Step 2 – Target and Improve Your TOEFL iBT Pronunciation Weaknesses

Lesson 1

Step 2 – Target and Improve Your Pronunciation Weaknesses

The second step to successfully pass the TOEFL iBT Exam is having intelligible pronunciation. In other words, when you speak English, can a native speaker understand what you are saying without being distracted by awkward pauses and unclear pronunciation, perhaps due to enunciation problems with vowel and consonant sounds. After all, if the human raters can not understand what you are saying, how can they give you a high score on the TOEFL  iBT speaking?

Accent reduction–that is what these two videos are all about.

Video 1

In words of two or more syllables, one of the syllables is stronger than the others. For example, note the stressed syllable in the following words: MIsion, teleVIsion, rePUblican, and uniVERsity. Having appropriate word stress patterns involves not only your ability to stress the correct syllable but also your ability to pronounce the unstressed syllables by making them softer sounds.

Additionally, having appropriate word stress means you are familiar with parts-of-speech word stress patterns. If you know, for instance, that a word is a noun or a verb, you may be able to predict where the word stress falls. Also, understanding general word stress patterns will help you to formulate rules with other types of words as well. Having appropriate word stress is critical to your success on TOEFL iBT speaking. If you have irregular word stress shifts, TOEFL iBT human raters will have to put forth more effort in understanding you. And, in some cases, your distracting word stress shifts will prevent you from being understood. Therefore, human raters will give you a lower TOEFL iBT speaking score.

To illustrate how irregular words stress shifts can interfere in your ability to speak clearly, consider the following story. An English language learner went to the supermarket to buy some groceries. The customer found all but one item: conditioner.

So, he approached a store clerk and asked, “Where is the CONditioner?”

“What? asked the clerk. “The CONditioner,” said the customer.

The clerk replied, “I’m sorry, but I cannot understand you.”

Even though the customer had pronounced the vowel and consonant sounds correctly, he had not stressed the correct syllable of the word: conDItioner. Due to that irregular word stress shift, the clerk could not understand what he was asking. Despite the importance of word stress to a leaner’s intelligibility, it proves a difficult obstacle for many. Why is word stress so difficult to learn? Word stress involves making the stressed syllable longer, clearer, louder, and high pitched. Few advanced learners of English effectively execute these four characteristics of word stress, probably due to inexperience and differences in word stress patterns from speakers’ first languages. Additionally, these learners are unfamiliar with word stress rules regarding certain words.

Through a 9 minute instructional video, you will formulate rules regarding word stress patterns: compound nouns, two-noun compounds, reflexive pronouns, and ten and teen numbers. Ultimately, you will reduce your accent by accurately executing word stress by making the stressed syllable longer, louder, clearer, and higher pitched.

Video 2

To continue to improve your pronunciation of word stress, you will need to become familiar with word stress patterns of various word combinations. For example, how would you pronounce the following words: downwind, watch over, underestimate, USA, and autistic? What about conduct when used as a verb or when it is used as a noun? Would you place the primary stress in the same part of the word in both parts of speech? These are additional issues that I will focus on in this pronunciation lesson.

Having appropriate word stress can benefit your TOEFL iBT test-taking experience three ways. First, having appropriate word stress improves your intelligibility. Second, avoiding word stress shifts ensures that your speech does not distract listeners from what you are saying. Finally, competently using word stress makes you natural-sounding. Of course, human raters, impressed by your clear, non-distracting, and natural-sounding speech, will be pleased to give you high scores on TOEFL iBT speaking.

Unfortunately, word stress poses great challenges for learners, so much so that TOEFL iBT human raters are specifically trained to pay close attention to your proficiency or lack thereof in this area. Due to inexperience with English or interference from a first language, you may be unsure of what to do, for example, when two adverbs combine to form one word: northwest. Is the stress placed on the first or second word? In other cases, in words such as go through and put down, would you place stress on the first or second word? Furthermore, if you hear reCORD, is it being used as a verb or noun? How about when someone says EXploit? Is it being used as a noun or a verb? Do you change your word stress when using nouns or verbs? There are even additional rules with word stress and verbs which have prefixes such as dehumidify, preview, and withdraw. In these examples, would you stress the prefix or the base? As you can see, there are numerous rules regarding word stress and certain word combinations, and it will take you time to get familiar with these rules.

Through an eight minute interactive video, you will learn additional word stress patterns of compound adverbs, two word verbs, two-syllable nouns and verbs, verbs with prefixes, and abbreviations and symbols. In addition, you will learn how to predict stress with suffixes and word endings: -ic, -ical, -ify, -ogy, -tion, -graphy, -ious, -ian, -ical, -ee, -eer, -ese, -esque, -ique, -ette, -et, -ate. For example, you will learn that when you see a word that ends with the ending -ee the stress is placed on the last syllable, i.e., referEE. The value of using word endings to predict stress in incalculable: by learning stress patterns of word endings, you will be able to predict word stress patterns of thousands of academic words. Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Heck, I can learn this naturally by speaking regularly with native speakers.” It is true that you can learn word stress naturally, but it may take you 5-10 years before you internalize all the rules that are explicitly taught in this course. Therefore, my TOEFL iBT Newsletter can dramatically short-cut your path to near-native speaker proficiency by giving you intensive practice with word stress in the form of listening discrimination exercises of academic sentences and paragraphs. You needn’t wait 10 years before you can win your battle with word stress. Buy two lessons for one low price so you can begin reducing your word stress shifts immediately.




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3 thoughts on “Step 2 – Target and Improve Your TOEFL iBT Pronunciation Weaknesses”

  1. Pingback: Better TOEFL® Scores » Blog Archive » A Question from TOEFLer, “What pronunciation lessons do you have?”

  2. Pingback: Better TOEFL® Scores » Blog Archive » Step 2 – Target and Improve Your TOEFL iBT Pronunciation Weaknesses

  3. Pingback: Better TOEFL® Scores » Blog Archive » S. T. E. A. L. T. H. – 7 Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT

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