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  • There are two main tricks how Americans  speak so fast. Linking and reductions.  

  • Let's study a scene from the TV series 'Friends'  

  • to look at these two important characteristics  of spoken American English. You'll improve your  

  • listening skills and sound more natural speaking  English when you link and reduce this way.

  • This is the scene that we'll  study. It's about 35 seconds long.  

  • The New Year's Eve party has just ended and  they're all talking about their New Year's  

  • resolutions. Are you making any this yearIf so, let me know in the comments below.

  • Blair forgot her glasses. Man. She's going to be  needing these to keep an eye on her boyfriend. Who  

  • from what I hear needs to keep his stapler in his  desk drawer if you know what I'm talking about.

  • Hey Rach, maybe your resolution  should be to, um, gossip less.

  • Wha-? I don't gossip.

  • (laughing)

  • Wha? Maybe sometimes I find out things or  I something and I pass that information on.

  • You know, kind of like a public service?

  • It doesn't mean I'm a gossip. I meanwould you call Ted Koppel a gossip?

  • Well, if Ted Keppel talked about his  coworker's botched boob jobs, yeah, I would.

  • How do they do that? I mean  at the beginning of this clip,  

  • Rachel is speaking so fast, how  do people still understand her?  

  • It has to do with pulling out the stressed  words. Let's take a look at the analysis.

  • Blair forgot her glasses.

  • The first thing I like to do is to study  what are our most stressed syllables that  

  • gives us our anchor for the sentenceSo, listen to this sentence three times  

  • and see if you can figure out what you  think are the most stressed syllables.

  • Blair forgot her glasses.

  • Blair forgot her glasses. I hear  two stressed syllables. The name,  

  • Blair forgot her glasses and then  also the first syllable of glasses.

  • So, we have a stressed word that has more than  one syllable, it's just the stressed syllable  

  • that feels stressed. The unstressed syllables even  if a stressed word are not stressed. So, Blair  

  • forgot her, forgot and her, a little bit less  clear, said more quickly to give us that contrast  

  • with our stressed syllables that are a little  bit longer and have that up down shape of stress.

  • Now, one of the things that happens  in unstressed words is sometimes we  

  • have reductions. And that means the sound  changes or is dropped. Here, we do have that.

  • The word 'her'. How is that  pronounced? Let's listen again.

  • Blair forgot her glasses.

  • Forgot her, forgot her, forgot her, her, her, her.  

  • The h is dropped isn't it? That's a pretty  common way to pronounce her. Also he, his,  

  • him, those can all be pronounced without the h.  Forgot her. Now this t, t is not a true t is it?

  • The rule for t pronunciations is when it's between  two vowels or diphthong sounds like it is here,  

  • it becomes a flap T which sounds like  D between vowels in American English.  

  • So, forgot her, forgot her, forgot her [flap],  forgot her. Those two words link with a flap.

  • Forgot her--

  • Now, don't try to say forgot. For, I know  you see f-o-r but its actually fur, fur.  

  • That is written with the  schwa R. in phonetics in IPA  

  • and the schwa gets absorb by the R so it's like  the vowel drops out. Fur, forget, forgot, forget,  

  • forgot. Very fast first syllable with no  vowel, forgot. Blair forgot her glasses.

  • Blair forgot her glasses.

  • Man. She's going to really be needing these.

  • So, this next thought group  very fast and she speaks so  

  • quickly with her reductions. Now  a native speaker has no problem  

  • understanding what she's saying because of the  anchors she gives us, the stressed syllables.  

  • So let's just listen to the first few words, see  if you can feel the one stressed syllable here.

  • Man. She's going to really.

  • Man. She's going to really. So, peak of  stress I would say for there, she's. Man.  

  • She's going to really then we have four unstressed  syllables said so quickly, going to becomes gonna  

  • and really, we don't have any reductions  of changes there but it's just said  

  • very quickly. And it's flat. There's not  a lot of energy and volume in the voice,  

  • not length, no up down shape. Gonna reallygonna really, gonna really, gonna really,  

  • gonna really, gonna really. I can do that  without moving my lips or my jaw at all,  

  • it's all tongue. And by simplifying those mouth  movements that helps me get that out more quickly.  

  • Man. She's going to really, Man. She's going to  really, gonna really, gonna really, gonna really,  

  • gonna really. See if you can match that  speed and simplify like crazy to get there.

  • Man. She's going to really--

  • Man. She's going to really be needing these--

  • Be needing these. Be needing these. Then we have  two more stressed syllables, be needing these.  

  • They both have the e vowel, needing these. Do you  notice needing becomes needin , needin. So the ng  

  • ending gets changed to just the ih as in sit  n, needin. Needin, be needin these. Uhuhuhuh.  

  • Do you hear that up down shape? That's the  feeling of stress. Be needing these, Uhuhuhuh.

  • be needing these--

  • And those syllables are  definitely way more clearer than  

  • gonna really, gonna reallygonna really be, gonna really be.

  • Man. She's going to really--

  • Man. She's going to really be needing  these to keep an eye on that boyfriend.

  • To keep an eye on that boyfriend. So, we have  a little bit more stress here. To keep an eye.  

  • I would say a little bit on eye. To keep an eye  on that boyfriend. And then quite a bit on boy.  

  • So those are our stressed words. Those are the  only syllables with length and more clarity,  

  • the rest of the syllables really  mumbly. And if that was all we did,  

  • was speak in unstressed syllables, nobody  would ever understand anyone. But by  

  • having that mixed in with stressed  syllables, we understand perfectly.

  • To keep an eye on that boyfriend.

  • Actually, if you go to my videoRachel's EnglishNative speakers can't understand this”, it's  

  • really funny, I actually play parts of sentences  from Friends that would just be unstressed words  

  • and my friends and family cannot figure out what  is being said but when I play the whole sentence,  

  • they understand. So that just goes to show how  unclear these unstressed words are by themselves.  

  • Even a native speaker can't understand them  but in the context on the whole sentence,  

  • then we understand them. So you really have  to keep that in mind when you're trying to  

  • speed up and simplify your unstressed syllablesthey are not going to be clear and that's okay.

  • Man. She's going to really be needing  these to keep an eye on that boyfriend.

  • Needing these to. Now, the word to, I  barely hear it. Extremely light true T  

  • and a schwa but it's so fast. I almost don't hear  that word. Needing these to keep an eye, keep an  

  • eye, keep an eye, keep an eye. And everything  links together smoothly. The ending p into the  

  • schwa, ən, ən, ən, ən. The ending n into the eh  as in bed vowel, sorry the ai as in buy diphthong.

  • to keep an eye on that boyfriend.

  • To keep an eye on that, to  keep an eye on that. So fast,  

  • a little bit of a peek on eye but those words  said so quickly. To keep an eye on that,  

  • to keep an eye on that, to keep an eye on thatAnd you have to simplify to say those words  

  • that quickly. We have a stop T in the word  that, t, because the next word begins with  

  • a consonant so it's not that but  that, that, that, that boyfriend.

  • to keep an eye on that boyfriend.

  • Boyfriend. And a really  light d, release of that d.

  • Boyfriend.

  • Who, from what I hear

  • Who, up down shape of stressWho, from what I hear.  

  • From what, lower in pitch, flatter, from what  I hear. And then another peak of stress on I.

  • Who, from what I hear--

  • From what, from. So, we don't have a full uh as  in butter vowel there I would say it's a schwa.  

  • From, from, from. From what I hear. What I, do  you hear how that T is a flap T because it's  

  • linking to a vowel or diphthong sounds  together, the uh as in butter and the I  

  • diphthong, that helps us move through  that word and that sound more quickly  

  • rather than a stop and a release, it's  just a flap. What I, What I, What I.  

  • From what I hear. We really like our  words linked together in American English.

  • from what I hear--

  • What I hear. And I would say we have a little bit  of a curve back up here. Hear. So that's signaling  

  • she's going to say more, this change of direction  of pitch shows us stress. So, stress is usually  

  • up and then down but sometimes it's down  The word hear, written in IPA, h consonant,  

  • I vowel, schwa r. But a couple of things. Theabsorbs the schwa so it's just the single r sound.  

  • And this r sound changes the i vowel, it's not  I, hit, I, hear, hear, hear. But it's hear,  

  • hear. It's a lot more like thevowel. The R changes I into e. Hear.

  • I hear--

  • I hear, needs to keep his stapler--

  • Needs to keep his stapler. Okay, so she is  giving some good juicy gossip here so she's  

  • slowing down a little bit. Needs to keep  his, doesn't drop the h in his, doesn't  

  • even reduce the vowel in to which is a little  bit unusual. That's a true t and the uh vowel.  

  • So she's being extra clear here because of how  good this gossip is. Needs to keep his stapler.  

  • Really stressing that. Stapler, a lot of  pitch change, going pretty high there.

  • Need to keep his stapler--

  • In his desk drawer

  • In his desk drawer. Drawer. Up down shape  of stress and then going up a little bit at  

  • the end to show a little bit more she wants  to say about it. And again, really clear,  

  • Doesn't drop the h in his, everythinglittle bit longer, a little bit more clearer  

  • because she thinks, wow, this is so importantso juicy, I'm so excited to share this gossip.

  • In his desk drawer--

  • If you know what I'm talking about.

  • If you know what I'm talking aboutOkay, she gets a little bit more playful.  

  • If you know what I'm talking. And we have  one big peak of stress on talking. So talking  

  • becomes talkin. She changes the ng sound to just  an in sound. Ih as in sit, n unstressed syllable,  

  • talkin, talkin. Now, the l in talking droppedNot dropped but not pronounced, it's silent.

  • If you know what I'm talking about.

  • If you know what I'm. Said a little bit more  quickly than that. If you know becomes ifknow,  

  • ifknow, not you but jə. Jə, jə, If  jə know what I'm, Ifknow what I'm,  

  • Ifknow what I'm. What [flap] I'm.  

  • Again, we're linking those words with a flapthat's what we do when a word ends in a vowel  

  • or diphthong plus t and then the next word  is a vowel or diphthong. Link that smoothly  

  • with a single flap, t, really feeding into that  characteristic of smoothness for American English.

  • If you know what I'm talking about.

  • If you know what I'm talking  about. About, about, about.  

  • Stop T, not released. That's usually what we  do with T's at the end of a thought group.

  • If you know what I'm talking about.

  • So on the first slide, she was speaking so  fast. Here, she's slowing down a little bit,  

  • we still have contrast. We still have  the clear up down shape on some syllables  

  • but definitely not all of them. The other  syllables are just flatter. They don't have uhuuh  

  • or uhuh changes in pitch the same  way that those stressed syllables do.

  • Needs to keep his stapler in his desk drawer--

  • Keep his stapler in his desk drawerOkay, this is a sexual inuendo which means  

  • we use a phrase that has a normal, plain  innocent meaning in English but we use it  

  • to mean something sexual. So, of coursestapler here being penis and desk drawer  

  • being pants. In other words, she's heard  Blair's boyfriend is sleeping around.

  • Who needs to keep this  stapler in his desk drawer--

  • If you know what I'm talking about.

  • Hey Rach,

  • Hey Rach, hey Rach, hey Rach. Hey said quicklygoing up towards that peak of stress on Rach. Hey