Many people think that good pronunciation means pronouncing every word distinctly and clearly but this is not always the case. In spoken English the words within a sentence do not always sound the same as when you say them individually. That’s because English speakers link words together in phrases and sentences.
In order to improve your spoken American English you need to link words to each other like native speakers do. Linking helps create a smooth transition between the words in a sentence and makes your speech sound less choppy.
American English speakers will link most words in a sentence or phrase. However, there are some guidelines that I teach my students to follow when they are first learning about linking. In this article I will describe three of these guidelines.
Linking Guidelines for the American Accent
The Consonant + Consonant rule
When the same consonant sound is found at the end of one word and the beginning of the next, don’t break your speech, simply hold the consonant sound for a longer time. For example, hold the /t/ sound between these words and pronounce them as one long word instead of breaking the words apart.
Try linking these words in the following sentences.
1. I went to the beach.
2. What time is he coming?
Hold the /s/ sound between these words.
Now try linking them in the following sentences.
1. That was so nice of her!
2. James is so intelligent.
The Consonant + Vowel rule
When the first word ends in a consonant sound and the next word begins with a vowel sound carry the consonant sound over to the following word.
Try linking the final consonant sound to the following vowel sound in these two sentences.
1. You can take it or leave it.
2. Some of them look alike.
The Vowel + Vowel rule
When the first word ends in a vowel sound and the following word begins with a vowel sound insert a /y/ sound for front vowels and a /w/ sound for back vowels.
Insert a /y/ sound between these words.
Insert a /w/ sound between these words.
Now try to use V + V linking in these sentences.
1. Can you say it again?
2. May I help you?
3. Can you do it for me?
Linking is a very important part of spoken English because it makes your speech sound more melodic and natural. Using linking will significantly improve the rhythm of your speech and reduce your accent by making your speech smoother and less choppy.
Understanding how Americans use linking will also allow you to understand English speakers more easily.
Susan M Ryan