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  • Today, we're going to do one of the most effective exercises in improving your listening comprehension,

  • which in turn, improves your pronunciation,

  • your accent, and how natural you sound when speaking American English.

  • We're going to do a Ben Franklin exercise.

  • 00:00:23,660 --> 00:00:27,260 I've been doing these exercises for years with my students

  • and i've seen that they are truly one of the best ways to understand how Americans really speak.

  • So what we do is we take a bit of speech that a real American is speaking,

  • and then we do a full analysis of the pronunciation.

  • We'll look at the stress, we'll look at reductions, we'll look at things like a flap T,

  • so that you understand everything that's being said and how to say that yourself.

  • First, the speech that we're going to analyze.

  • I'm going to talk about a fall baking weekend that I had with my friend, Laura.

  • This year, the fall baking weekend was a little bit different.

  • because now we have not just one kid, not just two kids, but three kids, including a newborn.

  • So everything was a little chaotic when my friend Laura and her family came to visit.

  • We made a caramel custard tart.

  • It was delicious.

  • But most importantly, we had an amazing weekend spending time together with our families.

  • And now, the analysis.

  • This year, the fall baking weekend was a little bit different because

  • That was a long thought group.

  • I didn't take a breath or make a longer break until after the word because, but I did put a little bit of a lift.

  • Was a little bit different--

  • This year, the fall baking weekend was a little bit different because

  • This year, the fall baking weekend was a little bit different because

  • This year, the fall baking weekend was a little bit different because

  • And by just putting a little lift, a little tiny break in the voice, it brings those out more of those words,

  • it makes them more important.

  • Also 'was' I made that pretty long, I drew out the vowel a little bit.

  • Often, the word 'was' is reduced and then it's pronounced: wiz, wiz, said very quickly.

  • But I didn't do that. I fully pronounced it. Did not reduce to the schwa.

  • But I left the UH as in butter vowel.

  • Was, was, was a little bit different.

  • Was a little bit different

  • Was a little bit different

  • Was a little bit different

  • Was a little bit different

  • And we have flap T in the word 'little'.

  • That's always pronounced that way.

  • Little, da-da-da-da.

  • With the tongue flapping against the roof of the mouth.

  • And then we have a stop T in 'bit'.

  • A little bit different, different.

  • And also in different.

  • the stop T in bit, followed by a consonant.

  • same with the stop T in different.

  • The NT ending, whether it's in a word like this, or where it's N apostrophe T,

  • is often pronounced as a nasally stop T.

  • So we have two stops here.

  • A little bit different, nt-nt-nt-nt-nt--

  • With that nasal N sound coming to an abrupt stop in the nose.

  • A little bit different, a little bit different, a little bit different.

  • Notice how I'm pronouncing the word 'different'.

  • This is a word that can be pronounced with three syllables, diff-er-ent or two, diff-rent,

  • and I pronounce it as two. Its more common, it's easier.

  • So go ahead and just think of it as two syllables with the first syllable being stressed.

  • diff-rent, rent, rent, rent.

  • And notice this is a schwa, not much of a vowel, and the second syllable said very quickly.

  • Rent, diff-rent, different, different.

  • different, different, different.

  • What about the top line?

  • All of those words said really quickly, but there are important words there.

  • The fall baking weekend.

  • I'm talking about an event.

  • Why did I say these words so quickly?

  • Listen to how quickly I said them.

  • This year, the fall baking weekend--

  • This year, the fall baking weekend--

  • This year, the fall baking weekend--

  • Well, I had already introduced the idea that I was going to be talking about the fall baking weekend,

  • so that's why this second time, I said it more quickly.

  • I'm not introducing the idea, i've already told you that's what I'm going to talk about.

  • So what was the most important part about this sentence to me, was describing it, not introducing it.

  • You already know I'm talking about the fall baking weekend, that's why that ended up sounding faster.

  • That's why it was said more quickly.

  • and the information about it that it was a little bit different is what was more stressed and more clear.

  • This year, the fall baking weekend--

  • This year, the fall baking weekend--

  • This year, the fall baking weekend was a little bit different because--

  • So then I say because, because.

  • because, because, because.

  • It's not reduced.

  • Often this word is reduced, but I'm saying it more clearly here.

  • Be-- unstressed syllable with the IH as in sit vowel, then a stressed syllable, UH as in butter vowel.

  • Because, because.

  • Because, because.

  • Because now we have not just one kid--

  • Now we have-- And I put a break, not just one kid.

  • Now we have not just one kid--

  • Now we have not just one kid--

  • Now we have not just one kid--

  • And I really stress the first word of each of those thought groups.

  • Now we have not just one kid--

  • Now we have not just one kid--

  • Now we have not just one kid--

  • Now we have not just one kid--

  • And again, a stop T in 'not' because the next sound is a consonant.

  • Not just one kid--

  • What do you notice about the T in the word 'just'?

  • Not just one kid--

  • Not just one kid--

  • Not just one kid--

  • It's actually dropped.

  • I don't say it at all.

  • Why?

  • We often drop the T when it comes between two consonants.

  • So when the ST cluster is followed by a word that begins with a consonant, we drop it.

  • Now you're thinking, hold on, the letter O, that's a vowel.

  • You're right.

  • But the word 'one' is pronounced beginning with the W consonant.

  • Www-uhh-nn.

  • So whenever we're talking about rules with the T, we're talking about sounds, not letters.

  • The sound T here comes between two consonant sounds, the consonant sound S

  • and the consonant sound W.

  • Now, even though this word is spelled with the letter O at the beginning, that doesn't matter.

  • It still comes between two consonant sounds, and it's dropped.

  • Just one, just one.

  • T is dropped and the two words are linked together.

  • Just one, just one, just one kid.

  • Kid, this is a more casual way to say child, very common in English.

  • Just one kid, just one kid.

  • Just one kid, not just two kids.

  • Not just two kids.

  • Again, stressing not, and again, a stop T.

  • Not just two kids.

  • Now here, we have the T followed by a T.

  • Ok, those just combine just to make one true T.

  • because a T beginning a stressed word like 'two' will always be a true T.

  • Not just two kids.

  • So the S links right into that true T.

  • Not just two kids, not just two kids.

  • Not just two kids, but three kids.

  • But three kids.

  • So I'm stressing 'three'.

  • So I stressed not, not, and then three.

  • I'm saying first of all, what we didn't have, one kid, two kids. That would have been simple.

  • But we had three kids in the house.

  • Three. This is a tricky word, isn't it?

  • We have the unvoiced TH, thhh-- and then the R consonant, thr, thr.

  • So the tongue tip must come through the teeth for that unvoiced TH, then the tip pulls back

  • so it's not touching anything inside the mouth to make the R.

  • Thr-, thr-, three.

  • But three kids, but three kids, but three kids including a newborn.

  • Including a newborn.

  • So 'include', stress on the middle syllable there.

  • A, a schwa just linking these two words together.

  • Including a newborn.

  • In the word newborn, the first syllable of stress but I make my pitch go up at the end

  • to show that I'm not done talking about this.

  • What about the fact that we had three kids? Well, I'm about to tell you that.

  • Including a newborn, including a newborn, including a newborn.

  • newborn, newborn.

  • So the intonation goes up.

  • Well, what about that?

  • Well, that means everything was a little chaotic.

  • A newborn, a newborn, a newborn, so everything was a little chaotic.

  • So everything was a little chaotic.

  • A little chaotic, chaotic.

  • First syllable stress there, that's the most stressed word there, and we have a flap T.

  • Did I say first syllable? definitely meant middle syllable.

  • Cha-o-tic.

  • chaotic with a flap T beginning the third syllable.

  • Notice this CH here?

  • not pronounced ch--, also not pronounced sh-, but instead pronounced kk- like the K sound.

  • Chaotic, chaotic, chaotic.

  • So everything was a little chaotic.

  • So everything was a little chaotic.

  • So everything was a little chaotic.

  • A little chaotic.

  • Again, the word 'little'.

  • T's there pronounced as a flap T.

  • A little, a little, a little.

  • And the letter A, the word 'a', just a quick schwa.

  • A- a- A little, a little.

  • A little chaotic, little chaotic.

  • So everything was a little chaotic.

  • Everything was a little chaotic.

  • Ev-- First syllable stress, and also the word 'was' reduces here.

  • On the first screen, we talked about how it wasn't introduced, it was pronounced was,

  • but here, it's pronounced: was, was, was, said very quickly, linking into the next word.

  • Was a, was a, was a, everything was a little chaotic.

  • Ev-- and a, chao--, are the most stressed syllables there.

  • The other syllables said pretty quickly, maybe a reduction, like in was: was a, was a.

  • So everything was a little chaotic.

  • So everything was a little chaotic.

  • So everything was a little chaotic when my friend--

  • When my friend--

  • when my friend--

  • when my friend--

  • Okay the word 'when' definitely not pronounced.

  • Whe-- with a full EH as in bed vowel that's really sounding reduced.

  • When, when, when, when.

  • I would write that with the W, the schwa, and the N.

  • Also notice WH, that can be pronounced with a little escape of air.

  • When.

  • But I did not do that, and I don't do it, really.

  • I find it a little old-fashioned and my mom does it.

  • She's not old-fashioned, but she maybe talks that way sometimes,

  • but most people, more modern is just to do a clean W sound with no escape of air beforehand.

  • When my friend.

  • When my friend, when my friend Laura.

  • when my friend Laura--

  • So I then say her name, I put a tiny lift between the words 'friend' and 'Laura'.

  • and if I hadn't, I probably would have dropped the D, my friend Laura, my friend Laura,

  • because it's very common to drop the D between two consonants just like we did with the T in the words

  • 'just one'.

  • Just one, just one.

  • Friend Laura.

  • Would very often be pronounced: friend Laura, friend Laura, with no D,

  • but I put a little tiny break before her name to emphasize it, and so I do give a light D at the end of the word 'friend'.

  • When my friend Laura, when my friend Laura.

  • when my friend Laura and her family came to visit,

  • Laura and her family came to visit.

  • So what are the most stressed words there?

  • The clearest, the longest?

  • Laura and her family came to visit.

  • Laura and her family came to visit.

  • Laura and her family came to visit.

  • Laura and her family came to visit.

  • Two nouns and a verb.

  • What about the other words?

  • What about and and her?

  • They get reduced. Let's listen.

  • Laura and her family--

  • Laura and her family--

  • Laura and her family--

  • Laura and her family--

  • Laura and her family--

  • And her, and her, and her, and her, and her.

  • The word 'and' reduced to just schwa N: and, and, and.

  • The word 'her' reduced to just schwa R.

  • er, er, er.

  • So I dropped the H, I dropped the D, I reduced the vowels: And her, and her, and her, and her.

  • Laura and her family--

  • And her, and her, and her.

  • Said very quickly, very unclear, yet this is the pronunciation that Americans use

  • And that is clear to Americans because it makes the stressed words, the more important words.

  • stick out of the phrase more and be more clear.

  • It's like giving the listener the most important words.

  • So the contrast that we like in American English is only possible when we make some words less clear

  • like 'and' and 'her'.

  • These are function words.

  • Laura and her family.

  • Laura and her family--

  • Laura and her family--

  • Laura and her family--

  • Notice the word 'family'.

  • This could be a three-syllable word: fam-il-ly, family, family.

  • Maybe that's how you say it.