Outline of the Course

This course builds a framework to develop an understandable English accent.  Ultimately, it places emphasis on the rhythm of English and on sentence stress. A simple declarative sentence can often have as many meanings as there are words in the sentence (or more) simply because of which word is stressed.  On the way there, we need to be aware of syllable stress, which can change both the vowels and the meaning of a word.

To be able to hear and produce stress, we need to understand the sounds that we are making. As I mentioned, we will be using the IPA to represent them, but it is necessary to know what types of sounds they are and how they fit together to produce speech. The sequence of the website is to start with a discussion of the sounds and how they relate to meaning, and build larger and larger units, morphemes, syllables, words, phrases, sentences, rhetoric, and genre. The goal is to not only speak clear English so you will be easily understood but also to be persuasive in your working and social life.

This website is not only something you will read, but something you will read, reread, and use for practice. You never think about how to place your tongue or when to use your vocal cords when you speak. Most of the time, you probably don’t think about the physical act of speaking, at all. You have a lifetime of experience doing it. That lifetime of experience also means you have strongly ingrained habits that you will have to unlearn.

You won’t be able to develop new habits overnight, and even when you have learned to make the new sounds correctly, you will find yourself falling back into your old patterns, at first.  Don’t worry, you can’t eat the whole elephant in one bite. It is like learning music. Musicians learn to do small things well and over time they build to more complex things.  Music teachers often tell their students, “practice slowly, progress quickly.”

[i] For a detailed look at this experience, I recommend the book Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.

This book is not only something you will read, but something you will read, reread, and use for practice. You never think about how to place your tongue or when to use your vocal cords when you speak. Most of the time, you probably don’t think about the physical act of speaking, at all. You have a lifetime of experience doing it. That lifetime of experience also means you have strongly ingrained habits that you will have to unlearn.

You won’t be able to develop new habits overnight, and even when you have learned to make the new sounds correctly, you will find yourself falling back into your old patterns, at first.  Don’t worry, you can’t eat the whole elephant in one bite. It is like learning music. Musicians learn to do small things well and over time they build to more complex things.  Music teachers often tell their students, “practice slowly, progress quickly.”

Throughout I will be introducing new terminology. Having to learn new terminology can be a turnoff, but there will not be that many terms, overall, and they allow me to be precise when I am talking about the sounds. From about eight to ten-years-old, children learn about twelve words a day, so so in the course of using this book to modify your accent, you’ll find that learning the terms will be natural.

Vowels are fundamental to speech, so let’s look at them next.

< Varieties of English Accents ^ Accent Course Vowels >