goooonna and Waaaanna.
Once again, when doing this properly, you create syllable contrast and thus you sound more native-like in your speech.
Linking is the most common way that we can get the rhythm of English. We've covered linking words before in previous blog posts with the study of phrasal verbs. One way we link words is by connecting the final consonant of one word with the first vowel of the next word.
For example, if you're asking what time is it you'd link the final two words together making it sound like this: what time isit?
Try saying that a few times. Did you notice how you were able to flow?
Here are some other examples you can practice saying:
Most of = mos tof or mostof. In this example, hold the first syllable and then quickly finish the word. Mooostof. One syllable is long and the other short.
Turn on = tur non or turnon. Same thing here, hold the first syllable and shorten the second one. Turrrrnon.
Keep going with these two examples with the same rhythm—long and then short.
Break up = brea kup or breakup
Find out = fin dout or findout
Remember, linking words does not mean that you've got to rush through words or speed up your talking. It's about syllable CONtrast. See what I did there?
Lastly, we contract words, like with every other flow technique, to get to the important content words within each Thought Chunk.
In fact, whatever Flow technique you’re using, the aim is always to use the correct rhythm of each spoken phrase to get to the emphasized FOCUS word.
By saying don't instead of do not, it's instead of it is, or can't instead of cannot, you're reducing the number of sounds needed to express the words thus allowing the natural rhythm of English pronunciation to occur.
(Oh, and let’s not forget that Americans are all about efficiency and the Flow techniques are all about efficiency 😉.)
And that brings us full circle. We’ve looked at how the Flow techniques create rhythm. And, we understand that this happens within every Thought Chunk.
Now, I hope you'll go out there and try it in the real world. Drop us a comment and let us know what you think!
Let's Stay Connected!
Subscribe to The English Communication Confidence Blog so that you can be the first to receive unique ways to polish your advanced English.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.