I was once called upon to evaluate the speech of a priest from Southeast Asia who worked at a large church here in the US.
I was asked to evaluate Father because the people who attended his masses were not able to understand him.
His vowel & consonant sounds were excellent
I tested Father on all the vowel and consonant sounds of American English and he passed with flying colors. He said every single sound clearly and correctly.
When I asked him how he learned to say those, he told me that he used a phonics program written for children. Using the phonics program Father was able to master all the vowel and consonant sounds of American English.
That was impressive!
Father said every single sound very clearly. So why were people complaining about his speech?
What Father didn’t do was use unstressed sounds in words.
Because Father didn’t use unstressed sounds, his speech sounded foreign to the people who attended his masses.
Additionally, Father didn’t stress the important words in sentences. He didn’t reduce the less important words.
Instead he said every word with the same emphasis.
He didn’t use contractions.
That also made his speech sound foreign to the people who attended his masses.
Since Father articulated every sound and word clearly and distinctly, the melody of his speech sounded very foreign to the Americans who attended his masses.
Because the melody of Father’s speech was so flat and so monotone, the people who attended his masses had a lot of difficulty understanding what he said.
Don’t believe it
When your well meaning English teacher or your American friends tell you that you should articulate every sound in American English, don’t believe it.
Of course you need to articulate some sounds clearly. In fact stressed vowel sounds need to be said very clearly.
But if you want to sound natural in American English, you’ll have to use lots of reduced sounds and words too.
I can show you how
If you’re a non native English speaker wants to speak clear and natural American English, take a free trial lesson by following the link below.
My training programs will teach you how speak English in a way that sounds natural to Americans!
About the author
Susan Ryan is an American English communication and accent reduction coach.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions about speaking clear, professional and natural American English.