Have you ever noticed that words in American English seem to run together? They often don’t sound very separate. That might seem lazy to some, but in American English, it’s exactly what we want. A smooth line. You can’t sound relaxed and American with choppy speech.
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Today I simply want to introduce the concept of linking. I’ve had my blog for almost two years now, and have yet to explicitly mention this in a video as a topic. It’s high time. If everything else is pronounced correctly: stress, the particular sounds of a word, but words are not linked together, it will still sound pretty strange to native speakers. It will sound very choppy.
Let’s take for example the sentence, He told her to go to the park today. He told her to go to the park today. He told her to go to the park today. That last time I said it, I tried to put a tiny pause between each word. He told her to go to the park today. He told her to go to the park today. Can you tell the difference? It’s an important first step to be able to hear the difference. To native speakers, this tiny gap between each word sounds very choppy. He told her to go to the park today. To me that is very smooth. Can you hear that difference?
My students sometimes tell me that when they pronounce words and sentences that way, that it feels very sloppy. We’ll that’s ok. If your native language is really different from English, then when you pronounce English correctly, it might feel very strange in your mouth. Don’t be shy about that. Linking is related to reduction, or reducing sounds. What is reduction? As you may already know from other videos, words in English will either be stressed or unstressed. Unstressed words and syllables may be reduced. This means that a sound is either left out or changes.
For example, the word ‘can’ has the ‘aa’ vowel [æ] sound. But, it might reduce. I can be there. Cn, cn. There the word ‘can’ is actually pronounced with the schwa [ə] sound: cn. So that is what I mean by reduction. I say that linking and reduction are related. And that is because if you are reducing something, you’re either leaving off a sound or substituting a quicker vowel in order to make that word very short. If you’re making it very short, you don’t want to make your phrase longer by adding gaps. So linking is the idea that you will take all the words of a sentence and you won’t put any gaps between for a smooth and fluid sound.
For example, in the sentence I can be there by three. I-c, I-c: you can hear how the kk sound of the second word is attached to the first word: I-c, I-c. There is no break between those words. I can be there by three. So keep this in mind as you listen to native speakers and do your best to imitate it. There will be videos in the future that will cover specific concepts in linking and reduction to help you practice this. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.