Free Sounds Guidebook

Secret to Perfect Rhythm, Stress & Cadence

(Video Transcript)

American English Rhythm, Stress, and Cadence

There’s just something about a good beat that makes you want to dance. Everything comes together to form a pleasing rhythm, and the body just can’t help but move to the beat.


Rhythm. Beats. Melody. These are essential elements of music, but also the essential elements of the cadence of spoken English. And in this video, you’ll learn how to perfect all three elements of your spoken English to give you the rhythm and cadence of a native speaker.

I’m going to play a beat for you. I just want you to listen and see if your body can naturally feel the beat. 


For you to hear the beat and move your body to the beat, your brain was listening for stress.


It was quickly trying to identify which beat sounded the longest or the loudest or the highest pitch? Once your brain figured that out, you most likely naturally started moving your head to that stressed beat, and for some of you, this possibly happened unconsciously. You don’t know how you did it, you just started moving your head to the beat. 


Syllables and Stress in English

This is exactly how spoken English works as well. There are beats, or syllables, that you say, and some beats or syllables are stressed. This means those syllables are said for a longer duration, or they’re louder, or they’re said at a higher pitch, or some combination of all three things.


The other beats, or syllables, that weren’t stressed are said for a shorter duration, or they’re quieter, or they’re said at a lower pitch, or some combination of all three things.


So English has syllables that are long, loud, and high - the stressed syllables of a word or sentence. And English has syllables that are short, soft, and low - the unstressed syllables of a word or sentence.


It’s this back and forth between the stressed syllables and unstressed syllables that gives English its rhythm and cadence. 


That’s the basic theory of English rhythm, but theory can only get you so far. In order to speak English with the correct rhythm, you have to be able to hear the rhythm when listening to the speech of native speakers and then imitate it. And this is what’s the most challenging for non-native speakers - listening to native speakers, hearing or identifying the rhythm, and then imitating it.


But in this video, I’m going to show you a fantastic practice technique that can help you do exactly that.


Learn English Rhythm, Stress, and Cadence with Shadowing

Let’s practice a technique called shadowing. Shadowing is like the step before imitation. It involves listening to native speakers and simultaneously repeating what they say, and since this video is focused on improving the rhythm and cadence of your spoken English, you’re going to mimic the rhythm, stress patterns, and intonation that you hear. 


For the purposes of this specific shadowing exercise, you don’t want to focus on pronunciation of vowels and consonants. Don’t even worry about your American R sound or your flap T or TH consonant. I want you to only focus on matching the rhythm, intonation, and stress patterns that you hear.


I’m going to play a few recordings of me as I say a few words and short sentences. I’m going to loop the recordings ten times in a row. Now, that’s a lot of looping, but I want you to have enough time to first listen for the stressed syllables. Once you’ve identified the stress and you can hear it, then I want you to try to maybe move your head to the beat, just like you would for music. Then, once you’re confident that you have the right beat, you can join in and shadow me as I complete the remaining repetitions. Remember to match my exact rhythm, stress, and intonation, but don’t worry about anything else. You just want to feel the beat, move your body to the beat, and then simultaneously say the words or phrases using the same beat that you hear.


We’ll start with single-syllable words, then two-syllable, and then three-syllable words. Then I’ll say a few short phrases. I’ll record everything at a slower speed and then at a more normal speaking speed, and you’ll complete both speeds before moving onto the next word or phrase.


Ready? Let’s get started.













Go home.


Have a seat.


Bring me the book.


Can you help me?


Turn off the light.

English Pro Online American Accent Training

Nice job! Rhythm isn’t an easy thing to master, but you can definitely get better at it with practice! If you want even more practice with American English rhythm, then check out English Pro, my online accent training program. You’ll receive training in all areas of the American accent, including a course on Rhythm and Reductions, plus you can attend weekly live English classes and work with me, one-to-one, in the class. Check out the description for links to learn more about English Pro.


Free Sounds of American English Guidebook

Don’t forget that I also have a free Sounds of American English Guidebook, where you’ll learn how to pronounce every sound of American English, including the R consonant, with audio recordings, pictures, MRIs, IPA charts, and more. It’s a fantastic, free resource that will really help boost your American English pronunciation skills, so check out the links in the description below.


San Diego Voice and Accent YouTube Channel

Thanks for watching everyone! If you found this video helpful, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel for more pronunciation tips. That’s a fantastic, no-cost way that you can show your support and let me know that you liked this video and want me to make more just like it. You can also leave a comment below to let me know what techniques have helped you with your English rhythm, and I'll make sure to cover them in future videos. Keep practicing, and I’ll see you next time!

Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent Julie Cunningham | San Diego Voice and Accent

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