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The Rules of Fast English- Linking

When we can understand the rules of how something works, we can learn it faster and easier. I hear from my students all the time that they spent years studying English textbooks only to discover later that they could not understand native speakers. I had the same experience when I studied in China. It can make you feel like you wasted a lot of time, energy, and money. But, I promise, you didn't.

This series of videos is going to help you understand how and when Americans link two words together. There are rules! We don't link every sound between words, but it probably feels like we do.

How will this help me?

Learning the rules of linking will help you understand native English speakers when they are speaking relaxed or fast English. You don't need to memorize these rules, but the more you can study and understand them, the easier it will be to break apart fast English in a conversation. For some students, sounding like a native speaker is their goal. For people with jobs that require a lot of public speaking or situations where your English needs to be extremely clear such as a pilot or a doctor, it can be important to get as close as possible to native-like speech. However, for most students the goal is clear and understandable English.

Rules of Fast English Part 1: Consonant to Consonant Linking

Let's imagine that you're at a baseball game and you order a hot dog. That's a very American acitivity! But you listen to the Americans around you at the baseball game order the same food, but you didn't understand what they said. They said "Ha-Dog!" You probably just think Americans hate the "T" sound and you're correct. We do, but the rule is much bigger. There are more words like this. I'm going to explain in this video when and why we delete sounds when we are linking. It's not just "t" sounds.

And what about words that end and begin in the same consonant sound? If I say the phrase "less serious," so I pause between the "s" sounds? Do I need to breathe between them. What do native speakers do in this situation. You will learn more.

Rules of Fast English Part 2: Consonant to Vowel Linking

This video explains some of the biggest causes for confusion when Americans reduce their speech. Imagine that you're in an airport and someone says, "I've lost my phone charger, can you help me find it?" And you hear, "Canya help me fin-dit?" You think to yourself, "What is "dit?" Maybe you smile and the person repeats the sentence and then you understand, but the fast English confused you because you don't know about linking.

This situation is very common because Americans link their speech in this way all the time. We can connect the final consonant to the vowel right next to it. This helps us speak much faster when we link sounds together.

Rules of Fast English Part 3: Linking in Prepositions

Prepositions are everywhere, but they are hard to hear. Why is that? Because prepositions are usually linked to the word next to them. Think of the most common prepositions: in, of, on, at, out, to, by, for, and off. These are very small words with only one syllable. These words in a sentence are used for grammar function. They can give specific location information, but prepositions are not the focus of the sentence. We reduce words that are not as important in a sentence, we say them fast, and we link them. But where and why? Does grammar have anything to do with it? Or do we just link with sounds?

Yes, grammar in this case is important. This video is going to take you through step by step about where to link and where to pause and what a native speaker would do if they were saying this in fast relaxed English.

Rules of Fast English Part 4: Linking with Palatalization

Have you ever heard a native speaker say "Did you" as "didja?" What is "didja?" There is no "j" sound in did + you, so what are Americans thinking? Well, when our tongue moves from the d sound to the y sound the built up air can make a "j" sound. This American accent pronunciation feature is really all about the movement in the mouth when you produce the sounds. Americans don't realize that they are doing this. You could ask 100 Americans and they would not know that this was a pronunciation rule, promise.

So, if Americans don't know the rules, why do you need them? Because even when native speakers don't understand the rules that exist, they follow them every time. This is just what sounds normal. When this sort of language starts to sound normal to your ears, then you won't need to remember the rules either, but this starts by first understanding what the rules are.

Rules of Fast English Part 5: Vowel to Vowel Linking

Vowel to vowel linking is the easy one! By inserting a /w/ or /y/ sound it becomes easier to link these words together. Americans really have no idea that they are doing this when they speak, but if students can anticipate it, it will improve understanding!

Looking for more practice for yourself or your students? Find a worksheet packet on this topic here

Have more questions? Leave a comment below or on YouTube
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