Learn about linking and thought groups and how they will help you in American English conversation. When you make pauses in spoken English, separating thought groups, you will be easier to understand. When you link together words within a thought group, you will sound smooth and natural.
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This is such a fun topic. It’s one of my favorites. I love talking about linking, I love talking about reductions, connected speech, placement, rhythm, intonation, okay. Let’s face it. I love talking about all of this stuff.
In the Academy, you’ve already been working on linking because way back in the Basics course, in the Foundations course, you started working on connected speech and how that fits into the character of American English.
In this course, you’re going to learn some important things: when to link and how to link well, and when NOT to link. The first thing I want to say about linking is this: we’re going to break down linking into different kinds, vowel to vowel, consonant to vowel, and so on. But in any given thought group, every sound, every word should be linked together. Actually, let’s use that sentence I just said as an example. Let’s go back and listen to it again.
But in any given thought group, every sound, every word should be linked together.
But in any given thought group, and then there was a pause. But in any given thought group—
So this is one thought group. And within that, one thought group.
Everything was linked together. But in any given thought group—
But in— but in— These two words linked together with a Flap T. Why?
Because the T comes between two vowels. But in any—
The N consonant linked in to the beginning vowel EH of ‘any’. But in any— but in any given—
The EE vowel right into the G consonant with no break.
But in any given thought group—
But in any given thought group—
The N right into the TH with no break and sound: thought group— Now here, there is a very quick stop for the Stop T but the energy of the voice keeps going.
but in any given thought group—
Right into the next word: But in any given thought group, every sound, every word should be linked together.
A little lift here, every sound—, but these two words linked right together, no break, every sound— every sound— every word— every word— every word—
EE vowel from ‘every’ going right into the W consonant for ‘word’: every word—
Tiny little lift here separating the thought group, Every sound, every word should be linked together.
Should be— should be— don’t really hear the LD.
These two words linked right together with ‘should’ reduced, be linked— be linked— no break in sound, be linked together— should be linked together— should be linked together—
So I have a true T here for the -ed ending. I do make a quick little release before the next True T: linked together—
All smooth, no breaks. But in any given thought group, every sound, every word should be linked together.
So in a way, you don’t need to break down the different kind of links and study them, you just need to know, link everything in one thought group together. But in order to practice methodically, we’ll talk about different kinds of links in this course, and practice them individually. Sometimes you’ll see me use this symbol. I use it in some of my YouTube videos too. It can be confusing — I use it when I think a link is especially strong or clear. But as I said, everything should connect in a thought.
So if you don’t see this symbol between two words, it doesn’t mean to make a break between them.
So many of my students start out with very choppy speech. The words are not connected at all. It sounds very choppy. That does not sound like natural American English. When these students start working on linking and connecting their speech, their smoothness improves, their intonation improves, their rhythm improves, and they begin to speak more natural English. Within a thought group, we want all words to be part of one smooth line.
Now we have to get to the important idea of, what is a thought or thought group. It’s a term that you’ll see lots of teachers use when they talk about linking, myself included. There are two reasons why this is important: first, as you know, you want to link all words in a thought group. But also, to be more easily understood, to be clearer, you want to put little pauses between thought groups. Both are important for sounding American and for being understood.
So what is a thought group. It’s a short string of words with one main idea, that forms a logical unit There can be several in one sentence. In writing, we may separate thought groups with punctuation. And it’s important to know, native speakers don’t think about this at all when they’re speaking, and, there’s no one right way to break up speech into thought groups. Let’s look at a sentence I just said.
And it’s important to know, native speakers don’t think about this at all when they’re speaking. And it’s important to know— I did a break here making a separate thought group. And it’s important to know native speakers don’t think about this at all when they’re speaking. And then I did a little lift here, a little pause. Native speakers don’t think about this at all when they’re speaking. Making another thought group. And it’s important to know native speakers don’t think about this at all when they’re speaking.
Let’s take another example sentence. I could say this several ways: first, with no breaks. I need to get my husband to help me to shoot a video on car vocabulary. That’s not as clear as it could be. Definitely, there’s a set of native speakers that use less pauses than others. Their speech sounds extra fast and they can be harder to understand. Especially as a non-native speaker, I would encourage you away from imitating speakers that put in very few pauses. Another way to say it: I need to get my husband to help me to shoot a video on car vocabulary. There, I put a little break before the last three words. On car vocabulary — this phrase has one meaning, it’s describing the topic of the video. I need to get my husband to help me to shoot a video on car vocabulary. The first part of that sentence is pretty long. I could definitely break it up further.
I need to get my husband to help me to shoot a video on car vocabulary. So here I’ve broken out the middle chunk of information: what’s happening? I’m shooting a video. I could keep the first separation, and get rid of the second: I need to get my husband to help me to shoot a video on car vocabulary. There I linked ‘video on’, videoo-on. A native speaker may do any of these, or even something different. Chances are, you’re already doing a good job separating thought groups and your main challenge will be linking and connected speech within a thought group.
If thinking about thought groups, linking smoothly, and knowing when to pause sounds intimidating, don’t worry. In this course, you’re going to learn how to link sooooo smoothly. And in order to understand thought groups, you’re going to study native speakers, both in conversations and giving speeches and presentations, to see how they link words and how they group words with pauses. And best of all, you’ll be given audio soundboards and imitation files to help you sound just like them.
Clearly, there’s so much more to work on with this topic. The first lessons for this course will be released June 1 2017, and new lessons will be added on the first of each month for several months. Once they’re released, they will be there forever. You can gain access to this course by joining the Academy on a subscription basis. The course on linking will have videos on using glide consonants to link vowel to vowel, on linking consonant to vowel, vowel to consonant, and consonant to consonant. At the end of the course, we’ll study real Americans speaking real English to see what words they link, how, and what thought groups they make. I would love to have you in the Academy, join thousands of other students who are already working on taking the stress out of speaking English. Visit Rachel’s English Academy.com.