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Curious what makes a native speaker’s English sound so…American? Let my toddler explain it to you (seriously!)
You were taught that this word is pronounced want, right? But listen to how my toddler pronounces it I want it. Want it. No T. Did you learn t.hat pronunciation when you learned this word? Probably not. You probably learned the wrong pronunciation of so many words in English and it’s not your fault. It’s how English is taught. It’s so frustrating you were not given the full picture of English pronunciation when you learned English as a non-native speaker. Because when you learned a new word, there was a focus on reading, writing, and the letters, what you see not, what you hear. You have to learn totally different rules when it comes to speaking English, because it’s not just two-year-olds who say want without a T, in this phrase.
By the way, there are four different pronunciations of the T. Dropping it is just one of them, and we’ll talk about them all. Today, we’re going to study how my toddler speaks English. And we’re going to cover the main things you need to change, the main rules you need to know as a non-native speaker, to correct your pronunciation, to improve your fluency in spoken English. And as always, if you like this video, or you learned something new, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe with notifications. I’d love to see you back.
First, let me say, what’s wrong with having an accent when speaking a foreign language? Absolutely nothing. Accents, human diversity, they’re wonderful. But if the way you speak English is getting in the way of your communication, if you’re not reaching your own goals for yourself, then it’s a problem. Let’s not let this be what holds you back. My son, of course, is learning English only by hearing. He doesn’t get messed up by seeing or understanding letters, and how they might relate to sounds. I recently posted a video online of a conversation I had with him, and one of my students commented how she noticed he was naturally doing all these things it’s taken her years to work on. So she, like you, learned that this letter is pronounced ttt– T pronunciations, reductions, and linking, are the three main things we’ll talk about in this video. Sawyer, my son, does it all naturally. Most of my students don’t. I’ll make sure you know where to go to work on all of these things. You learned tt– a true T but I would say that’s the pronunciation, 10 maybe 20% of the time, so most of the time, it’s the wrong, less natural pronunciation. The rest of the time, it’s dropped, flapped, stopped, or turned into a CH. We’ve seen an example of dropping the T in: I want it. I want it.
I want it. I want it. He also drops it in the word just. I just want it now. I just want it. It’s really common to drop the T between two consonants, and that’s why he drops it in just. The next sound is the W consonant. Just want it. Last summer, for example, there, also very common to drop the T because it comes between two consonants. Last summer. I just want it. Let’s hear his phrase again.
I just want it now. Actually, just the other day, i told my four-year-old son, Stoney, to brush his teeth. You know what he said? I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I don’t want to.
He dropped the T in want, the T in don’t, the T in to. He said that phrase with no T’s. I don’t want to. All smoothly linked together, but all Ts dropped .i actually have a video that goes over N apostrophe T words, like don’t. That’s really helpful. I go over all the different ways the T might be pronounced in this particular word or set of words, so check that video out here, or by clicking the link in the video description.
Stoney, time to brush your teeth. I don’t want to.
Sawyer also changes the T pronunciation in the phrase ‘can you get it for me?’. Can you get it for me? Get it—becomes: get it, get it, get it, linking those two words with a flap T. Get it, get it, that’s very different from ttt–, get it, get it, get it, get it.
Let’s see it again.
Can you get it for me?
Get it. Get it. It sounds like a D between vowels in American English, doesn’t it? Get it, get it. That’s one of our T pronunciations, and it helps us speak English really smoothly, and that smoothness, and linking between words is a really important characteristic of American English, and that might be different than your native language. If you’ve watched a lot of my videos, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the different T pronunciations. But if you want a refresher, or if this idea is totally new to you, i’ve put together a playlist that goes over the different T pronunciations, and when you would want to use each one.
Now, in this phrase: Can you get it for me? He also did an important reduction, and reductions are another key issue you’ll want to study to make sure that you’re having more natural English pronunciation, to focus on English sounds, and how things are actually pronounced, not words or letters. It was this word, you probably learned it’s pronounced for, I doubt you learned that it’s pronounced but that’s how it’s pronounced most of the time. There’s a big difference between for and fr. Now with Sawyer here, I’ve slowed it down so you’re not going to hear it as short, but you’ll definitely hear it’s fur, and not for.
For– for– Can you get it for me?
You know, I had a student in my academy once, she lived in the US and she was married to an American. She told him about the academy and that she was training to change her habit to say fur instead of for. And he said, what? That’s not how we say it. Of course, he was wrong. We’re so unaware of our own habits. As an adult, he was also tied to the letters F-O-R even though he himself pronounced it as: for, for, as if it had no vowel at all. By the way she did catch him in conversation saying fr– and so she stopped him and pointed it out. She knew more about his pronunciation than he did. Okay, so for becomes fr, that’s a reduction, that means a sound changes or is dropped. This word and so many others, we almost always reduce them. Keep in mind, this is not bad English, sloppy English, lazy English, unclear English, this is actually the most clear English, the way all native speakers do it. Because American English is a stress-timed language, that means a contrast between long and short is very important, and reductions help us say these kinds of words very quickly. There are lots of common reductions in English. You can learn them. You can learn the reduction. And you can train that. You can be like Sawyer and say: for me, instead of: for me.
I have a playlist that goes over a lot of these and I also have a complete set of videos dedicated to reductions along with audio for training in my online school Rachel’s English Academy. If you want to learn more about the academy and how you can, join click here or see the pinned comment. Now, let’s talk about linking, our third topic today. Many students like to make each individual word clear and separate. But we don’t have a feeling of separation between words in English. Remember, our example from Sawyer, just want–just want– instead of: just want, just want, he dropped the T. That’s because it makes it a smoother link. Just want, just want. So we link words together and we want that smoothness for that American English flowing sound. If this is hard for you, there are some tricks, like dropping the T in just, and I’ve put together a playlist that can help you with this. And actually, reductions, like fr, the for reduction you just learned, these really tie in with linking. Reductions have to be linked to sound right. You can’t say ‘for me’ with a separation like that. You want: for me, for me, for me, for me. Constant flow of sound, as if it’s one word. So reductions and linking really work together in American English. In next week’s video, we’re going to do an in-depth analysis of a scene from a movie, so we can really study these reductions in real English and how everything links together. T pronunciations too. So be sure to come back next week for that video. Now, let’s see that whole conversation I had with Sawyer. What do you notice about his speech?
By the way, here are the places where you can follow me, where I sometimes post things like that video, you’ll get to see short videos and photos from my life occasionally. And you can keep your learning going right now with this video. If you’re serious about changing some of your habits in spoken English, head over to my academy and check it out, we can help you and support you. Rachelsenglishacademy.com
And don’t forget to subscribe here on YouTube. I make new videos every Tuesday. That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English