Work on Word Stress Patterns

Over the past couple of weeks, we've walked through all of the elements that give English its distinctive rhythm.

You have made huge progress: you understand the importance of making syllables longer, louder, and higher in pitch and you know that certain syllables are stressed and others are unstressed or even reduced.

You've even discovered a few secrets of accent reduction: you learned how to shape your vowels, how to slide your pitch to sound more like a native speaker, and how to link syllables together using your mouth.

Phew! That's a lot! 😅

Before we get started on the next section, I want to remind you to be patient with yourself.

Effortlessly combining all of these elements into a natural-sounding accent takes practice.

That's why we're going to talk all about identifying stress patterns and learning predictable patterns that will help simplify the process.

As we move through the practice exercises and drills, I'll remind you to check in and reflect on how you're using your mouth.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover that this does become easier day after day. 

Remember, we're training your ear to hear and listen for these patterns and stretching your mouth and vocal cords so that you can produce them!

So let's dive in! 

Identifying Stress Patterns

In the section Work on Stress Patterns, I guide you to identify and practice stress patterns in words you use at work and in your daily life.

(Accent reduction is much more effective if you can connect what you're learning with the words you are most likely to say.)

When you come across a new word, be sure to note down the word stress pattern first!

(Remember, you're listening for the syllable that is longer, louder, and higher in pitch.👂)

As you get started working on your word stress, keep these three tips in mind:

  • Associate new words (or words you're learning to say correctly) with words you're confident that you're stressing correctly. This makes them easier to remember.
  • Learn words in chunks. Words don't usually appear in isolation, so to sound more like a native speaker, you want to pay attention to the words around it. This will help you identify stress patterns in phrases, longer chunks, and even in sentences.
  • Study words by category. Choose a category of words (I've chosen personality vocabulary, but you might choose words related to food, exercise, children, hobbies, or your favorite TV show) and note down the stress patterns for all of those words.

And how do you even know what the stress pattern is for a particular word?

Well, you can listen for it, but you'll probably feel more confident if you look it up in a dictionary. 📖

Watch the lesson on How to Identity Word Stress in Online Dictionaries for a detailed tutorial on what you need to be looking for.

As I describe in Keeping Stress Simple, I encourage you to focus on the primary stress in every word.

This will help you speak more clearly and ensure native speakers understand you.

Remember, we're trying to simplify the process - you don't want to get distracted by all the details that just aren't necessary right now.