Sound like a native English speaker – ‘Linking Sounds’

Do you remember that time when Ada and Andy ran in the Dublin marathon?

Try reading the sentence. Can you pronounce it in one sound, without any pauses?

When native speakers talk, they don’t pause between words. They pronounce whole phrases and even sentences as one continuous sound. If you want to speak English more fluently and sound more natural, you should try to do this too. But how?

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The key is ‘linking’. When we say sentences in English, words are linked or connected to each other, so that two words are pronounced together.

For example:

  • that time – we only pronounce one t and the two words join together.
  • when Ada – the n and the A(da) join so it becomes one word sound.

Read more to learn about these different ways to link words.

 

LINKING DOUBLE CONSONANTS

When you say that time what happens? How many times do you pronounce /t/? The answer is just once. The two words ‘share’ the /t/ sound: that_time. Try it. 

When one word ends with a consonant sound, and the next word starts with the same consonant sound, we link the sounds.

3d small people - chain link

For example:

  • red_door → we have two /d/ sounds together, so the two words share the sound: red door.
  • big_girl → we have two /g/ sounds together, so again the two words share the sound: big girl.
  • feel_loved → the two words share the /l/ sound: feel loved.

Remember that links depend on the sounds, not the spelling.

For example:

  • look calm
  • white_tie
  • nice_shoes

In the first example, the letters are different – ‘c’ and ‘k’ – but the sounds are the same: /k/. So we link the words, and they share the /k/ sound: look_calm.

We link because the sounds are the same, even though the spellings are different.


VOWEL & CONSONANT BLEND

We also blend consonant and vowel sounds. 

Do you remember that time when Ada and Andy ran in the Dublin marathon?

Think about the words: when Ada. We link the consonant onto the vowel. Together, the words are pronounced when_Ada /we’nædə/.

You can do this if one word ends with a consonant sound, and the next word begins with a vowel sound.

You can also link: 

  • and_Andy
  • ran_in.

Look at the consonant-vowel links in these sentences:

  • There’s an ant in the garden. There’s_an_ant_in the garden.
  • I ate an orange and two bananas. I ate_an_orange_and two bananas.
  • These are the best potatoes I’ve ever had. These_are the best potatoes_I’ve_ever had.

Try saying the full sentence with these vowel links. If you find it difficult to pronounce the links, slow down. You don’t need to speak fast to link correctly. Here’s a simple trick you can use to find links. Imagine that the consonant is at the start of the second word.

  • There_za_nan_tin the garden.
  • I ey_ta_noran_gand two bananas.
  • Thee_zare the best potato_zi_vever had.

It looks strange but many English learners find this useful.


LINKING TWO VOWEL SOUNDS

Sometimes an additional sound is placed between vowel sounds, a ‘w’ or a ‘y’ sound. In the first two cases below, an extra ‘y’ or /j/ sound is added between the vowel at the end of the first word and the vowel at the start of the second.

  • three_oranges
  • she_asked

In the next two cases, an extra /w/ sound is added between the vowel at the end of the first word and the vowel at the start of the second.

  • two_oranges
  • go_up

So, how do we know which consonant sound to add? When do I use /w/ or /j/?

The best way is simply to relax and try to read the words as fluently as possible. You will use the correct sound automatically. Remember that linking makes it easier to speak fluently. The easiest one to say is the correct one.

Here are three easy examples to practice:

  • Yes, I am.
  • Yes, she is.
  • Yes, you are.

You are probably already linking them with a /w/ or /j/ without realising it. Remember, most native speakers don’t realise they link sounds in this way, they just do it automatically without thinking. 


REVIEW

There are three basic ways to link words in English: consonant to consonant, consonant to vowel, and vowel to vowel.

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  • You can link two consonants if one word ends with a consonant sound, and the next word starts with the same sound, or a similar sound. In this case, the two words ‘share’ the consonant sound.
  • You can link any consonant to any vowel. It can be helpful to imagine that the consonant ‘belongs’ to the second word.
  • You can link two vowel sounds together by adding a consonant between them. You need to add /w/ or /j/ depending on the two vowel sounds.

Remember that linking is supposed to make speaking English easier, not harder!


Do you have linking sounds in your language? You probably do!

Listen to native speakers. Try to hear the linking sounds they use and then copy them.  


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