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3 Secrets to English

Have you every wished you could unlock some secrets to English that would help you to accelerate your own learning? Well, wish no more. In this video, Judy Thompson mentions three secrets to English that will transform the way you see and learn the language. They are summarized as follows:

Secret #1: English is a stress-based language

Many students are primarily concerned with their pronunciation and become overly focused on perfecting every sound in every word they speak. This can lead to false idea that accents are bad or that every sound in every word must be pronounced exactly like a native speaker in order for understanding to occur. This is simply not true. Because English is a stress-based language, knowing where to put the emphasis on a word or phrase is far more important than anything else. You should be primarily concerned with the stressed syllable. If you stress the right syllable in a word, then you are much more likely to be understood, even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect. On the other hand, and even if your pronunciation is perfect, many English speakers won’t understand you if you get the word stress wrong.

Only one of the following represents the correct way to say vacation. Which one is it?

a. VA-ca-tion b. va-CA-tion c. va-ca-TION

If you chose 'b,' then you are correct. Notice how the middle syllable is bigger (louder and longer) than the others. When learning new words, focus on getting the stressed syllable right more than anything else.

Secret #2: Linking

As a student of English, you know that often times English does not sound like it looks. One letter or even a group of letters in English many have different sounds depending on the word. For example, the ‘ough’ sound in the words ‘cough’, ‘tough’, and ‘through’ is different. Another reason that English can sound different to your ears than it looks in writing is because of linking. Linking refers the joining of sounds together. For example, look at the following sentence.

Can I have a bit of egg?

When a native speaker says this sentence, it will actually sound more like this:


This is because spoken English syllables don’t usually begin with vowel sounds. Instead, we typically begin the syllables with consonant sounds, even if an actual word (like ‘egg’) begins with a vowel. This is what makes linking possible and speaking therefore faster and more fluid. The best way to get used to this is simple by exposing yourself to real spoken English and practice repeating what you hear.

Secret #3: Collocations

Many students and teachers of English put an extremely high priority on grammar. However, the speaker in the video points out that the English language is not actually driven by grammar, but rather collocations. Collocations refer to groups of words in English that have a fixed meaning. For example, ‘fall in love’, ’do the dishes’, and ‘don’t take it personally’ are all examples of collocations. While grammar is important, you will not understand the meaning of English phrases simply through applying grammar rules. For example, consider the following sentence:

Have a Joyful Christmas and a Merry New Year.

While there is nothing grammatically wrong with this statement, the correct collocations are actually like this:

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

In English, only Merry goes with Christmas, and only Happy goes with New Year.

Grammar knowledge alone cannot give you a meaningful grasp of the English language. Rather, you must also learn the collocations. And once again, the best way to learn those is through saturating your ears and mind with real English. Now go and watch the video to get an even better understanding of these three secrets.

Learn English | Houston ESL Schools | Texas ESL Schools | F1 Houston | ESL Houston

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