Transcript: English Word Stress

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Hello, so good to have you here!

Today’s episode is designed to stress you out a bit, in the best possible way!


If you’ve been wanting to take your English speaking up a notch, chances are you’ve tried to fix your sounds, your linking and loads of other things, but did you set aside some headspace to get more stress in there?


This episode is for you if:

1. You haven’t worked out how to emphasise words


2. You feel like your pronunciation is clear, but something is still not quite right


3. You want to go deeper with your message so that your listener really gets you


Before we jump in headfirst make sure you head to our website – I’ve linked a whole blog post to this tutorial.


The stress patterns of a language are what give the language it’s rhythm. 

Now as you saw, I dance to my own drum like a nitwit but when it comes to training word stress, BABY that is my thing.

Stress is part of the music of the language and nothing gets me more excited than when my knowledge as an opera singer overlaps with my knowledge as a speech pathologist.


And I can’t wait to share this knowledge with you today.


So make yourself comfy, perhaps get a notebook to take notes so you learn and remember better and lets polish up your English speaking together and add a little stress to it!


Today we are talking about WORD STRESS otherwise known as LEXICAL STRESS. 


First, we need to define stress!

word stress

Stress can be emphasised by increasing loudness, pitch or vowel length.

Did you get that?

word stress

How do we do this?


We use more energy!



When you make a stressed sound in English, you are going to apply more muscular oomph and support!

word stress

But how?


With your speech machine.


If you are worried about how to show proper stress in English because you come from a different language background don’t! 


You and I may not share the same mother tongue BUT we have one thing in common for a fact.


We share the same speech machine.


My speech machine has the same parts as yours.

We both have a mouth, teeth, tongue, voice, jaw, lungs, nose! 


So what do I do when I want to give a syllable more energy?


I use more air, from my lungs, by getting my abdominal diaphragmatic breathing working more in the specific part of the word I wanna give stress to. 

This does all I need for the word.


Simple voice science.


If you increase your airflow pressure we see a change in the emphasis of the syllable. 

Now I want you to do this carefully because if you overdo it your voice takes the load and can get tired or worse still damaged.


This is why our team are amazing for pronunciation clarity training because we are all qualified voice therapists as well so we can really keep an eye on that beautiful voice of yours to make sure that speech changes keep your voice healthy!


And no two languages are the same. Every language has different rhythm needs. 


Let’s take a look at this chart that I’ve made for you.

word stress


Languages are defined here by the types of stress patterns they contain.


There are 3 main ways we can categories word stress in a language. 


English is categorised as having variable word stress.

Here the stress of the word is not as predictable.

Sometimes there are two parts of the word that have stress.

Other languages like this are Russian and German.


Then we have languages that take fixed word stress where the stress falls regularly on a specific syllable. This happens in languages like Czech, Polish and Swahili.


And finally, we have sets of languages that take a unique stress of their very own and the stress doesn’t happen at word level so much. This applies for languages like French (stress is at the phrase level) and even Mandarin (which uses tonal movement for emphasis and any stress shown is linked to what the tones require).


With this info in mind this means that when we audit your pronunciation at Voice Science via our fave service Your Personalised Pronunciation Audit, we take into account the stress needs of your first language and contrast it against what your English speaking needs so that we are ready to train you up on your speaking rhythm skills for English when you start a program with us.


You want to know what type of stress you started your life within speaking because chances are that is what you are calibrated to!

word stress

For English, it is very hard to predict where stress belongs, so I recommend you know your words that you use all the time and check your dictionary to make sure where to place the stress at the word level.


There’s no short cut to word stress accuracy and the best approach is working hard with feedback that is tailored to you.


You can get a lot out of correcting word-level stress but you’ll also need to go further to create the correct sentence-level stress and intonation, this is something we really get into in our Pronunciation Clarity programs. We’ll sit with you and help you align your stress. 

When you’re listening to any language, it can be super hard to work out the stress. Listeners may not always pick up where the stress falls when it’s right, but if it’s wrong, it’s going to stand out. 


In our Pronunciation clarity programs, work on English stress is an advanced level that we work on through a specific module called the Stress Formula.

In this module, you learn all about word, phrase and sentence level stress so that you can create cleaner English speaking rhythm. 

English word stress

If you want to get some feedback on your English pronunciation, you should definitely check out Your Personalised Pronunciation Audit. 

You’ll score yourself a total audit into every single sound of English so that you learn which sounds need more work. We’ll also do a fun vocal health survey and spot check aspects of your social communication to make sure you are speaking as comfortably and as confidently as you can.


Otherwise, I hope that this tutorial gave you a chance to learn something new about English pronunciation, especially a deeper understanding of what stress means and how it works in words.

Thank you so much for being here and spending time listening to these ideas. And if you haven’t already subscribed think about doing so. We talk all about English pronunciation and communication strategies here so that you can amp up your message clarity and speak with more power and value wherever you are!

We release weekly tutorials here on YouTube & Facebook so if you loved this one please subscribe and remember to give it a huge thumbs up! That’s your way of smiling at me! And better still, feel free to share this video on your own Facebook page!

As we conclude, please remember, feeling stressed about your communication is real. But learning a few powerful strategies, even about how stress words properly can start to remove your speaking fears and help you sound more clear and better still FEEL more confident. 

Your voice and message matter immensely so put some goals in place today and if you need a hand, why not enrol today in your personalised pronunciation audit and get access to our team’s beautiful support and training to maximise your pronunciation clarity.

Ciao for now & see you soon at Voice Science.