“Stressed” Spelled Backwards is Just “Desserts”—After Healthy Helpings of Syllables, Emphasis, & Rhythm.

“Stressed” Spelled Backwards is Just “Desserts”—After Healthy Helpings of Syllables, Emphasis, & Rhythm.

Competency Puzzle “Listen & Speak with Understanding” Pieces E-02.01 to E-02.11: Numbers of Syllables, Stress Patterns, Meaning Focus, & Regular Rhythm in Place Description & Names—& How to Get There 
Before, while, or after studying Vowel or Consonant Sounds & Spellings, teachers / learners of American-English Pronunciation of Vocabulary are apt to deal with Syllables, “units of pronunciation having one vowel sound each, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or parts of words.”  In audio speech, syllables are the “beats” of its rhythm.
A previous blog post: "Succeed with Syllables: How to Teach (Yourself) How to Apply Syllable-Stress Patterns, Phrase Focus, & Sentence Rhythm for Clear Speech," suggests how to teach / learn Syllables in various configurations at individual levels of language ability.
The just mentioned article bases its explanation on language analysts’ responses to four questions, which constitute “syllable awareness.”   
  • How Many Syllables Are There in a Word or Phrase?
  • What’s the Pattern of Syllable Stress in an Utterance?
  • Why Should We Notice or Use “Syllable Focal Points” in Phrasing? 
  • How Is the “Regular Rhythm of Speech” Based on Syllable Stress?    
Competency Puzzle Pieces E-02.01 to E-02.11: “Listen & Speak with Understanding” = Numbers of Syllables, Stress Patterns, Meaning Focus, & Regular Rhythm in Place Description & Names—& How to Get There 
This E-02 article is the 4th installment of “How to Put Together Puzzle Parts & Pieces That Make Language Work: E. “Listen & Speak with Understanding.”  To catch up, you might want to click on:
So what’s the main aim of the E-02.01 to E-02.11 =  blog post on Syllables, Emphasis, & Rhythm?  It’s to put instruction in the uses of Syllables into contexts (subject matter) about Locations (Interiors, Structures, Outdoor Scenes), Geographical Place Names (Proper Nouns), Street Directions, and Travel Information. 
Less frequent than individual language sounds in pronunciation-practice materials, coaching in Syllable Stress, Intonation, & Rhythm may contribute to general intelligibility even more than (over-)accurate pronunciation of Vowel & Consonant Sounds.   
In educational situations, the three most general topics of oral interaction or expression are Things, Places, & People.  Of these, the second—Places—might be most readily integrated with instruction in Syllables, Stress, Focus, Intonation, and Rhythm. That’s because so much of its Vocabulary (Names of [Things in] Places) consists of one– and multi-syllable words with a variety of stress patterns. These fit into (Adjective +) Noun (Prepositional) Phrases plus Subject + Verb + Object Sentence Sequences.  
Also, Places (Inside / Outdoor Areas, Buildings, Earth Features, Political Entities, etc.) aren’t difficult to illustrate with photos, drawings, maps, floor plans, guides, diagrams, and the like. Depictions that are likenesses or illustrations lend themselves to Place Description, Directions to follow, and Travel Explanation / Advertising.  
Talk About Places can be pleasant or even entertaining—as participants construct long, precise, rhythmic phrases to name them, converse about where they’re “calling from,” compare locations, remember experiences from their pasts or travels, and learn / exchange info about very small to immense places in their environment or further away in the world. It can be satisfying to identify landmarks, buildings, famous streets, towns or cities, states or countries, physical features, and more—and to exchange info—what anyone knows or wants to learn about them.
What kind of materials might merge the study of Syllables with “Talk About Places?” Here, from the four texts
Beginners’ Before Speaking with Pronunciation Principles (BegBeSp wPrPr): An Oral-Language-Skills Package;
Pronunciation Practice (Before Speaking): High-Beginning to Intermediate Instruction & Activities in Vowel & Consonant Sounds;
Before Speaking (BeSp): Activities for Practice & Preparation in Oral Language Skills,
Accent Activities: Pronunciation Supplement to Speaking:Oral Language Skills for Real-Life Communication
are excerpts to download by clicking on their titles, and what to  do with them:
Begin By Describing Places with Wording Containing Different Numbers of Syllables
E-02.01: Part Two-4 of Beginners’ Before Speaking with Pronunciation Principles (BegBeSp wPrPr): Describe Places & Scenes with Numbers of Syllables might offer a good way to begin the “Study of Syllables in Words & Phrase” at (High) Beginning through Intermediate Levels. 
With “Drum-Beat Notation” (variously sized dots & letter spellings), take in “the Spelling & Pronunciation of Vowel Sounds in Multi-Syllable Words.” At individual levels of linguistic ability,  learn how to “count syllables,” in words and phrases organized according to their (Simple & Complex) Vowel Sounds
Next come cell-phone Conversations—one at a cemetery and another in a country cabin—to read aloud from one, two, or three kinds of symbols: IPA, Dictionary, and/or alphabetic letters. These serve as templates for exchanges about how places look & feel.   With phrasal cues indicating degrees of syllabic stress, participants get to describe a bedroom, a remodeled kitchen, a rec room, a hotel lobby; small structures in the woods, a lodge, mobile homes, circular apartment buildings; the surface of the moon, a winter scene, a tropical island, and lower Manhattan. 
Continue By Telling the Location of Places with Syllable-Stress Patterns
E-02.04: Part Two-5 of Beginners’ Before Speaking with Pronunciation Principles (BegBeSp wPrPr): Name & Describe Geographical Features & Places with Syllable-Stress Patterns goes beyond just “counting syllables.” It organizes sequences of (from one to six) beats—with primary, secondary, and/or no stress—into configurations of syllables numbered 1; 2a & 2b; 3a to 3c; 4a to 4d; and so on up to 6f. (The numbers of these designations represent numbers of syllables while the letters indicate which beats have the strongest emphasis.  
Text users are invited to match small visuals (map excerpts, photos) to the Place Names above, which range from one- or two-syllable words (Earth, Greece; EU rope, Bra ZIL, etc.) to polysyllabic phrases (such as  the PA na mal  Ca NAL;  In de PEN dence HALL; the GULF of MEX i co, and many others). Challenge Activities include info about various degrees of stress, pattern frequency, unstressed (“reduced”) words and syllables; use of the in Place Names. Then comes annotated Conversation about places on Manhattan and in New York State. Finally, text users get to (use their newly acquired articulation skills to) “Tell the Locations of Places” in their community, the World, and the Universe.  
(Really) Go Places By Getting & Giving Directions in Regular, Stressed-Time Rhythm with Pitch & Intonation
E-02.09: Part Two-6 of Beginners’ Before Speaking with Pronunciation Principles (BegBeSp wPrPr): Stressed Vs. Unstressed Syllables in Regular, Stress-Timed Speech Rhythm moves to Getting Around with (Street) Directions. It shows how “The Regular Rhythm of Speech” is not based on the number of syllables or words; instead, no matter how many quick, unstressed beats are inserted in between, it depends only on the Syllables with Primary & Secondary Emphasis. Utilizing “stress timing,” text users review or learn questions, short answers, and statements commonly used when “getting around.”
Voice pitch is the frequency of vibration of sound. Intonation is the rise and fall of voice pitch. Effective use of pitch and intonation makes speech easier to understand, especially when applied to “jump up” (on focal points) + “step / glide down / up” sentence patterns.” Participating “travelers” get to optimize use of these when navigating the streets of Manhattan & Environs—on foot, by car & ferry, etc. Beyond the text, they’re encouraged to understand and express themselves as clearly as possible wherever they go. 
Want to “anchor” (secure) these principles through more instruction in Syllables, Stress Patterns, Focal Points, Intonation, & Rhythm?  Here are links to three segments of Pronunciation Practice: Part Two: Talk About Places that restate and add detail to the principles:     
E-02.02: Part Two-4 of Pronunciation Practice (Before Speaking): Instruction & Activities in Sounds, Syllables, Stress, Rhythm & Other Features of Clear American Accent  has speakers labeling all sorts of illustrated items in fun phrases that apply to familiar environments. Competencies (addressed in Sidebars) involve Numbers of Syllables, Syllable-Division, Syllable-Stress Patterns, Stressed vs. Unstressed Syllables, Practice Techniques, Emphasis in Phrases.
E-02.05: Part Two-5 of PrPr (BeSp) focuses on Focus Points—in Directions, Place Names, & Markings on Maps. Sidebars explain and promote practice in Focus Points in Phrases, Voice Pitch on Focal Points, Reduced Syllables. There are annotated dialogs to use as templates, campus layouts & picture grids to play with, and U.S. maps to complete with locations of features, cities, & states.
E-02.11: Part Two-5 of PrPr (BeSp) gets into Recognition & Use of Typical Syllable-Stress in Sentence Rhythm. There’s also pedagogy of ”Reduced Forms” in Rhythmic Fluent Speech, Focus-Point Emphasis for Meaning, Contrasts in Stress Patterns. Articles of connected text to practice with are about the “State of California, its Symbols & Features.” So are sentences to analyze in contrast to comments about “Florida.” Then comes info about “Country Rankings—in Area & Population.” Items to compare—like “the WHITE house” vs. “a white HOUSE,” “PORTland” vs. port LAND,” “(to) proDUCE” vs. “(buy) PROduce”—point out how stress can make a difference in meaning. The excerpt ends with the different stress patterns of related words.  
No longer need focused pedagogy & exercises for teaching / learning  “supersegmentals”—pronunciation elements that go beyond individual Vowel & Consonant Sounds?  Here are links to Part Two-1, -2, -3: Talk About Places from Before Speaking: Activities for Practice & Preparation in Oral Language Skills.  Unencumbered by details of monitored pronunciation or reminders of accent features, these pages offer a plenitude of material to work with. 
E-02.03: Part Two-4 (Describe Spaces & Scenes) of Before Speaking: Activities for Practice & Preparation in Oral Language Skills  lacks pronunciation hints but has plenty of Language, Grammar, Vocabulary Notes. These take up Spatial Description, helping speakers acquire lots of relevant (Adjective +) Noun Phrases. They explain Location Questions, Connectors, the Filler It, the Present Continuous. But what  stands out in the Download is the many meaningful, real-life photographs. There are  Interiors: (living & dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, etc.). “Miscellaneous Small Structures” include a booth, sheds, an outhouse, a doghouse, a mausoleum. “One- & Multi-Level Buildings” display houses of historic value, abandoned but remembered sites, a decorated mansion, a bridge, a tower, and more. “Places & Streets In & Outside of Town” show at least 25 varied environments.   (Available separately is an Suggested-Answers Key with “authentic info” about the sources of the pictures.)
Finally, text users get a chance to “Communicate About Real Places,” using sample or self-created floor plans or neighborhood maps. When they give “Mini-Speeches” about their “(Least) Favorite Places,” they can illustrate with picture postcards and/or colorful Visual Downloads.        
E-02.06: Part Two-5 (Ask, Give, & Follow Directions) of Before Speaking: tells about and provides practice in those Language Competencies.  Its paired “Info-Gap” activity exhibits (two copies of) a campus map.  Site, City, & Road Maps to describe and give directions in include a shopping mall in a railroad station, a city park, the Las Vegas Strip, downtown Washington D.C., Oahu in Hawaii, and the United States. Language Notes help with (Requests for) Directions plus Directives in Sequence.  Culminating activities, including Mini-Speeches, have participants “Plan & Explain a Route,” and “Tell How to Get Somewhere”—with the help of visuals to supplement the words
E-02.12: Part Two-5 (Give & Get Info About Places) of Before Speaking starts with Language Notes: Just the Facts.  In groups, participants are tasked with Getting & Giving Info from Notes—about California, Florida, New York, Alaska—and any other U.S. or other states or provinces they wish to research. Assuring Clarity & Understanding, they exchange “Additional Information” that incorporates “Comparison of Facts & Figures” about the “20 Most Populous Countries of the World” (starting with the People’s Republic of China and ending with the French Republic). They cooperate or compete in answering summarizing questions about the data.
With Information-Questions & Answers,  text users play an innovative guessing game about landmarks and geographical places a-x.  Based on touristy descriptions of Santa Monica CA, St. Louis Mo,  Mt. Ranier N.P., Washington D.C., they practice exchanging travel info. Lastly, directives for Mini-Speeches combine group-travel planning with communicative presentations  that “compete” with those of other teams in “recruiting.” 
Perfecting Your Understanding & Pronunciation of Vowel Sounds, Let’s Play a Little
For a change, this blog post got right down to business, talking . . .
But now that teachers have taught and students have learned all they need to know about the . . . of Vowel Sounds, in addition to real conversation, it might be fun to use them in entertaining pursuits 
Below each picture puzzle are some notes on ways to use them:
For full versions of excerpted Downloads in this article—as well as complete Listening / Speaking texts that cover these ideas and many. many “higher-level” ones, be sure to take a look at what’s behind Puzzle Piece E: Listen & Speak with Understanding on the homepage of worklifeenglish.com.       


For monthly email newsletters with free tips, tools, and resources for English language teachers and learners, sign up here!

About Work/Life English
For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit www.worklifeenglish.com.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.