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Linking Sounds: This is why you don't understand native speakers of English


The main difficulty for most English learners is to understand natives speakers. As an English learner myself, I used to struggle too. So as you can see you’re not alone. One of the things that used to cause me a lot of grief was the linking sounds, also known as connected speech. When natives speak they link words to sound more natural. This phenomenon is not exclusive to English, it occurs in other languages too. The issue for us is the fact words will sound very different in sentences than when we say them separately.

The best way to go about this is to practice linking when you speak. If you do this, you will understand natives and be understood better. Don't worry it gets easier as you practice. After reading this post, start paying attention to natives speaking and be aware of the linking sounds.

In this post I am going to show the main types of liking sounds, starting by the one that changes the word sounds the most (so watch out for this one).

Linking consonant to vowel

When a word ends in a consonant sound and, the following word starts in a vowel sound, we move the consonant sound to the beginning of the next word. Remember, it's the sound that matters not the spelling. See some examples below:

We write like this…

Turn off

I’m okay

I’m older than you

Can I help you?

Have another piece of cake

But we say like this…

Tur noff

I mokay

I molder than you

Ca ni help you?

Ha va nother pie cov cake

Press the play button to listen to the pronunciation:

In the last example, the word “have” ends with the letter “e” (a vowel) but,"v" (a consonant) is the last sound you hear. That's why we link “have” to “another”. The first ends in a consonant sound and, the other starts in a vowel sound.

And now a real example of connective speech in a song. In "Material Girl” by Madonna, there are many examples of linking sounds but, it is in the chorus we can hear them very clearly:

We write…

'Cause we are living in a material world

And I am a material girl

You know that we are living in a material world

And I am a material girl

But we sing...

'Cause we are living i na material world

An di a ma material girl

You know that we are living i na material world

An di a ma material girl

You can listen for yourself, just press play below:

Linking consonant to consonant

When a word ends with and, the following begins with the same consonant sound, we pronounce it only once. Here are some examples:

We write like this…

I want to go now

Human nature

Good day

But we say like this…

I wanto go now

Humanature

Gooday

Press the play button to listen to the pronunciation:

Linking vowel to vowel


When a word ends with a vowel sound and, the following word also starts with a vowel sound, we link them with a “y” or “w” weak sound. The vowel sound on the first word will determine which one we are going to use. It sounds confusing but, you’re probably already doing it without even realize. Pay attention because these sounds are very subtle. Find some examples below:

Intrusive “y”

We use “y” to link words that end in an “a” /ei/, “e” /i:/, “i” /ai/ sounds, to words that also start with a vowel sound.

We write

May I?

The end

My arm

We say

MayyI?

Theyend

Myyarm

Press the play button to listen to the pronunciation:

Intrusive “w”

We use “w” to link words that end in an “o” /ou/, “u” /u:/, sounds, to words that also start with a vowel sound.

We write

Go out

Too often

We say

Gowout

Toowoften

Press the play button to listen to the pronunciation:

/t/ and /d/ sound omission

Imagine a consonant sandwich - we have a word that ends in two consecutive consonant sounds and, the following word also starts in a consonant sound. If the consonant in the middle is a “d” or “t”, we omit them. See some examples below:

We write

Kept going

Diamond ring

And then

Hand me

Stand back

We say

Kepgoing

Diamonring

Anthen

Hanme

Stanback

Press the play button to listen to the pronunciation:

In summary, "linking sounds" are everywhere, from everyday conversations to films, music, etc. Start practising today and, I guarantee you will understand native English speakers a lot better.


Did you find learning about linking sounds useful? Let us know in the comments. Also if you enjoyed this post, please help to spread it by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on social media. And since you’re still here, don’t forget to subscribe to my website to receive updates and great tips such as this one here.


Till next time Xox



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