English Communication Confidence Blog

Use A Poem To Learn the American Accent

May 25, 2022

Are you looking for a methodology that will truly help you learn the rhythm and intonation patterns of American English? In today's post, Jill outlines the components of her approach to English Communication Confidence to help you make great strides with your accent and your spoken English. 


Video Transcript:

Hey everybody. It's Jill Diamond. And today I want to talk to you about limericks. Limericks are poems, and poems are a really great way to introduce all of the speaking tools that you've been learning on my YouTube channel. So listen, rhythm is in a poem. Emphasis, when you get the rhyme: street, beat, feet.

Melody, right? Being able to highlight those words, you need to highlight them, highlight those words by using melody, by using length and volume. Also, you want to remember what the pausing,when we have a poem, we pause at the end of each line, we pause and then we pull you back into the message.

And that's the power of thought chunking; it's the pause and pulling you back into what's coming next.

After the pause, we have to have flow, so that every phrase has a movement towards that key word. So if the key word is street, we have to flow: a messenger man in the street. Man in the, man in the, man in the street.

It's really essential. And then finally diction. Again, I always emphasize how important the vowel sounds are. We lengthen the words. We emphasize our words on vowels. So whether you're saying street, beat, feet or loud/crowd, you've got to get the shape of the vowels. That's your number one goal.

If you don't know what a limerick is and you want to work with a limerick, you can work with this one right here. Just practice getting the rhyme, getting the rhythm, getting the emphasis, the pause, the melody. All of the things that you have been learning and know about speaking American English, apply them to a poem.

Have fun doing it. Make learning English fun.


Check out these FAQs related to today's post:

Q. What are your American Accent speaking tools exactly?

A. I've mentioned most of them above, but let me lay it out here:

1. Thought Chunking: This is where we look at pausing, emphasis, and pacing to communicate confidence. Doing it well facilitates thinking and establishes trust with our listeners.  

2. Emphasis: We have structure, information, and focus words. Knowing the right words to emphasize in a sentence delivers messages clearly and accurately.  

3. Rhythm: This is the syllable contrast that is required of stress-timed languages like English. Using the correct syllable stress is at the foundation of being understood by native English speakers.

4. Melody: American English is musical and applying the musical patterns of sentences with correct stepping & gliding allows for native-like speech. 

5. Diction: Clear pronunciation is essential to sounding professional and building rapport with others. You get the most bang for the buck by focusing on the shape of the vowel sounds.

6. Flow: Native English speakers connect and reduce words all the time to create fluency. It times back to the rhythm of the language and will help you to sound more like a native English speaker. 

Is there another way to practice rhythm different from poems?

Q. Do musicians learn the rhythm of English more easily than non-musicians? 

A. We could say yes. Musicians are taught specifically about the value of musical notes and those values are similar to the value of stressed and unstressed syllables when we talk about the rhythm of a language. What is a musical note? Well, we have whole, half, and quarter, as a starting point. We would hold the whole note for a count of four. The half note for a count of two, and a quarter note for a count of one.  These all translate into the length of a stressed word or even the length of a silent pause. So, all of the musical theory that musicians are taught definitely helps them to be more adept at applying rhythm to their spoken English. 

Q. Besides poetry, what other ways are there to practice the American accent?

A. So many! You can sing along with songs. You can listen to audio books and mimic the voice of the speaker. You can watch Ted Talks and read along with the transcripts. But, one of my most favorite ways for you to practice all of my speaking tools is to read children's books. I especially like Dr. Seuss. You need to read them with the correct cadence and word emphasis. Dr. Seuss even has books for adults. Check him out online. 

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