Pronunciation in IELTS Speaking

Pronunciation refers to the way you articulate and enunciate words in English. It plays a pivotal role in effective communication as it directly impacts your ability to be understood by native and non-native speakers.

In the IELTS Speaking test, pronunciation is one of the four key assessment criteria alongside fluency and coherence, lexical resource (vocabulary), and grammatical range and accuracy. Clear pronunciation not only enhances your communication but also contributes to a higher IELTS band score.

In this lesson we will focus on four different criterias of Pronunciation:-

  1. Stress
  2. Rhythm & Thought Groups
  3. Linking & Connected Speech
  4. Intonation

2.3.1 Stress:-

Stressing plays a crucial role in spoken English. Clear, accurate pronunciation of all English words relies on correct articulation and placement of stress. Additionally, listeners utilize stress as a means of word identification. For instance, if you were to pronounce ‘Arabic’ as ‘a rabbit,’ it could lead to misinterpretation.

So, what exactly is stress? Stress primarily encompasses three key aspects:

  • the duration of the sound, ↔
  • its volume, 🔊and
  • its pitch. ↑

Stressed vowel sounds are longerlouder, and/or higher in pitch than vowel sounds without stress. You can use just one of these features, or any combination of these features at the same time. Overall, stressed sounds are “stronger” than unstressed sounds. Thats what examiners love to listen.

How to Stress?

Stress is closely linked to syllables, nearly all English syllables contain a vowel sound. Therefore, syllables are categorized as stressed or unstressed. In multi-syllable English words, at least one syllable is invariably stressed.

Notice how these words are stressed (bold), double click the play button.

Play Two Audio Files Amazing.

When you learn new vocabulary words, it’s important to learn stress placement. Listeners depend on stress as a cue to recognize words.

Go to: https://tfcs.baruch.cuny.edu/focused-skills-series/ and take the session for stress enhancement.

2.3.2 Rythm and Thought Group

Thought groups and rhythm are integral aspects of English that significantly contribute to improving intelligibility. They dive into words offering a comprehensive understanding of their role in conveying meaning, tone, style, and more.

Understanding Rhythm:

Rhythm in phonetics is the speed and cadence of how you say a sentence. Some beginner students might say – each – word – in – a – sentence – at – the – same – speed and sound a little like a robot. Developing different speeds and knowing when to slow down and speed up can give your spoken English more interest.

It also refers to the general rises and falls in intonation within a sentence. Rhythm is part of this melody, as stress patterns can alter the overall sound of a sentence.

Listen to the words below, same words with different rythms, ultimately changing the overall meaning of the word itself.

Listen to the sentence, she is prioritizing the important words by adding rhythm.

Play Two Audio Files I bought a car on Tuesday.

Exploring Thought Groups:

Within a sentence, you’ll find one or more thought groups, which are clusters of words that naturally belong together. Typically, speakers introduce pauses between thought groups as they speak. Additionally, focus words are used to highlight what is significant within a sentence.

Listen to these examples. Can you discern the three thought groups in the second sentence?

Play Two Audio Files
  1. ‘I’ve only been to that restaurant once.’ (This sentence contains only one thought group.)
  2. ‘I’ve only / been to that restaurant / once.’ (In this sentence, there are three thought groups. The speaker may be pausing to emphasize or clarify their language.)

In these two sentences, different words are stressed, resulting in a change in sentence meaning. In this section, you’ll explore various methods by which stress can be applied to effectively express yourself.

While there are established rules for employing rhythm in English, variations exist depending on factors like meaning, context, emotional expression, and individual speaking styles.

2.3.3 Linking & Connected Speech

You’ve probably noticed that English likes to play hide and seek with its pronunciation. It’s like a mischievous game of cat and mouse because, when we talk, words tend to blend and morph into one another. Here’s a fun example with the same question:

Play Two Audio Files
  1. (Imagine a careful, word-by-word approach) “Could you give me that book on accounting?”
  2. (Now picture the natural stream of speech) “Coujoogimmethabookonaccounting?”

It’s like English is on a rollercoaster of pronunciation, taking unexpected twists and turns. This type of speech is affectionately known as connected speech. Some folks might think it sounds lazy or sloppy, but hey, it’s just English being its playful self.

2.3.4 Intonation

Intonation is when your voice pitch goes up and down, kind of like a musical tune for your words. It’s like the emojis of speaking – it helps the listener to understand if you’re annoyed 😡, surprised 😲, doubtful 🤔, or just plain thrilled! 🎉

When to intonate?

  • Statements: If you are giving information and you are certain about it.
  • Questions: A rising intonation will indicate that the sentence is a question.
  • Incomplete statements: This intonation will show that your idea is not complete, that you have more to say.
  • Doubts: If you are giving information but you are not certain about it.
  • Emotions: Depending on your idea and the context, you can express excitement, happiness or surprise.

I got a 6.5 in IELTS”. Let us intonate this in varying tones:-

Play Two Audio Files

Let’s break intonation down into three cool parts: rising, falling, and the combo platter, fall-rise. It’s like mastering the art of vocal acrobatics and turning your words into a linguistic circus!

  1. Rising Intonation:
    • Imagine you’re asking a question, like “Did you enjoy the movie?” Your voice goes up at the end, as if you’re inviting the listener to respond. It’s like a linguistic trampoline, bouncing up at the end of your sentence.
  2. Falling Intonation:
    • Now, picture you’re making a statement, such as “I loved that movie.” Your voice goes down at the end, indicating that you’ve said your piece. It’s like a vocal mic drop.
  3. Fall-Rise Intonation:
    • This one’s like a linguistic rollercoaster. Let’s say you’re expressing uncertainty, like “I think I liked the movie?” Your voice goes down, then sneaks back up at the end. It’s the vocal equivalent of riding a wave; you’re not sure where it’s taking you.

Now, why should you care about this in your IELTS prep, you ask? Well, intonation is like the secret sauce of your speaking score, so, getting your intonation game on point can make a big difference.

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