by Andrew Weiler

March 5, 2013

Listen to the podcast below (an interview with Dr. Piers Messum) and discover valuable insights as to how we stress and reduce vowel sounds in English. This understanding and the resultant techniques talked about have the potential to transform the successes you have as a learner in mastering the unique demands of the English language.

(This interview follows on from the other interview I did with Piers late last year about what we do to learn individual sounds. This interview created quite a lot of interest and comment in the various social media circles, so you might want to check it out for yourself if you haven't already after you have listened to the one here on stress.)

Those who have an interest in the English language are aware that English stresses some vowel sounds and reduces others, both at the word level and at the sentence level. Most languages don't work in this way. Learning to master this aspect of English is a challenge for most language learners. One reason for that is that our understanding of what it is to stress a vowel sound in English has, according to Piers, been lacking crucial understandings as to what native English speakers do with themselves to produce it. Listen in and find out what English language learners have to do to to create the kind of stress that sounds natural.

I would encourage those who try his suggestions to let us know how you go below. This is a good way to keep moving forwards and resolve any potential difficulties in implementing the suggestions.

​Piers refers again to the book, A Practical Introduction to Phonetics by J.C. Catford. He says it can be of help to those interested to get additional exercises and insights.  This book is a very thorough look at pronunciation, including unique practical exercises that can help learners to master stress in English. They can explore and hence learn to recognise what is needed to modify the sounds, including the stress, they make. It is a very comprehensive book that would suit language learners committed to improving their pronunciation. It is also an excellent reference for language teachers. your text here...

piers messum on pronunciation

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Andrew Weiler

Andrew is passionate about doing what is necessary to enable language learners to not only improve BUT to keep improving.

  • This reminds me my first Silent Way Training in English with UEPD in Besançon (Auguts 2011) where Piers made us work on the stresses. He used some sort of drums and made us say sounds with different tones. We also explored where the sounds should come from (not the mouth, the stomach) and this was an excellent exercises of awareness! As a French teacher, teaching pronunciation to English speakers is right opposite! Making them “relax”, move their mouth a lot, insist on vowels, on cutting words in separate and equal syllables, avoiding stress (maybe a small stress on the last syllable). Thanks!

  • I remember the Silent Way – we used rods I seem to remember! The above is very useful and I will be using it this week to teach my students about the schwa.

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