Accent Reduction for Indians, Part 2

As I wrote in Accent Reduction for Indians, Part 1, one of the most significant features of spoken American English is its use of syllable stress. Syllable stress patterns create a speech rhythm that American listeners use to identify words and make meaning.

When speakers stress each syllable equally, or consistently stress the first syllable, it makes their words sound very “accented” to American listeners and creates speech patterns that extremely difficult for us to understand!

Here is another story that illustrates the importance of using the correct syllable stress.

I have a South Asian client who works in information technology. While we were having a discussion about audio files he asked me if I could compress some of the mp3 files that I was going to send him.

When I heard the word compress stressed on the first syllable, I was momentarily confused. The word compress, when stressed on the first syllable is a noun that refers to a warm or cold compress that one would apply to a swollen body part.

The verb compress, (to make smaller) is what he meant. The verb compress is stressed on the second syllable. You can see that simply by using the wrong stress pattern, my client unknowingly said the wrong word.

When people first begin to realize the importance of syllable stress it usually scares them a bit. They always ask me, “So I have to remember the stress pattern for every single word”?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. However American English syllable stress follow some very predictable patterns. Once you learn to recognize these patterns, syllable stress can be mastered!

If you are an Indian speaker who wants to improve your American English pronunciation  do check out my course which addresses the problems that Indian language speakers face.