If you are preparing for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), you know how important it is to have good listening skills. One of the challenges of the IELTS listening test is that it is designed to mimic natural conversation, which means that the speakers use connected speech. Connected speech is the way that native English speakers link words together when they speak. It can make it difficult for non-native speakers to understand what is being said.
However, there are ways to improve your IELTS listening skills, even when it comes to connected speech. In this blog, we will explore how you can improve your IELTS listening through connected speech, including the use of subheadings and sample mock questions and answers.
Understanding Connected Speech
Connected speech refers to the way that native English speakers link words together when they speak. In connected speech, sounds and words can change or be omitted altogether, making it difficult for non-native speakers to understand. One example of connected speech is the way that “I am” is pronounced as “I’m” in natural conversation.
To improve your IELTS listening skills, it is essential to understand how connected speech works. Some of the key features of connected speech include:
- Assimilation: when sounds change to become more similar to the sounds around them. For example, “handbag” may be pronounced as “hambag”.
- Elision: when sounds or even whole words are omitted. For example, “going to” may be pronounced as “gonna”.
- Linking: when the final consonant sound of one word is linked to the vowel sound of the next word. For example, “that apple” may be pronounced as “thap-pul”.
- Intrusion: When the last sound of a word is a vowel and the next sound is also a vowel, we often add an extra sound which may be either / j /, / w / or / r /.
- Catenation: “When I am ready, I will go outside.” In natural speech, the words “am” and “ready” are linked together through a process called catenation, resulting in the pronunciation “amready”. Similarly, the words “go” and “outside” are linked through catenation, resulting in the pronunciation “goutside”. This is an example of connected speech, where words are linked together to make speech sound more natural and fluid.
By understanding these features of connected speech, you can begin to recognize them when you hear them.
Tips for Improving Your Listening Skills through Connected Speech
You can do several things to improve your listening skills when it comes to connected speech. Here are a few tips:
- Listen to native English speakers: One of the best ways to improve your listening skills is to listen to native English speakers. This will help you become more familiar with the way that English sounds in natural conversation.
- Practice listening for specific sounds: Try to identify specific sounds that are commonly affected by connected speech, such as the /t/ sound in “water” or the /d/ sound in “handbag”. This will help you recognize when these sounds are changed or omitted.
- Pay attention to stress and intonation: Stress and intonation are also important features of connected speech. Pay attention to the way that native English speakers emphasize certain words and use rising and falling intonation to convey meaning.
- Practice with sample listening exercises: Many sample IELTS listening exercises are available online, including examples of connected speech. Use these exercises to practice listening for connected speech and improving your skills.
Sample Mock Questions and Answers
To help you practice listening for connected speech, here are a few sample mock questions and answers:
Here are some sample mock questions and answers that demonstrate connected speech in the IELTS listening test:
Question: What did the speaker say about the film?
Answer: “It was amazin’, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.”
Explanation: In this answer, the speaker uses the process of elision to omit the “g” sound in “amazing” and the linking process to join “was” and “amazing” together. The phrase “one of the” is also linked together to sound like “one’ve” and “long time” is linked to sound like “lon’time”.
Question: Where does the speaker suggest they should meet?
Answer: “Let’s meet up at the café ’round the corner.”
Explanation: In this answer, the speaker uses the linking process to join “meet up” together to sound like “meetup”, and the phrase “the café” is linked together to sound like “th’café”. The word “around” is also elided to sound like “’round”.
Question: What did the speaker say about their holiday plans?
Answer: “We’re thinkin’ of headin’ to Europe in the summer.”
Explanation: In this answer, the speaker uses the process of elision to omit the “g” sound in “thinking” and the linking process to join “we’re” and “thinking” together. The phrase “heading to” is also linked together to sound like “headinto”. The word “Europe” is pronounced with a schwa sound in the first syllable, which is commonly heard in connected speech.
Improving your understanding of connected speech can be a valuable tool for succeeding in the IELTS listening test. By recognizing and practicing common processes such as elision, assimilation, and linking, you can better understand spoken English and decipher the intended meaning of fast-paced, natural speech. Paying attention to the nuances of connected speech can also help you to more accurately replicate native-like pronunciation and intonation patterns. With practice and dedication, you can improve your listening comprehension and achieve success on the IELTS listening test.
Once you’re ready to take the IELTS Listening Test, book your seat in advance.
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