Sample Lesson

Accents Don’t Matter

Student Problem: “I hate listening to myself speak English. I am so embarrassed about my terrible accent I don’t want to speak English at all!”

banana

baNAna

What I want you to know: Everyone has an accent! In English, accents don’t matter.

I’ll show you what I mean: In many languages each and every letter represents one and only one sound. English isn’t like that. In English letters can represent a variety of different sounds or be silent at any time. It is a crazy language. The good news is a wide range of accents and sound variations are easily understood because the meaning in English is NOT IN INDIVIDUAL SOUNDS. The meaning in English is stressed syllables. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s just start with syllables. How many syllables in these words?

1) student
2) window
3) blue
4) watch
5) banana
6) grandmother
7) English
8) engineer
9) beautiful
10) education

The rule is: VOWEL SOUNDS (not letters) define syllables. There is one and only one vowel sound in every syllable. That little rule isn’t important because somehow, you already knew how to count syllables! Check your answers. 1) 2, 2) 2, 3) 1, 4) 1, 5) 3, 6) 3, 7) 2, 8) 3, 9) 3, 10) 4

What is important to understand about syllables is that some are important and some are not.

Important syllables are higher, LOUDER and l o n g e r than other syllables.

Which are the stressed syllables in the words above?

1) STUdent
2) WINdow
3) BLUE
4) WATCH
5) baNAna
6) GRANDmother
7) ENglish
8) engiNEER
9) BEAUtiful
10) eduCAtion

Can you hear it now? One syllable in every word is more important than the others.

If you say BAnana, banaNA or BANANA no one will understand what you are saying. Those are not English words . baNAna is the word and there are no variations.

Accents are charming and don’t impede understanding. The meaning in English in applying specific voice qualities (higher, LOUDER, l o n g e r) to specific (important) syllables.

What you learned: “English is a stress-based language. Accents don’t matter so stop worrying about my accent and start thinking about word stress!”

Until next time,

Teacher Judy