If you are not reading this article in English, I highly recommend that you turn off the automatic translation on your browser.
If you want to speak English fluently, you need to be able to join words together. Many English words finish with one or even multiple consonants sounds, and when the following word begins with another consonant it may be very difficult to pronounce all those consonant sounds with no vowels in between. That’s just one of the cases in which knowing the connected speech techniques might be highly beneficial to your fluency.
There are five different techniques for joining words together:
1 – Catenation
“Catenation” happens when you pronounce the last sound of a word and the first sound of the following word with no pause in between.
Example: I had another fruit infusion in the evening.
You can pronounce “had” and “another” as if they were a single word like this: ˌhədəˈnʌðəʳ
You can do just the same with the words “fruit” and “infusion”: ˌfruːtɪnˈfjuːӡᵊn
2 – Linking “R”
In British English you shouldn’t pronounce the R’s at the end of words, unless the following word begins with a vowel sound, like in the following example:
“This flower is so beautiful.”
If you were to pronounce the word “flower” in itself, you should not pronounce the “R” at the end (in British English). So, you would pronounce it like that: ˈflaʊə. But given that the following word, “is”, begins with a vowel sound, you can join the two words by just pronouncing the “R” at the end of the word “flower”. So the result will be: ˌflaʊərˈɪz (flower is); as if they were a single word.
3 – Elision
The elision technique may be particularly useful when, as the result of joining two words together, a cluster of consonants is generated. Let’s just have an example:
“You ought to try this.”
Without elision, you would pronounce “ought to” that way: /ɔːt tu/. But in reality, it’s very rare that you will hear it. “Ought to” is nearly 100% of times pronounced like that: /ˈɔːtu/ (before vowels) or /’ɔ:tə/ (before consonant), just eliding the final consonant of the word “ought” and pronouncing it /ɔ:/.
Assimilation means that two words tend to change their sounds when joined together. Let’s have a couple of examples:
a) Did you know that?
b) You are very knowledgeable, aren’t you?
In the first sentence the two words “Did” and “you” should be pronounced /dɪd/ and /juː/ but when we join them together they naturally tend to become /dɪdӡjuː/ instead of /dɪdjuː/.
A similar thing happens when you join the two words “aren’t” and “you” they can be pronounced /ˈɑːntʃjuː/ with a “tʃ” sound in the middle instead of /ɑːntjuː/.
Note: You can speak perfectly without using the assimilation technique. Take it as a tool that you can use when you feel the need to.
5 – Intrusion
Intrusion is very useful when joining a word that finishes with a vowel to another word which begins with another vowel. In that case it may be difficult for a listener to distinguish the two different words, given that you would be pronouncing them as one. So, a consonant sound is often added between the two vowel sounds like in the following examples:
a) “I saw a wonderful rainbow yesterday evening.”
Between the words “saw” (/sɔː/) and the word “a” (/eɪ/ or /ə/), you can put the consonant sound “r”, to make it clearer that they are to different words joined together. So, you will pronounce them /ˈsɔːrə/ or /ˈsɔːreɪ/
Also between the two words “yesterday” and “evening” you should add a little “j” sound pronouncing /jestəʳdei ʲ i:vnɪŋ/
b) “You are very nice.”
In that case, between the word “you” and the word “are” you can put a “w” sound. So instead of joining the two words in that way: /juˈɑːʳ/, you would pronounce them so: /juˈwɑːʳ/. That’s much clearer when speaking fast, especially for listeners.
c) “She gave me a letter yesterday.”
Here you can add a “j” consonant sound between the word “me” and the word “a” when joining the two words together. So, instead of pronouncing them /miə/ or /ˈmieɪ/, you will pronounce them that way: /ˈmɪjə/ or /ˈmɪjeɪ/
Using those connected speech techniques will improve your speaking skills. But to correctly make use of them, you first need to know how to pronounce every single word you need to use without connecting them.