Introduction to Intonation

Intonation is the rhythm of the English language. It creates that natural, flowing sound when native speakers speak. It is also why sometimes it is difficult to understand English in movies and or TV shows or when you are talking to someone, because it sounds like they are eating their words. It is what differentiates us from sounding like the Terminator when we speak English. So, instead of I'll.be.back we say ayl-bee-baek.

Sometimes we may have the right grammar, vocabulary, and or pronunciation, but we sound like we.are.speaking.like.a.telegraph instead of naturally.

Try these sample intonation exercises to get the idea of rhythm:

Where.did.you.go. wehrdihdyuhgoh

How.are.you. hauahryoo

I'm.from.the.U.S. aimfruhmTHuhyooehs

Let's.go.to.the.mall. lehtsgoht'THuhmahl

*Often, a sentence sounds like one long word.

Tips for improving your intonation

Try organizing your practice into topics such as the topic below. Think of some expressions that you have heard or want to say and write them down. In your next class, ask your teacher to speak them and write the phonetic spelling. Practice, practice, and practice saying each expression until it sounds rhythmic.

Intonation Practice: Vacation

How was your vacation? hauwuhzyrveikeishn

It was great. ih'wuhzgreit

Where did you go? wehrdihdyuhgoh

We went to Italy. weewehntuh-ihduhlee

Wow! Nice. wau-nais

You got it!

If you can develop your intonation more through exercises and listening, you will likely be able to follow what is being said in movies or shows better, as well as your customers, colleagues, business contacts, teachers, or professors.


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