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Improving American English Pronunciation: Beware the Stress!

Improve your American English Accent with Corporate Speech Solutions!When trying to improve an American English accent, most people focus on the sounds in a word. While learning how to pronounce the consonant and vowel sounds of Standard American English is a core component of accent reduction, there are other, more subtle aspects of American English that often prevent people from sounding like a native English pronunciation speaker. One of these is stress.

Whenever we say a word, there is always more stress on one syllable. This syllable is typically slightly louder, longer, and higher in pitch. Putting the stress on the wrong syllable in a word can make your speech sound heavily accented and difficult to understand. In some words, putting stress on the wrong syllable can even change the meaning. Heteronyms, are pairs of words which have the same spelling but differ in pronunciation and meaning. In many cases, the only difference between heteronyms is which syllable is stressed. Often, nouns have the stress on the first syllable of a word, while verbs have the stress on the second syllable. Take a look at some examples:

                             Nouns                                                                                         Verbs

project                                                                                           project

When will you be finished with the new project?                   He projects higher profits for next quarter. 

contest                                                                                           contest

The student entered a writing contest.                                     He wants to contest the judge’s decision.

produce                                                                                         produce

You can buy fresh produce at the corner market.                  He produces excellent results.

progress                                                                                        progress

The team has made great progress this quarter.                     Have you progressed toward your goals?

present                                                                                          present

She gave her secretary a present.                                              Please present your idea to the team.

Want to hear some examples of how stress changes a word? Take a look at the video below!


For information on the New York Speech and Accent Reduction services offered by Corporate Speech Solutions please give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com. Not in NYC? No problem! We also provide Skype and video speech conferencing services.

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