The spelling of English words often includes letters that are not actually pronounced. This is partially due to historical changes in English over time. Another cause of this is the deletion of sounds in streams of speech, in order to speak more smoothly and fluidly.
This often happens when /t/ or /d/ sounds are preceded and followed by other consonant sounds, like /nd/, /stw/, /ld/, etc. For example, it’s relatively uncommon (even for highly proficient English speakers) to pronounce the consecutive consonants /stw/ between these two words:
In order to avoid this difficult combination, we naturally delete the /t/ sound. This smooths out the transition:
We often do the same with /d/ sounds between consonants:
Look at the following examples of phrases in which /t/ or /d/ is deleted. Predict how the phrases will sound, and then listen to the recordings to check your predictions and record your own versions.
|Pest control||Soft smile|
|East Side||Slept well|
|West Village||Mild flavor|
|Wind chill||Blackened fish|
|Closed store||Fast paced|
Note: The /t/ and /d/ are not usually deleted before /h/.
Listen to these sentences where the /t/ or /d/ is deleted, and then make your own recordings to practice.
I live in the East Village.
Can you come to the West Side?
Will you hold my bag?
It was the best day of my life.
I’m a first generation immigrant.
Visit the white sand beaches!
That must be hard.
Just don’t get caught.
What do you do now?
First, pay attention to deletion that occurs in lectures in your field of study. There are probably common phrases or “chunks” of words that you can learn to easily recognize and simplify, which will improve your listening comprehension skills.
Second, attend our Focused Skills Series sessions on Connected Speech and Linking.
Last, work with a speech consultant to check your understanding of consonant cluster deletion. Ask him or her to help you recognize consonant linking in authentic spoken English, like in TED Talks, and monitor your speech for areas where using consonant linking would help you speak more intelligibly.