197: Linking vowels to sound fluent!

Some before and after student audio to illustrate linking.


Hi again, and welcome back to Seattle Learning Academy's American English pronunciation podcast. My name is Mandy, and today is our 197th episode.

We recently released our new ebook about linking words, and to celebrate, I asked a few students of mine to participate in a little before-and-after audio.

Linking is one of the key skills to sounding fluent in English. It allows you to speak in complete thoughts without sounding "choppy" or "broken." Some English teachers also call this "blending," or even "using liaisons" when speaking. I'm not a big fan of using the term "blending" because some of linking--for examply, linking vowels--isn't created by blending sounds.

Today we'll listen to Kumiko linking vowels into other vowels. Kumiko is a native Japanese speaker and she was doing what many non-native English speakers do: she was often using a glottal stop between vowel sounds. A glottal stop is that break in sound you hear when you say "uh-oh."

Now, English does use glottal stops, even when linking sounds, and even when linking vowels from time to time. The difference is when and how they're used. For instance, it's very common to use a glottal stop for the /t/ in the word "can't," as in:

I can't go.


I can't think about it.

With vowels, breaking words apart by using a glottal stop is a way to add emphasis to a word. If I want to link "you" into "only" nice and smoothly, I'll say "you only." That was, "you only."

But if I want to add stress to the word "only," I can break it from "you" with a glottal stop:

You only live once.
You only live once.

Let's get back into linking without using the glottal stop, though. You see, there's a trick to that nice fluent link in "you only." What is that trick? I added a tiny w sound between the words "you" and "only": you-(w)-only. Try it: "you only."

Adding a w sound doesn't work for all vowel links, though. Some links need a y sound added instead. An example of this is the phrase "very old." I'll say that again, more slowly: very old.

How do you know if you should add a w sound or a y sound between words? Well, you really can't add the wrong one. Seriously. If you're thinking about the wrong sound, it will sound so terrible that you won't even be tempted to try it.

For example, here I am, correctly linking "very old" with a y sound, and "so old" with a w sound: very old, so old. If I tried it opposite, I'd get "very-(w)old" and "so-(y)old." It just doesn't work!

Now, let's listen to that before-and-after audio from Kumiko. First I'm going to tell you the part to listen for, then I'm going to play her audio using the glottal stop, then play her again with using the more fluent-sounding linking. We'll start with examples where she needed to add a w sound.

Again, I'll tell you where to listen, then play the non-linked audio example, then the more fluent, linked example:


My car is so old.


I don't know‿if she's coming.


Assisted living homes allow‿individuals to live independently for longer.

Now let's listen to some examples where Kumiko first used a glottal stop, then correctly linked more fluently using a y sound:


Nutrition may‿affect development in ways scientists haven't discovered, yet.


We‿expect Mark to show up around dinner time.


They're going to fly‿over the disaster sight in the morning.


Those rules only‿apply‿after 6:00 pm.

I hope you can hear the difference between those.

I want to send a big thank you out to Kumiko for allowing me to use her audio as examples today. I think they illustrate the power of linking very nicely!

We're going to do some practice with you repeating after me, but before we do, I want to mention that these sentences are also in our new Linking ebook, which you can find by clicking the "products" link on Pronuncian.com. The ebook comes with MP3 audio, so you can have as much listen-and-repeat practice as you want. Also, some of these sentences are in the free linking vowels lesson that I'll link to from this episode's transcript page, and some of these examples are from the subscribers' exercises, which you can find at the bottom of the lessons. So, there are two ways to access all of this practice: download the ebook, or subscribe to Pronuncian.com.

And one last thing--we're running a promotion during the month of April 2014 for our one-on-one Skype and in-person classes with our teachers right now! Use the coupon code TeachMe (that's all one word: t-e-a-c-h-m-e) for 10% off our 10-hour or 18-hour one-on-one classes. See class details at www.seattlelearning.com or email info@seattlelearning.com for more information!

Now, here are some practice sentences for you to try right now. We'll first practice linking using the y sound.

day‿off: John's taking the day‿off:
worry‿about: Don't worry‿about it.
shy‿at: She's shy‿at first.
he‿asked: At least he‿asked for permission.
day‿after: Rachel's interview is the day‿after tomorrow.

Now let's practice using the w sound:

grow‿up: Kids grow‿up so quickly.
few‿ideas: Jared had quite a few‿ideas about it.
go‿over, tomorrow‿afternoon: Let's go‿over the documents tomorrow‿afternoon.
argue‿about: Those two will argue‿about anything.
know‿if: I don't know‿if she's coming.

If you'd like to see the transcripts for this episode and the link to the free related lesson on Pronuncian, go to www.pronuncian.com/podcast and click episode 197.

That's all for today, everyone. This has been a Seattle Learning Academy digital publication. SLA is where the world comes to learn. Thanks for listening, bye-bye.