The 9 basic pillars to speak English well

Introductory post of the series “The 9 basic pillars to speak English well”.

I want to tell you something personal…

I have a friend from the US and we send each other emails on a regular basis.
Some time ago, we decided to exchange a voice recording. I first sent him my voice file and when he answered me back, I was stunned!!!

He first apologized because he wasn’t able to understand my English!!!

How was it possible that a native English couldn’t understand my very basic English,  spoken really slowly?

That’s when I decided that I needed to answer the next question:
What make the difference between good and bad English speaking?

After some research I want to share with you what I think are the 9 basic pillars that make the difference if you to speak English well.

The 9 pillars to speak English well

Important Notes:

  1. This post is the first one of a series. The blueprint you have to keep in mind if you want to speak English well.
  2. Next I’m going to write 9 posts about how to master every one of these pillars.

Let’s check the 9 ingredients that make English to “sound English”…

1. Pronunciation

The most common mistake between English learners is trying to pronounce English words the way you pronounce them in your own language. As you already know it doesn’t work like that.
Moreover, English pronunciation is not easy at all because with the 26 letters of the English alphabet you can produce more than 44 different sounds.

That means that:

  •  You can forget about “one letter = one sound”. 🙁
  • You can’t guess the pronunciation of a word by its spelling.   🙁


2. Syllable Stress

To speak English well you have to stress words correctly. Every word has one and only one syllable stressed. It’s just about stressing in the right place in every word.

If you stress words correctly you are more likely to be understood and to avoid misunderstandings.


3. Word Stress

In every sentence you have to know what words to stress and what words not to stress.

As a rule of thumb…

  1. You stress important words, the ones that convey the meaning of the sentence or the ones you want to emphasize.
  2. You don’t stress or even de-stress words that are not important.

Doing these, the rhythm of your English is going to improve.


4. The “Schwa” Sound

The Schwa sound is one of the most common sounds of English and also one of the most unknown between English learners.

English speakers use the Schwa sound instead of the regular sound of certain syllables and words when they’re de-stressed.


5. Intonation

When you speak you always want to convey a very specific meaning…

  • Are you asking?
  • Are you giving an order?
  • Do you have a doubt?
  • Do you disagree?

You always need to use the right intonation if you want people to understand what you want to express.


6. Connected Speech

One important characteristic of English is that there is a lot of linking between words.
Connecting words correctly when speaking is going to improve your English rhythm and it’s also going to reduce your accent.


7. Reduced Speech

When speaking in English you have to reduce or contract words whenever needed.
If you don’t do that your English is not going to sound natural.


8. Thought Groups

In order to speak clearly, you always have to mentally cut long sentences into shorter chunks that are called Thought groups.

This helps to stress the right words in long sentences and to pause naturally to breath.
Your English rhythm is going to sound more natural.


9. Word Endings

You have to be careful to never drop and pronounce word endings correctly.

Words endings are very important because they tell if a word is singular or plural or show what tense you are using.
It’s very common to be misunderstood when you are not careful pronouncing word endings.


 These are the 9 ingredients that when well mixed are going to make you sound like a native English speaker!!!


And Remember…

The 9 pillars to speak English well_
– What do you think about these 9 pillars?
– Did I miss one?
… All your comments are very welcome!!!


What to do next…

How to master English pronunciation … Coming soon!
How to master word stress
How to master sentence stress … Coming soon!
How to master the Schwa sound … Coming soon!
How to master English Intonation
How to master connected speech
How to master English contractions
How to master thought groups … Coming soon!
How to master Word Ending pronunciation

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  • Nani

    Really it is benifit to me .first of all , i try to improve my pronouncation but really some sound so hard to me .some time ican through out the words hardly.but ican say it next time.idont know where is the problem ?is it my brian ?or my toung?please answer my question .what should i do to though out english easily ?i will appreciate that .thank you .have anice time

    1. George

      Hi Nani!

      Thank you very much for your comment. I really appreciate it. I’m happy to know that my blog is helping you to improve your English.

      The problem you have when trying to talk in English is very common among English learners like us.
      In my personal case, I think that my English speaking skill is by far my weakest level in comparison to my English listening, reading and writing level.
      As you say when you try to talk in English your brain and mouth seem not to work properly.

      I’m going to share with you some advises:

      1) Listen to a lot of English materials (TV shows, podcast, songs, audiobooks…)

      2) At least on the first stages, try to focus and copy one particular English Accent (American accent or British accent would be the best options).

      3) Try to follow the advice I’ll give you in the series of posts called “The 9 basic pillars to speak English well”
      In every post, you are going to focus and work one specific characteristic on the English language at a time. When your speaking level will improve, you are going to mix them naturally and don’t think about them anymore.

      It’s very important to keep something in mind:
      Succeeding or failing in speaking English well only depends of your persistence in working day after day.
      Learning to speaking English is not a short race but a marathon. Most people give up too soon. Only hard workers reach the goal!!!

      Feel free to ask for help whenever you need it.

      Take care my friend!!!

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