The importance of rhythm in your pronunication
Rhythm is a part of pronunciation but it also affects your fluency because good rhythm affects your oral smoothness. Therefore if you are trying to improve your speaking grade, this is a good one to work on.
Rhythm relates to the speed and strength of individual words in a sentence. English is often considered a stress-based language, often compared to the playing of a drum with its hard, slow, soft, and fast sounds. Some words are pronounced hard; others are pronounced together with other words very quickly.
There are patterns to rhythm which connect to grammar, and they are applicable when the speaker is not trying to emphasize any words intentionally.
Patterns of English Sentence Rhythm
1. Strong and Slow words
Generally, the following types of words are strong and slow meaning that they can generally be heard more easily than other words. Moreover, they tend to be more important in discovering the meaning of a word (ie content words). The following are the categories of words that are often strong and slow.
2. Weak and Fast Words
Most English words are weak and join quickly with other words. These are called function words. For example, if you say “I am going to the bank” the “to the” will be joined together like one word “t”. The vowels of these words generally use the phonetic symbol Ә , since it is this symbol that best represents a weak sound.
3. Mildly Stressed Verbs
Dos and Donts and Some Useful Expression
I would like to share a number of Dos and Don'ts that I believe are helpful for your speaking performance.
Dos and Don'ts in the speaking exam
1. Show the examiner you are confident by smiling and looking at him or her in the eye.
2. Make sure you understand the stage 2 topic task. If you don’t ask!
3. Tell the examiner if you need to think for a brief moment.
4. Answer the questions clearly and in detail, but not in speeches. The emphasis should be on quality, not quantity. Your answers should get longer as the interview progresses.
5. Make sure you have prepared by thinking of your past, present and future.
6. Show that you are in control by talking freely about yourself and your past.
7. Keep your speaking speed consistent and smooth.
8. Make sure you have practiced enough before the test so that the past, present and future tenses you use are accurately formed and appropriate.
9. Pause and try to string together sentences rather than push language ahead
1. Don’t tell the interviewer your English is poor.
2. Don’t pretend you understand the question. You’ll ultimately lose face.
3. Don’t rush to give an answer out of fear of making the interviewer wait.
4. Don’t talk too much in the beginning when you are most nervous. On the other hand, don’t talk too briefly, giving many “one-word” answers and letting the interviewer do all the work.
5. Don’t give word for word, memorized answers, “playing roulette” by gambling one of them will come up.
6. Don’t let the interviewer take complete control by waiting for prompts.
7. Don’t use stuttering and repetitions to stall for time.
8. Don’t neglect the issue of grammar. Even though fluency and vocabulary is important, you still must try to form accurate sentences.
9. Don’t be stubborn and try to discuss thoughts that you cannot support. Simplify your thoughts.
The following expressions can be helpful for certain questions
Current Personal Information
Recently, I've been studying at Langara College.
I've been studying English now for one year at the New Oriental School.
At the moment I'm studying/working at a private college/a restaurant.
I am currently working/studying/preparing for my father/the IELTS exam/my finals.
Asking for Background Information Before that I studied/worked at Fudan University/ a multinational company.
After I graduated, I went on to work for my father.
About three years ago, I was working at a factory.
As soon as I graduated, I then went on to be trained as a teacher.
How to Hesitate (Note that hesitation is a natural part of using a language. Please do not over-rely on any one of these and try to use a variety)
Let me think about this for a second and I will get back to you.
That’s an interesting question I’ve never thought about.
Let me see if I can gather my thoughts for a moment.
Just give me a second to collect my thoughts.
Well, that’s an interesting question, let me think.
Actually, that’s a good point. Well I suppose that may be the case in many instances.
In fact, that’s a perspective that I have not thought about for a while.
You see, my mother is perhaps a difficult person to describe, so where can I begin?
You know, a lot of people have asked me that very same question and I suppose the best way to describe it would be to tell you about its history.
How shall I put it, things are not as easy as what you might think.
It's like this, you see.
Giving Opinions on simple issues
Personally, I think I will achieve my goal.
As I see it, this is not very difficult.
Frankly, I think the problem is much deeper.
Well, to tell you the truth I am not really sure what I’ll do when I first arrive.
Stating Your Intention
I'm preparing right now to go to university, so my short-term plan is to get high marks for my courses.
I've already found out a lot about the schedule, for instance, the first train leaves at 6 am.
I plan to go for a trip around Europe, before I start my studies in England.
I think I'll contact my friends once I am in Canada.
I’ve thought about changing majors.
I'll be seeing my wife soon.
I'll do all I can do to find a job, just try again and again.
I'll make an effort to come and see her.
I'll see if I can't change my husband’s mind.
I'm going to visit my mother.
I'm planning to go for a vacation for three months.
I've decided to go to study French in Montreal.
I expect I'll be under a lot of pressure looking for work.
I'm hoping to find a job in the first month.
I'm thinking of going on to study for my masters.
I intend to stay here for good.
My intention is to help the class.
Perhaps I'll even buy a car.
Stating hypothetical situations
If I'm successful, I'll probably rich so, in the long term, I hope to buy more properties.
If I'm not successful, that is if something goes wrong, I think I'll probably go back to school.
I probably won't fail, but if I do I'll retake my exam.
Sometimes I wonder whether I'll make the right decision.
I might even go to the Disneyland.
Of course, I could always ask for help, if I run out of time.
It's always possible that I will come back to Beijing.
I don't know if I'll pass, but I might be able to do sometime else.
Expressing Probability of 100%
I'm certain I'll get the job.
I’ll definitely come to the wedding before I leave.
Without a doubt I’ll be the top of the class.
I am sure that I will be accepted.
Expressing Probability of 80 –88%
There's a good chance I’ll be living with my friends.
Chances are I’ll be living in an apartment.
I'm almost certain I'll find a job quickly.
I’ll almost definitely come back in no time
In all likelihood I’ll not be coming back for three years.
I’ll very likely be late for work again.
Expressing Probability of 50-80%
I’ll probably study at a language school.
I’ll likely go on a vacation before I start looking for work.
I’ll possibly go shopping in my first week there.
I might drop off for a visit.
I may try to look for my friends in Auckland.
Perhaps I’ll study engineering.
I possibly won't attend my graduation ceremony.
Maybe I won't go for a driving class.
I may/ might not go to the movies much while I am there.
Perhaps I won't cook for myself..
I probably won't find a job so quickly.
There's not much chance I will get there on time.
I doubt very much that I will get the scholarship.
I definitely will not join my girlfriend this year.
I'm sure I won’t be missing out much.
Asking Somebody to Repeat Something
Could you just repeat that, please?
Could you say that again, please?
I'm sorry, could I ask you to repeat that word, please?
I'm sorry, could you mind repeating that, please?
I'm sorry, would you mind saying it again?
Sorry, I didn't catch that.
Sorry, I didn't quite catch what you were saying.
Sorry, what did you say?
Sorry, what was that you said?
Sorry, what was his name again?
Sorry, when did you say?
Would you repeat what you said, please?
I beg your pardon?
Avoiding Showing Struggle While Speaking
The evident signs of struggle show up in the fluency mark but they also give an indication to the examiner how much control and confidence you have in English. There are a number of different types of struggle:
1) Hesitation fillers that show struggle.
These are often in the form of uhhh, uhh or hmmm, errrr, etc. The reason they occur is often merely that the language has not caught up with the thought. If it were your 1st language that brain can access the words automatically since the connection to memory is very well refined.
What to do about it
The best way to deal with these is to recognize that you are doing it a lot and try to employ different strategies. I suggest that you merely pause to think and, if you must fill in, do it with 'thinking fillers' such as "Well,....Let me think,....That's a good question,......I will talk in a further post about the pause and string technique which allows better pacing. In general, pausing can be a very good strategy for letting the language catch up with the thoughts.
2) Hesitation by repetition
This often occurs with band level 5.5-6.0 candidates. Essentially the candidate repeats many phrases (eg " So the main, the main, the main problem is, is,is that....). Instead of the uhhh, uhhh, the candidate fills in by using the same word again. This shows to an examiner that the candidate is struggling with the sentence and because it affects the speakers smoothness, it can affect the fluency mark.
What to do about it
The best advice is to again, as mentioned above, try to have more productive fillers and to make sure the thought is completed before moving on with the words. It sure makes a big difference when someone points out to you when you are doing it.
3) Long pause hesitation
We can get very stubborn when trying to communicate and we want the right words to communicate our thought. What can happen is that a candidate can get stuck trying to remember a word. In the meantime, a lot of struggle signs appear on your face which again affects an examiner's impression of your control and confidence in the language.
What to do about it
The preventative advice I would give is not to trap yourself into it. In other words, do not make your thoughts too complex for this exam because you may find yourself having difficulty communicating. It is best sometimes to simplify your thoughts and emphasize the language you know so well already. If you are stuck on a word, do what people do in traffic with their cars. Simply go around the word and use a simpler word or expression. Its perfectly ok to exit a train of thought and even tell the examiner you want to explain it in a different way. In other words, exit a struggle situation fast.
One of the first ways are affected by candidates is by the way they seem to handle themselves from the outset. Although, ultimately an examiner is judging a candidate's whole performance. The initial speaking responses to the first questions are already forming in the examiner's mind a kind of theory about the candidate's band level. One of those cues is the degree to which a candidate struggles when responding. I will talk more about the struggle signs but for now I will confine myself to the actual literal response.
In general, the more information a candidate is giving, the more energy is being used trying to think of new vocabulary, structures and connections. Trying to give too much information right at the start of a speaking interview can be difficult and struggle may show up very quickly and stress may result in mistakes that a candidate might not normally make. Therefore, a strategy to extend the length of answers without giving more information is simply by giving fuller grammatical answers.
A short fragment response put more pressure on the candidate to extend because the candidate feels pressured to carry on and give more information. Look at the two responses
Q. Where do you study?
A1 In college
A2 I study at a college
One trick is to try and follow the grammatical structure of the question into your answer
Q How long have you been studying?
A I have been studying for…….
Notice the end part of the sentence (your adverbial clause) often becomes your Starter clause
Q What will you do in the future?
A In the future I will probably .....
However be careful not to make your responses sentence answers artificially follow the question grammar - this gives the examiner the feeling that your responses are unnatural and formulaic, which can work against you if you struggle later on to speak more spontaneously with deeper questions that are hard to anticipate.
Q Do you think that it is always a good thing to help friends when they are financially in trouble
A1 Yes I think it is always a good thing to help friends when they are financially in trouble because.......
A2 Yes I think it is always a good thing because...
Here it might be more natural to just say A2 because it sounds more natural and comfortable and gives you an easier structure
So…. Use full sentence answers but keep them conversational.
Integrating Skills, Strategies and Topics
Strategies mean those behavioural actions you can take to give yourself an advantage. Never over or underestimate these. You certainly cannot use strategies to go from a band 5 to an 8 in 3 weeks but they can make the difference between a band 6 and 6.5 so work at taking them very seriously.
Research stretching back 40 years has concluded that having prior knowledge can increase your ability to read and listen but beyond this we know from experience that it is easier to talk or write about topics with which we are familiar. Any program should include an integration of topics that are continuously being recycled in IELTS exams. Again, do not overestimate or underestimate their importance. You cannot predict all the questions that will come out, although there are many blogs and websites that purport to do just that. Still it is helpful to know what topics are currently being used and to look at common ones so you do not become over-stressed and even freeze in an exam
Make a list of SST in separate sections. Strategies and Topics are seemingly endless but are a finite number of skills being tested in the exam, so make sure you get plenty of practice in each. Be mindful that topics are probably more useful to focus on in the speaking and writing sections but it doesn’t hurt to read and listen to a variety of topics in academic sources.