Podcast: Pronunciation and Sentence Stress

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Hello guys! Here we are again with another inFlux English Podcast. Today we’ll talk about something very important that most people don’t often consider while learning English, or any other language.

Have you ever heard of “Sentence Stress”? If you haven’t, be ready ‘cause today’s podcast will change the way you learn English. When we ask students of English what they find most difficult when they listen to people speaking English, the answers are quite similar:

– People speak too fast;

– The words are swollen;

– I don’t understand all the words;

One of the reasons we don’t understand very well what people say is: we expect them to say everything with a flat intonation. And that just doesn’t happen! When we want to express an idea, we’ll always “stress” the important words of the sentences. That’s called sentence stress.

Sentence Stress is actually the “music” of English or any other language, the thing that gives the language its particular “beat” or “rhythm”. In general, in any sentence there will be particular words that carry more “weight” or “volume” than others, and that happens because we stress the words according to what we want to say. Listen to this phrase in Portuguese, I’ll say it using a flat intonation:

“Eu não disse que ele roubou o dinheiro.”

Well, we usually don’t say things like that. It sounds strange and nobody would say it like that. Listen up again! And this time I’ll emphasize the important words depending on what I want to say:

Eu não disse que ele roubou o dinheiro. (Somebody else did)

Eu não disse que ele roubou o dinheiro? (I told you so!)

Eu não disse que ele roubou o dinheiro. (Somebody else did, maybe his friend)

Eu não disse que ele roubou o dinheiro. (He didn’t steal it, maybe he borrowed it)

Eu não disse que ele roubou o dinheiro. (It was something else, a wallet, the keys…)

Now, we can apply the same thing to English sentences:

I didn’t go there yesterday. (Somebody else did)

I didn’t go there yesterday. (I did not go)

I didn’t go there yesterday. (I went somewhere else)

I didn’t go there yesterday. (I went some other day)

Interesting, isn’t it? Listen to another example:

I said you should study more. (Not my mom, nor my friend, nor your father)

I said you should study more. (I didn’t do anything else)

I said you should study more. (Not anybody else, not your brother nor a friend)

I said you should study more. (It was a piece of advice)

I said you should study more. (Not go out nor play more video games or anything else)

I said you should study more. (I know you study, but not enough)

Now you can try to exercise that a little bit by doing the same thing with some other sentences, for example:

She needs a new haircut;

We’re not going out tonight;

I didn’t study for the test;

Did you do it? Did you feel the difference when changing the stress?

Well, there’s something else to be considered here. There are some phrases that, within a context are generally said with the same intonation:

When telling someone to rush – Hurry up!

When meeting someone you haven’t seen in some time – Long time no see!

Letting somebody know you can’t hear them – I can’t hear you!

Emergency situations – Look out! ; Don’t look now! ; Keep calm!

That’s it for today, guys! We hope you enjoy these tips. Keep on listening to us and if you have any questions, please, post a comment! Bye for now!

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