#242: Assimilation in American English | Pronunciation Training

by | Jun 8, 2022 | 1 comment

Have you noticed that when a native English speaker says, “It’s nice to meet you” it sounds like they’re using a /ch/ sound? 

But… where’s the /ch/ in meet you? 

Why do native English speakers do that? 

As part of my Understand Fast English Speakers series, we’re going to explore the world of assimilation in American English for this pronunciation training lesson.

In my lessons on how to better understand fast English speakers, I mentioned that we often blend, drop, and even omit sounds when we speak. 

Doing this allows us to speak more efficiently, and more smoothly. In fact, it helps our fluency.

And it’s one reason native English speakers often sound fast. You’re not hearing ALL the sounds of the word. 

Assimilation is when one sound influences a neighboring sound and, as a result, the two become similar or the same. Rather than two distinct sounds, they blend with one another to easily pronounce a combination of sounds. 

In this Confident English lesson today, you’ll learn 6 clear examples of assimilation in American English and you learn the answer to why “It’s nice to meet you” often sounds like “It’s nice to meecha.

Along the way, I have some pop quizzes and questions for you so you can practice with me.

 

6 Examples of Assimilation in American English — Pronunciation Training

Assimilation 1: Blend /t/ and /y/ 

When a word ending in /t/ is followed by ‘you’, the ‘t’ and ‘y’ create a /ch/ sound.  

  • Ex. When you introduce yourself, you might say “It’s nice to meecha.” 

Pop Quiz: How would you say the following: 

  • Don’t you – Don’t you need to call your mom?
  • Won’t you – Won’t you be late for work?
  • Get your – Don’t forget to get your bag.

 

Assimilation #2: Blend /d/ and /y/

When a word ending in ‘d’ is followed by a word beginning in ‘y’, it becomes /ja/ or /ju/.

This is especially true when the word is ‘you’. 

  • Ex. For example, a colleague might ask, “Did’ja wanna touch base with the IT department first?”

In the example, the word ‘you’ is reduced to ja. However, depending on the dialect and the speaker’s style, the ja could also be ju

The following phrases are common types of assimilation with ‘you’:

  • Did you = did’ja/ju
  • Would you = would’ja/ju
  • Could you = could’ja/ju
  • Should you = should’ja/ju

Pop Quiz: Listen to the following sentence. How might you say it more naturally?

Would you mind calling Mr. Kim back? He wanted you to book an appointment for tomorrow.”

In this example, ‘would you’ and ‘wanted you’ would take on the /ja/ or /ju/ sounds.

Assimilation #3: Blend /z/ and /y/ or /sh/

When a word ends with the /z/ sound and is followed by a word beginning with /y/ or /sh/, the sounds blend to become /ʒ/ like ‘measure’ or ‘vision.’

  • Ex. Such as when ‘Cheese shop’ becomes cheeʒ shop, and ‘where’s your daughter’ becomes whereʒyour daughter.

Assimilation #4: Blend /s/ with /sh/ to create /ʃ/ sound

When a word ends with a pronounced /s/ sound and the next word begins with ‘sh’, it often blends to create a /ʃ/ sound like the word ‘she.’

Remember, with assimilation, one sound will influence a neighboring sound and the result is that the two blend into the same or a similar sound. Here the blend of an /s/ and an /sh/ result in /sh/.

  • Ex. For example, the /s/ in ‘bus’ blends with the /ʃ/ in ‘shelter to create bu-shelter

Practice: Mirror my pronunciation for the following words: 

  • Dress shop
  • Space shuttle
  • Nice shoes
  • Just shut the door

Assimilation #5: /d/ Transforms into /g/ or /b/

When a word ends with a /d/ sound, but is adjacent to a word beginning with /g/ or /k/, it sounds like /g/.

  • Ex. When we say “bad girl” to a dog, the /d/ sound is nearly impossible to detect and we pronounce the two words with a stronger /g/ sound. 

Similarly, when /d/ is adjacent to a word beginning with a /b/ or /p/, we often minimize the /d/ sound to say /b/. 

  • Ex. For instance, when native speakers say, ‘mud bath’ in the midst of a sentence, you may notice that the tongue prevents the /d/ from being clearly enunciated. Instead, we hear a more pronounced /b/ sound.

 Practice: Let’s practice the following words: 

  • Broad bean
  • Red bag
  • Ground plan

Assimilation #6: /v/ Transforms to /f/ when followed by /t/ 

When a word ends with a /v/ sound and the next word begins with a voiceless consonant like /t/, the /v/ sound softens to become a /f/ sound.

  • Ex. When saying, “I have to pick up the children,” ‘have’ sounds like /haf/. 

Tips for continued practice with assimilation in American English. 

Tip #1: Immerse yourself in media created for English-speakers

  • To increase recognition of assimilations and improve listening skills, Immerse yourself in audio that includes native speakers and informal speech. This could include podcasts, interviews, TV shows, movies, etc.

 

Tip #2: Read transcripts/subtitles

  • Read transcripts or subtitles as you listen or watch to identify assimilation patterns. 
  • This is also useful for mirroring the assimilations used by the speaker and reading out loud.

 

Tip #3: Record yourself

  • When practicing your pronunciation skills, it’s a great idea to record your speech. 
    • Recording and listening to the audio will help you compare your pronunciation to the native speaker, identify areas of improvement, and allow you to recognize your improvements! Check out my How to Say What You Want in English free training to learn more about this method.

~ Annemarie

 

P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.

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