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Variations in tone, speed and accent

In the listening section of PTE Academic, you will need to have a good understanding of variations in tone, speed and accent.
© Griffith University

In the listening section of PTE Academic, you will need to have a good understanding of variations in tone, speed and accent in order to understand what the speakers are saying.

Accent

When completing PTE Academic, you will hear a variety of accents from both native and non-native speakers, as you would in the real world. The accents will be clear and regular users of English do not have trouble understanding them. To prepare you should choose texts from around the world and practice listening to a wide range of accents. The International Dialects of English Archive (or IDEA) is a website that contains recordings from all over the world. IDEA recorded people reading a short story that was written specifically for hearing the different ways people pronounce sounds in the English language.

Connected Speech

The recordings in PTE Academic use authentic examples of speech, so there will be connected speech present. In normal fluent speech the sounds can change when words bump into each other. The changes usually happen at the word boundaries, particularly at the end of words. Let’s look at some common features of connected speech that you can expect to hear in PTE recordings.

Assimilation

Assimilation is when sounds change to be more similar to a nearby sound. This can be heard when a sound at the end of a word takes on the quality of the sound at the beginning of the next word.

  • Good girl. She’s a good girl. (goog girl)
  • Good boy. He’s a good boy. (goob boy)
  • White paper. I only use white paper. (whipe paper)
  • Speed boat. I’ve never been in speed boat. (speeb boat)

Listen to the examples

Sometimes the sound at the end of the first word changes to a completely different sound. This occurs because of the place in the mouth where certain sounds are made.

  • Can go. We can go now. (cang go)
  • Can buy. We can buy it. (cam buy)
  • Green Park. I walked through Green Park. (greem park)
  • On Monday. He arrives on Monday. (om Monday)

Listen to the examples

Twinning

When you finish a word with the same consonant sound as the start of the next word, it’s called twinning. We don’t pronounce two sounds instead both sounds are pronounced together as one.

  • I’m a bit tired
  • We have a lot to do
  • Tell me what to say
  • She’s slept for three hours
  • I’ve finished

Listen to the examples

Elision

Elision occurs when a sound is not pronounced at all by the speaker. When the sounds /t/ or /d/ occur between two consonant sounds, they will often disappear completely from the pronunciation.

  • I’m going nex(t) week
  • That was the wors(t) job I ever had!
  • Jus(t) one person came to the party!
  • I can’(t) swim

Listen to the examples

For more information about features of connected speech, listen to the BBC Learning English radio programme in SEE ALSO.

Listening for Tone of Voice

Tone of voice means the way a speaker naturally changes his or her voice in order to show feelings. For example, if a speaker’s voice is relaxed, moves up and down a lot, and rises at the end, English speakers will think the speaker’s attitude is positive. Listening for tone of voice will help you understand the speaker’s attitude.

Often we need to decide what a speaker is thinking or feeling. Speakers use a wider pitch range when they want to express an attitude or when they feel more emotional about something.

Listen to these sentences

Think about tone of voice. Can you tell how each speaker feels about what they are saying?

  • Excited: She said she did not take his money, but she did take something else of his.
  • Angry: She said she did not take his money, but she did take something else of his.
  • Uncertain: She said she did not take his money, but she did take something else of his.
  • Amused: She said she did not take his money, but she did take something else of his.

For Listening: Highlight Correct Summary, you need to listen to an audio recording and select the summary that best matches. It may be challenging to listen and read at the same time so you should listen first and note down the key ideas on your erasable noteboard booklet as you listen (eg key words and phrases, numbers, names and dates. It is especially important that you note down any information that is highlighted by the speaker through their tone of voice and use of stress and intonation. Remember that in English the sentence stress is usually on the last content word or important words.

Click on the link in the SEE ALSO section to learn more about this task type.

Your task

Try the Listening: Highlight Correct Summary task. Note down any information that is highlighted by the speaker through their tone of voice and use of stress and intonation. Then read the options and match the option that is closest in detail to your notes.

References

BBC Learning English. (2005). Pronunciation Tips. Retrieved from here

© Griffith University
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