Improve English Fluency and Sound Like A Native Speaker with Connected Speech

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If you want to improve your English fluency and sound like a Native speaker you need to know about connected speech. In this lesson we talk about why fast doesn't equal fluent and how improving English fluency means improving connected speech!

Think of your favorite song. Got that melody in mind? Maybe even try humming it or singing it aloud. Ok great. Now, I’d like you to speed the rhythm up.  

How does that sound? Better or worse?

Well, if you’ve done this exercise correctly, it should sound worse. Meaning, the original version sounds better and sped up it just sounds out of whack.

As you can see, fast is not always better. In fact, in the case of language rhythm and fluency, it can actually make things worse.

So today I’m sharing a few reasons why when speaking English, fast does not mean fluent.

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Look, I probably know what you’re saying: “But when I watch American TV series or movies they speak so fast. Or when I listen to Native Speaker friends talk amongst themselves they speak so fast!”

And you might think that if you speak faster, you’ll sound more fluent.

Well that’s where I’ll stop you.

Let’s clear up one thing here. Fast does not equal fluent.

While it may be true that when you hear Native Speakers talk in English or you watch your favorite show, it feels like the speakers are talking very quickly. Some of the time it does have to do with speed. And there are naturally fast-talkers, like myself, even though I have the habit of speaking slower when I’m teaching or presenting. It just so happens that  people from New York tend to talk fast.

But, what you think of as fluency due to speed is actually fluency due to connected speech.

Yes my friends, you’re mistaking connected speech for speed. Those are two different elements of speech, but can be easily confused.

So instead of making it a goal of yours to speak as quickly as possible, make it a goal to slow your speech down but connect the words better.

Let’s look at a few examples of what I mean.

First let’s just focus on speed:

Hey! How’s it going? Are you having a good week so far? Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend? I know that I’m excited to go to the beach for a mini vacation. What about you?

Ok…interesting. How much of that did you understand? Probably not that much if I had to guess, because it was just way too fast!

Now, I’m going to slow things down, but pay attention to connected speech.

Alright, take two!

Hey! How’s it going? Are you having a good week so far? Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend? I know that I’m excited to go to the beach for a mini vacation. What about you?

Do you hear the difference there?

In the first example, it was too fast and connected speech wasn’t much of a consideration.

Granted, I’m a Native English speaker so of course, there will be some connected speech in the speed example even if it’s just a little bit. Even so, I want you to see that speed does not equate to fluency.

If you want to sound more fluent, you need to consider connected speech. What does that mean?

Connected speech is linking. That means that the final sound of one word connects to the beginning of the next word. For example, in the question “Should we sit_down or stand_up?” Sit down and stand up are linked. And to someone who’s unfamiliar with connected speech, they might mistakenly take the linking to be speed, when in fact, it is not.

So that’s definitely something to think about.

If you think you might have an issue with speaking too fast, but not articulating your words enough or linking properly then you can do a few things.

Record your voice and listen to it. If you can’t hear the sounds blending into one another then you’re probably not linking. If that’s the case, then you should record yourself saying it much slower but articulating each word as you do it. Then, locate the areas where linking should occur (such as sit_down or stand_up or howzit for “how’s it going?”) and once you’ve located those areas record your voice again. This time, you’re still speaking slower and articulating but you’re also including linking.

And as you can see, you CAN articulate your words AND do linking, in fact that’s how you’re going to sound more fluent.

If you’re having conversations with Native English speakers, be sure to be on the lookout for areas where connected speech seems to occur. What words are getting linked? Do you notice any phrasal verbs where this is happening? Think about phrasal verbs like “put on”, “get in”, “get along”, “bring up”, etc. and know that you’ll generally be linking those. Make a note of your observations.

And if you are not having conversations with Native English speakers, then turn to the movies and series that you watch. Pay close attention to connected speech. And the great thing about this is you can pause the media, rewind, and re watch as many times as needed. And as you know now, we’re less focused on speed and more focused on connected speech as the way to improve fluency in English!

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Alright, fantastic work! So in this lesson we discuss how fast does not equal fluent. In fact, if you’re speaking too fast but not articulating your words, people are going to have a very hard time understanding you. This is why it’s paramount that you think about articulation, sounding out each and every word and then connecting the sounds that are to be linked together.

One way to pay attention to what you do is to record your voice. Also, as you’re in conversations with Native English speakers make note of what’s being blended. You can also do this while watching American series or movies. What words or phrasal verbs tend to get linked together.

Building this awareness will help you not only pay attention to your own way of speaking but also enable you to notice what Native speakers do during conversation and ultimately get to replicate that in your own speaking.

As with anything, it takes practice and patience. You’re on the right track, keep it up!

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Alright Advanced English learners, thanks for joining me in this lesson.

The full transcript of this lesson can be found on our blog, so be sure to check out advanced english dot co forward slash blog. If you’re listening to this lesson and love our podcast, be sure to leave us a 5 star review, that really helps us out! See you in the next one where we’ll continue advancing your English together! Until then, keep up the awesome work.