Master American English! Sentence Rhythm Part 2

Mar 1, 2021

Master American English! Sentence Rhythm Part 2

3/1/2021

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American English rhythm comes from the syllable stress in a sentence. Stressed syllables are longer and unstressed syllables are shorter, and it's this back and forth between long syllables and short syllables that gives spoken English its unique rhythm. In this video, you'll perfect your American English rhythm with a fun clapping exercise - only the stressed syllables get the "beat"!

(Video Transcript)

 

Hi, I’m Julie with San Diego Voice and Accent, and in this video, you’ll practice sentence-level rhythm with a fun musical exercise.

 

A video I published a year ago called Sentence Rhythm in American English is one of my most-watched videos on YouTube. Viewers said that the technique I showed them in that video was super helpful as they practiced conversational English, and they asked for more videos just like it. I’m so glad the video was helpful, and I’m happy to make another one!

 

Stressed and unstressed syllables in American English

Here’s a quick review of sentence rhythm in American English. When you listen to spoken English, you should hear a rhythm like DA - da - DA - da da da - DA - da. 

 

Some syllables are longer, louder, and at a higher pitch - these are the stressed syllables. And some syllables are shorter, softer, and at a lower pitch - these are the unstressed syllables.

 

Here’s an example of stressed and unstressed syllables in spoken English.

 

Let’s listen to that sentence again and look closer at which words were stressed, and which words were unstressed.

 

I heard HERE’s an exAMPle of STRESSED and UNstressed SYLLables in SPOken ENglish. 

DA - da - da - DA - da - da - DA - da - DA - da - DA - da -da - da - DA - da - DA - da.

 

HERE’s an exAMPle of STRESSED and UNstressed SYLLables in SPOken ENglish. 

 

DA - da - da - DA - da - da - DA - da - DA - da - DA - da -da - da - DA - da - DA - da

 

I just clapped to the beat of the stressed syllables. 

 

HERE’s an exAMple

 

HERE’s an exAMple

 

Can you hear the rhythm? Can you feel it?

 

HERE’s an exAMple

 

Function words vs. content words in American English

In spoken English, only the stressed syllables get the beat. They are the longest syllables, so they need to stand out from the other unstressed syllables. 

 

The unstressed syllables are said faster, and they can be squeezed between the beats.

 

The words that are typically stressed are the content words. These are the words that carry the meaning of the sentence, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. These are usually stressed, but not always.

 

The words that are typically unstressed are called function words. These are the words that carry the grammar of the sentence, such as pronouns, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions.

 

English rhythm: Practice

The best way to learn about English rhythm is to practice it. So let’s practice English rhythm together with the clapping exercise I demonstrated earlier. I’m going to show you some sentences, and we’re going to clap together to the beat of the stressed syllables. First I’ll say the sentence, then I’ll say it again and I’ll clap to the beat of the stressed syllables. Then I’ll replay my demonstration, and you’ll have a chance to clap with me.

 

HeLLO JUlie

HeLLO JUlie



HeLLO my name’s JUlie

HeLLO my name’s JUlie



HeLLO my name’s JUlie. let’s TALK about RHYthm 

HeLLO my name’s JUlie. let’s TALK about RHYthm



HeLLO my name’s JUlie. let’s TALK about RHYthm in this VIdeo.

HeLLO my name’s JUlie. let’s TALK about RHYthm in this VIdeo.



Now I’ll do all of the sentences together.



HeLLO JUlie 

HeLLO my name’s JUlie

HeLLO my name’s JUlie. let’s TALK about RHYthm

HeLLO my name’s JUlie. let’s TALK about RHYthm in this VIdeo.



Here’s another one:

 

WHAT are you DOing?

WHAT are you DOing? 



WHAT are you DOing toDAY?

WHAT are you DOing toDAY?



WHAT are you DOing toDAY after WORK?

WHAT are you DOing toDAY after WORK?



WHAT are you DOing toDAY after WORK? want to GO to the PARK?

WHAT are you DOing toDAY after WORK? want to GO to the PARK?

 

Now I’ll do all of the sentences together.



WHAT are you DOing?

WHAT are you DOing toDAY?

WHAT are you DOing toDAY after WORK?

WHAT are you DOing toDAY after WORK? want to GO to the PARK?



And here’s one more:

 

MAY i HAVE a

MAY i HAVE a



MAY i HAVE a COffee

MAY i HAVE a COffee



MAY i HAVE a COffee with CREAM

MAY i HAVE a COffee with CREAM



MAY i HAVE a COffee with CREAM and SUGar?

MAY i HAVE a COffee with CREAM and SUGar?



Now I’ll do all of the sentences together.

 

MAY i HAVE a

MAY i HAVE a COffee

MAY i HAVE a COffee with CREAM

MAY i HAVE a COffee with CREAM and SUGar?



I hope this video was fun and helped you to learn about sentence rhythm in American English. Thanks for watching, and please contact me if you have questions about the American accent!