English Communication Confidence Blog

Use Linking To Speak Like An American

Mar 30, 2022

Speaking like a native English speaker requires mastering the connection between words in order to get the rhythm and flow. Jill knows just the trick inside today's post.


Video Transcript

Hey everybody. It is Jill Diamond. And I am here this week and weeks to come to talk to you about Flow. Because I know that most of you who come to my channel, you know, you're fluent in the language, and the clients that I work with, one-on-one coaching that I provide, everybody knows the language well. They do business in English. They know the vocabulary, they know the grammar and quite frankly, their accent is not very strong. It's just something that they want to work on to improve themselves, to make it easier for others to understand them. For... So people will stop asking them to repeat themselves. Whatever your reason is for wanting to improve your English, you know that fluency, the flow of how you speak, it means that you have to have a connection between the words. One word has to connect to the other until you get to that point where you pause and you highlight a word.


So many of my advanced speakers and my clients that I work with, they still have challenges with this, the connection between words. And so I want to share this with you. Let's pull up this exercise here. Okay. So there are a series of sentences here that over the next few weeks,  I'm gonna come in here and I'm gonna do this backward sentences exercise with you. I'm sure some of you, if you've watched my YouTube channel, you've seen my flow exercise where I'm teaching how to say a sentence, one simple sentence. And the one sentence that many of you may already know is the board members will need to come in from out of town. That's the sentence that I've worked with many times. Well, now I have a handful of other sentences, and today we're going to work on this first one.


Okay. We're going to focus our attention on the first sentence. And I'm going to show you specifically how to connect, where to connect. And I'm going to show you how to lengthen and where to reduce sounds and how to use gliding and melody. So we're going to kind of be putting it all together here. Let me come over here. Let me just make my video a little bigger, easier for you so you can see me better. All right. So first thing I need you to do is I need you to read the sentence. Just read it forward from the word, "Please" to the word "train." Please save me a seat on the train. Okay, good. Now let's learn it. Let's learn how to emphasize and link and connect and use all the Flow techniques. So the first thing we need to do is we need to come in here and say, Ah, here is an information word, train. Here is another information word, seat. Another one here. Finally, another one here. So these four words. First, we identify that these are the important words. Please save me a seat on the train. You can try to say it, go ahead.


And now I want to teach you something, right. In backward sentences. What we do is we start with the end in mind. What is the most important word? Where is that focus word. In this case, It's train. So I want you to say that word and I want you to hold the vowel, train. Can you go ahead and do that? Good. Now we don't want to lose that because that's where we're moving. That's where we're going. So what we're gonna do next is we're gonna look at this word--the-- and what we're not going to do is we're not gonna say THE. We're not gonna say THE. We're gonna change it to a schwa sound and say THA. Say that, THA. And then we're going to connect it and we're going to remember to use melody and gliding on the focus word. On the train, try it. Again. The train.


Good. Now we need to take these two syllables, which are very short because they're structure words. They're not as valuable. We have to say on the, on the, on the. Can you say that? Good. Do it a few times. On the, on the, on the. And now we keep going to this word... On the train, try it. On the train. So we, we keep these, let me, let me grab my pen over here and show you, right? So these are what we would consider to be short sounds. And then this one we want to be long. And then when we get to this noun, we say, oh okay, well I gotta have another long word, seat.


Dah. Dah da da DAH.


I'm playing with the length. Seat on the train. Now how do I get these two words to connect? We have to use the flap sound. That /t/, the American T, becomes an American flap sound in this case. dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And if you look here, you see the tip of my tongue touches right behind my teeth. Seadon, Seadon, Seadon. I'm not saying SeaDon with a hard D and I'm not saying seat on with a T, maybe in a British way. No, I'm saying it in an American way with a flap sound. Da, da, da, da, da. And I touch the tip of the tongue right behind the gum Ridge. And I do it quickly. Da, da, da, da, da. Seadon, Seadon, Seeeeadon. Okay? Try it.


And then what needs to happen here is we need to get that, that rhythm: Seadon the TRAIN. Try that. So we have long short, short, long. Seadon the train. If you want to use your hands, maybe it'll help. Seadon the train. You could use your hand that way seadon the train. You can throw a frisbee on the word train. But the most important thing is you getting that contrast seadon the train. Try it. Okay, good. Now we're going to add the schwa and you're not going to say A, like the letter A. You're gonna say a, a, a, a seat. A ,a, a, a seat. And try that repetition. A ,a, a, a seat.


Good. And then let's try putting this together. A Seadon the TRAIN. Yes, now one of the reasons we use backward sentences, why I created this exercise is so that you can start to identify where the challenge is in your mouth, where are you having a hard time connecting and having that flow? Maybe for you. It's that flap sound. Maybe you really like to say the letter a instead of u. Whatever it is, you want to listen a, a, a seat, a, a, a seat. And you want to repeat that. A Seadon, a Seadon. You want to isolate the sections until they're perfect. A Seadon the TRAIN. Okay, good. Let me show you something else that's very cool. Now, when we connect these two words, we add a sound and the sound that we add, there's a reason we add this /y/ sound. We're adding, I want you to say for me, ya. Like you, yes, yesterday. And I want you to feel how that first sound happens back here. Ya, ya. Yes, you, yesterday. You feel that? Now the reason we're going to use this as a link, a way to connect these two structure words is because me, /e/, when I say /e/ get, I pull back the muscles and I get very close to that /y/ sound E-ya E-ya E-ya. E and then, ya. But don't separate them.


E-ya. E-ya.


Can you hear that? E-ya, E-ya, E-ya. Say it quickly. E-ya, E-ya, E-ya. Play with it. E-ya, E-ya, E-ya. Good, and now what we're going to do is we're going to put the M there and we're going to say Me-ya, Me-ya, Me-ya, Me-ya, Me-ya Me-ya seat. Try that. Me-ya seat. You see, that's one of the flow techniques. It's that, it's that linking. And this is something you want to know when we have an E sound, we're close to the ya. And if the following word starts in a vowel, like the letter a or the word a we're connected with the Y with the Y sound. Yeah. You. Yes. Yesterday, Me-ya. And now say me-ya seat, me-ya Seadon the TRAIN. See if you can get this flap sound as well.


And then remember you gotta keep lengthening this word and using that melody me-ya Seadon the TRAIN. Try it again. Excellent. Now, so over here again, we have two short sounds, but now we're gonna get to these other long sounds. So what you're gonna do here is you're going to say for me saaave, and you're going to make that word long. Saaave saaave me-ya. Try that. Okay, good. Now we're going to go from, save all the way to seat. Save me-ya seat. Try that and try using your hands. Save me a seat. Almost like you're pulling the word. Save me a seat. Good. All right, good. Now we're going to get the flap on seat and we're going to go all the way to train. Check it out. Save me a seat on the train. Then maybe I reached for that word train. Save me a seat on the train. And I pull it back down. Try it.


And you can pause and you can try it a couple times, but now I want to teach you one other way that we're going to connect. I want, I want to show you something. Look at this. Please ends in an /s/. Save starts in an /s/. When one word ends in a sound and the second word starts with the same sound, instead of saying, "please save." Please save--and that changes the rhythm--Please save. I say the sound once and I say, "pleasssave." Notice that hissing sound, hold it. Pleasssave. Try it. Right? And now some of you might notice that in pronunciation, this sounds more like a /z/, please. vibration. We have a vibration here, please. However, this word is, is an /s/. Looks like an /s/, sounds like an /s. This one looks like an /s/, sounds like a /z/. Okay. Save and please. It's produced the same way.


The only difference is the vocalization. And because of that, we need to say the sound once and we're going to say it like an /s/. Pleasssave. Pleasssave. You hear how I'm holding that /s/ and it's hissing. Try that say for me: Pleasssave. So the way we do it is we hold onto the vowel a little bit longer and then we get that /s/--pleasssave. And then we hold the /s/. Pleasssave. Try it. Good. Now we have that long, long, short, short, long. Pleasssave me-ya seat. Pleasssave me-ya seat. Pleasssave me-ya seat. And you can reach if you want, but we're really going to go for the reach on train. So listen to this "Pleasssave me-ya seadon the TRAIN. Pleasssave me-ya seadon the TRAIN." Try it.


I'm exhausted. I don't know about you, but we probably spent like 10 minutes talking about one sentence. So if I can take this time to make this video for you. You can take this time to work on this one sentence, because if you start to master and understand, where are the links? Where's the American flap sound? Where is the reduction of the word to or the word the? You can start to feel it. And when you feel it, when you feel that flow in your body, you feel it, you hear it. You start to listen for it when you're speaking. You know when you're not doing it. So that's the goal is to practice it. And I'm gonna come back I'm gonna do more sentences for you so we can really focus in on flow and fluency. I know how important that is for all of you, because you're fluent in the language.


Check out these FAQs related to today's post:

Q. Do I practice American English linking slowly or quickly?

A. Both. You can try it quickly and if things come out smoothly, you are good to go. If however, you notice ANY hesitation in attempting this fluency technique, you need to isolate the two words that you are trying to connect and identify the issue. Do you have trouble pronouncing a particular sound? Are you missing a linking sound that will help the connection sound fluid? What is the problem? One way to identify these challenges is to record yourself and listen back. I think you'll be more objective this way.  

Q. Why is the Backwards Sentences Exercise so effective when improving my American Accent?

I love this exercise. It's all about keeping the end in mind. In fact, opera singers learn how to manage their breath and vocal output by knowing the endpoint. When we start with the last word in the thought chunk (the FOCUS WORD), that word gets repeated each time we add a word to the thought. That repetition gets the brain to register the new information. Each time you say the phrase, you have the chance to get better and better at using all the speaking tools you need to connect and highlight words in your speech.  

Q. Can I practice linking reading books or news articles from the United States?

A. Practice linking everywhere you can. But reading out loud is the key. One idea you may like to add to your reading list is the subtitles (in English, of course) when you are watching movies. The idea is that the actors are speaking American English while you are reading the subtitles.  You listen for the ways they are linking and then you repeat after them. This is quite different from a listening comprehension exercise in English where you might like to watch the movie without subtitles. This is about recognizing what they are saying when they speak. You can listen for contractions, reductions, and the American Flap Sound too while you are at it. 

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