Category Archives: Materials

Adventures in Connected Speech – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Adventures in Connected Speech – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Adventures in Connected Speech – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

If you like this post, please share it with your friends on social media – and join us on Facebook!


Before reading why not find out more about connected speech here.

Woduvaigada

If I came up to you and said ‘Woduvaigada?’, would you know what I meant?
What about if I added a main verb – an infinitive – afterwards: ‘Woduvaigada do?’
I’m guessing if you are a native speaker – if you have grown up listening to English your whole life – you will understand this phrase with a main verb:

‘Woduvaigada do?’

‘Woduvaigada say?’

However, if you are a learner of English – if you haven’t grown up with English as your main language – this lesson could help you. We’re talking about connected speech. The way that English speakers combine words in a sentence.

‘Woduvaigada do?’ = ‘What have I got to do?’ which becomes ‘What’ve I got to do?’

But how do we get a coherent sentence in English from a seemingly gibberish word? And why is it that a native speaker understands it – instinctively – while a non-native speaker may not?

The phrase ‘Woduvaigada do?’ comes from the first line of the original recording of the famous song by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word (1976), above. (Super Tip: hear the syllables in more detail by playing the video at half speed or lower; just click the gear and select: Speed > 0.5.)

Let’s break it down into syllables:

In the top line we see the actual words of the lyrics and in the bottom line the sounds made. I have written the sounds phonetically using Clear Alphabet[Click here for more about Clear Alphabet.]

When analysing a sentence we must:

i. separate the words into content words (important words) and function words (grammatical words): here ‘What’ and ‘do’ are content words

ii. make any possible contractions: ‘What’ and ‘have’ make the contraction ‘What’ve’

iii. identify the stressed syllable in each content word: each content word has only one syllable, so it is stressed

iv. identify the stressed vowel sound in the stressed syllables: ‘What’ has the short o sound, while ‘do’ has the long oo sound

v. reduce the function words to make them weaker and less obvious: this is where we end up with the unusual ‘word’ ‘woduvaigada’

(We should note that it is also possible to read the sentence as ‘What do I got to do’, which is not standard English grammar but rather a mix of: ‘What do I have to do?’ and ‘What have I got to do?’ We sometimes hear ‘What do I got to do’ as a slang form, particularly in American English.)

The sentence has four weak syllables, marked in grey below:

The aim for the speaker (or singer) is to go from ‘What’ to ‘do’ as quickly as possible. The last thing we should do is put an accent (stress) on every syllable: ‘What. Do. I. Got. To. Do?’ This sounds awful and makes the sentence very difficult for a native speaker to understand, since we are relying on the stressed vowel sounds to give us most of the meaning of the sentence:

What – do?

If I said simply ‘What – do?’ while pointing at myself (‘I’) the listener could probably understand what I meant. The message is ‘What do?’ or ‘What I do?’ From this we may understand ‘What must I do?’ The problem is that ‘What do?’ has to be expressed correctly in English grammar, either via present simple – ‘What do I have to do?’ – or via present perfect: ‘What have I got to do?’ Native speakers are so familiar with the forms of these tenses that we can skate over them very quickly, barely referencing them:

Learners of English have to study connected speech to be able to understand it and then use it as spoken English. The process is fairly simple and is laid out in detail here. I always tell students that it’s not rocket science. Now that would be hard! Remember that the goal in connected speech is to achieve vc or friendly sound connections between all syllables. In short, the sentence breaks down as follows:

Connection 1:

In this cv connection the consonant sound  t  moves forward to join the schwa sound at the beginning of the contraction ‘ve’. t  changes to d  (assimilation), because of the mid-Atlantic accent adopted by the singer

Connection 2:

In this cv connection the consonant sound  v  moves forward to join  ai  and form:  vai

Connection 3:

A vc connection is what we want, so we leave it

Connection 4:

Two of the same sounds meet:  t  and  t. The first sound –  t  – disappears (elision), and the second  t  changes to its matching sound  d. This is due to the mid-Atlantic accent adopted by the singer

Connection 5:   A vc connection is what we want, so we leave it

We further reduce weak syllables by substituting a schwa sound – the weak vowel sound in English – for any strong sounds. We do this here with the  a  of ‘have’ (changed to ‘ve’) and the  oo  of ‘to’. The  o  of ‘got’ becomes an  a, again because of the mid-Atlantic accent adopted by the singer.

So we end up with:

 

A. Wo – we clearly understand this as the question word ‘what’ – despite the missing ‘t’, because of the  w  sound, the strong vowel sound  o, and the fact it has one syllable. No other one-syllable question word has the strong vowel sound  o. The others all have different vowel sounds: ‘where’ has  eir, ‘when’ has  e, ‘why’ has  ai, and so on.

B. The second syllable contains the moved-forward t  from ‘What’ changed to  d, plus an             embedded schwa sound from the beginning of ‘ve’

C. ‘I’ remains a full ai  sound, with the  v  sound which moved forward in front

D. ‘got’ loses its ending sound, but it doesn’t matter because a similar sound d  follows (t  and  d  are matching sounds – the former unvoiced and the latter voiced). o  has changed to  a, as noted, above.

E. The vowel sound in ‘to’ is reduced to a schwa sound; t  changes to  d  due to a personal choice about accent (mid Atlantic) made by the singer

F. The second content word ‘do’ has a long full vowel sound and is accordingly stressed by the singer

What makes this sentence unusual is not ‘What’ + four weak syllables together but the way the artist sings them so fast to make them all fit into one beat of the song:

‘What’ve I got to’ has to fit into the same length beat as ‘do’, which ends up producing the unusual word ‘woduvaigada’, which is understood by native speakers, but may come across as babble – or just ‘too hard’ for non-native speakers. Further emphasis is added by each of the six syllables having the same note.

What are the takeaways from this lesson:

  1. Connected speech is a thing in English: we get most of the meaning of a sentence from the stressed vowel sounds: Wo – do. Learners of English have to actively learn about connected speech if they want to sound more natural and be less difficult to listen to. [You can learn about connected speech here.]
  2. Schwa sounds are real – and really common. If you don’t use them then you will be stressing far too many syllables in the sentence, making function words too prominent and losing much of the meaning (see 1. above).
  3. The point about this sentence is that the only two words that are important are: ‘What’ and ‘do’. You could put a variety of different function words in between them and the meaning wouldn’t change too much. The listener understands ‘What’ and ‘do’ and the rest could just as well be: ‘blah, blah, blah, blah’:

and so on. The main purpose of the middle bit is to make clear the subject – the ‘who’ of the question – ‘I’. The singer retains the full form of I – ai – rather than changing it to a schwa sound – perhaps as a way of stressing who the subject is amidst the muddle of syllables.

4. As well as the phrase ‘What have I got to…’ there are other similar structures to learn, which have multiple reduced function words. We use these unusual ‘words’ every day, so if you don’t know them, you could be missing out. If you can learn them it will be easier to listen to and understand people speaking English, for example:

and so on.

5. It’s also important to know common slang phrases (contractions) in English which represent function word phrases, because you will hear them a lot in spoken English. For example:

Not forgetting this truly epic sentence featuring no fewer than eight syllables with function words:


How other artists have treated the line:

Blue featuring Elton John (2002): ‘What I gotta do…?’:

Joe Cocker live (1992): ‘What’ve I got to…?’  then  ‘What do I got to…?’:

Nataly Dawn (2011): ‘What do I gotta do…?’:

Elton John live at the Royal Albert Hall (2002): ‘What’ve I got to do’, but very fast, almost staccato:


Image used by permission: By yabosidFlickr: Elton John, Live at Liseberg 8/7 1971, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Idiom of the Day: Full of the joys of spring

Idiom of the Day: Full of the joys of spring

Idiom of the Day: To be full of the joys of spring

Literal meaning:

To be unexpectedly happy.

Example:

‘You’re full of the joys of spring. What happened?’

When to use it:

Two work colleagues meet; one of them is unusually cheerful.

  • Hi Jack. You’re full of the joys of spring.
  • Oh – my granddaughter was born last night.
  • Oh, great! Wow – congratulations!

Other use:

It could also be used sarcastically, e.g. you get home from work to find your partner moaning about your credit card bill:

  • I thought you told me you were going to get rid of this card!
  • You’re full of the joys of spring!
  • I’m serious. We can’t go on like this any more, Brian.

Image: https://pixabay.com

Discussion Questions about Books - for World Book Day 2019

Discussion Questions about Books – for World Book Day 2019

Discussion Questions about Books – for World Book Day 2019

Talk about books and reading with a partner or small group!

Find out more at the World Book Day website!

This worksheet is free and in the public domain, so please feel free to share it widely!

If you like it, please share it with your friends on social media – and join us on Facebook!

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/books-discussion-questions.pdf

Discussion Questions about Books – for World Book Day 2019

Image: https://www.worldbookday.com/

The Twelve Disciples – Using Relative Clauses 1

The Twelve Disciples – Using Relative Clauses 1

The Twelve Disciples – Using Relative Clauses 1

Improve your grammar skills in English with our helpful FREE printable worksheet on the topic of relative clauses – taking the Twelve Disciples as our subject.

This worksheet is free and in the public domain, so please feel free to share it widely!

If you like it, please share it with your friends on social media – and join us on Facebook!

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/30-Q-the-twelve-disciples-relative-clauses-1.pdf

The Twelve Disciples – Using Relative Clauses 1

Answers:

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/64-A-the-twelve-disciples-relative-clauses-1.pdf

The Twelve Disciples – Using Relative Clauses 1 – Answers

Image: the Sea of Galilee  https://pixabay.com/photos/mt-arbel-sea-of-galilee-holy-land-3273356/

Using Conjunctions - Free Worksheets

Using Conjunctions – Free Worksheets

Using Conjunctions – Free Worksheets

Improve your grammar skills in English with our helpful FREE printable worksheets (with answers) on the topic of using conjunctions.

These worksheets are free and in the public domain, so please feel free to share them widely!

If you like this material, please share it with your friends on social media – and join us on Facebook!

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/using-conjunctions-1-eg31.pdf

Using Conjunctions 1 Free Worksheet


Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/using-conjunctions-2-eg32.pdf

Using Conjunctions 2 – Free Worksheet
Talking about... Christmas in an ESOL Vocabulary Class

Talking about… Christmas in an ESOL Vocabulary Class

Talking about… Christmas in an ESOL Vocabulary Class

Get your students speaking together and enable them to learn 40 new helpful vocabulary words about Christmas with this great FREE printable worksheet.

You could use this worksheet with any of the activities on this page.

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/discussion-words-christmas-.pdf

Talking about… Christmas in an ESOL Vocabulary Class

Image: https://pixabay.com

Brand New Bible Study ESOL Worksheets - Download Now!

Brand New FREE Bible Study ESOL Worksheets – Download Now!

Brand New FREE Bible Study ESOL Worksheets – Download Now!

Let’s improve our grammar skills by learning about question forms in English with the story of Jonah:

Jonah – Wh-Questions 1:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Jonah-Wh-Questions-1-4077135

Jonah – Wh-Questions 2:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Jonah-Wh-Questions-2-4077148

Jonah – Yes / No Questions 1:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Jonah-Yes-No-Questions-1-4077157

Jonah – Yes / No Questions 2:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Jonah-Yes-No-Questions-2-4077165

Image: Ian Schneider

Download this FREE eBook Today: Travel English for Busy Travelers

Download this FREE eBook Today: Travel English for Busy Travelers

Travel English for Busy Travelers – Front Cover

David Ellis is an English teacher based in Japan who has been teaching English in the United States and Japan for over 20 years. He has written and published a wonderful eBook for teaching and learning English called Travel English for Busy Travelers.

Best of all – it’s absolutely free! Now, it isn’t everyday that such an interesting and useful teaching resource appears on our desk, so make sure you download your copy today!


Free download (epub, mobi/Kindle, pdf , etc.) of Travel English for Busy Travelers eBook on Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/574638

Published: Sep. 03, 2015 / Words: 27,850 /Language: English / ISBN: 9781310624575


By the way, if you have any questions, you can contact David on Twitter: @DavidLS1

David Ellis, author or Travel English for Busy Travelers

David Ellis, author of Travel English for Busy Travelers

I caught up with David recently and asked him about the book:

What is the background to the book?

“As an English language teacher, I often ask myself how I can help my students become self-sufficient learners.  Many of my students in Japan are overly dependent on their teachers and feel they don’t know how to study independently.  I decided to write an eBook that my students and other students around the world could easily use for self-study.  Travel English for Busy Travelers is a beginner’s level eBook focusing on conversation practice, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension that’s full of self-study exercises with answer keys.

Why did you write your eBook?

“I have co-written several reading textbooks that have been used in Japanese universities. Recently, I have been teaching more and more English conversation classes, so I wanted to write a conversation textbook. However, I didn’t want to write a general conversation textbook. Out of all the classes I teach, I enjoy teaching travel English the most, so I decided to write an eBook that I could use in my travel English classes.

Free eBook - Travel English for Busy Travelers by David Ellis

Screenshot 1

Why did you make the eBook free?

“First of all, I wanted the book to be free to download for my students to help them become more independent learners. Second, I hope to attract a larger readership.  I hope that more people will download a free eBook. I’ve done some writing for free magazines and university newspapers. I have enjoyed sharing my writing and curriculum with my students and friends this way. It’s interesting to get e-mail about the eBook from foreign countries. Usually, the sender of the e-mail is asking when the second level eBook will be released.

What are your publishing plans for the future?

“My teaching workload is getting busier, so it’s difficult to find time to finish the second book this year. I almost have the first half of the second book finished, so I will try to release a level 2A eBook by the end of this year. I hope to finish the second half of the next book sometime next year. I would also like to rerelease some chapters from my older reading textbooks that are going out of print. In Japan, most English textbooks have a rather short shelf life.

What are the most popular parts of the book?

“My favourite parts of the eBook are the reading passages on important topics for international travelers. Readers find the dialogues, the Appendix section on “Textese” (texting language), and YouTube videos to be especially helpful. Audio for the eBook is available on my YouTube channel: Travel English for Busy Travelers eBook – on YouTube

What other type of work do you do?

“I have proofread over ten books for vintage fashion writer and photographer Rin Tanaka. Rin has written some very successful vintage fashion books such as Harley Davidson: Book of Fashions, Schott: 100 Years of an American Original, XLarge: True OG Streetwear, and Wesco: Boots that Stand the Gaff.”

Free eBook - Travel English for Busy Travelers by David Ellis

Screenshot 2

Thanks David! We really appreciate you sharing your eBook for free!