The Emphatic Banana
Aug 20, 2010 Pronunciation/Phonics 2791 Views
English does not have accents over any native words, of course. Most English words don't have any indications of how to say them. The basic 'rule' is that the stress falls on the first syllable but there are so many exceptions that this is hardly a rule at all.
Correct pronunciation depends on placing the emphasis correctly.
I use bananas because you can remember them. If you look at the word, 'banana', you have a choice of three pronunciations:
with the emphasis on the capital letter in each case.
Another example, how do we say 'comfortable'? It could be: COMfortable, comFORTable or comfortABLE (phon: comfortABEL).
Once the student has learned which one is correct it never changes and they can be confident that they are saying it correctly. Of course, students must find out what the correct pronunciation is, and then remember it.
The teacher will normally give the correct way to say the word or it might come from television or radio. Most singers of pop songs in English usually pronounce the words correctly - so that can help.
When you know where the correct stress lies, mark it with a little dot, or point above the stressed vowel. I believe that this is one of the most important things I can tell students of English as a foreign language about pronouncing English words.
Every time you learn the pronunciation of a new word, mark it. This is a private system which is personal to you - it is not part of the English language, and you are not trying to change the rules of the English language. But it will give you complete confidence on this aspect of pronunciation.
It is also helpful to remember that only one syllable can have the emphasis in English, no matter how big that word is. This seems not to be true of American English where the common word 'résumé' (C.V. in British English) has two. This is simply because this word is borrowed directly from French, where they do things differently.
Also, once you have learned the correct stress in a word it is hardly possible to exaggerate that emphasis. For example, the correct answer for 'bananas' is #2. above. If you want to pronounce it (correctly) as banAnas (with a lot of emphasis) no one will mind. But if you say either of the two wrong ways - even quietly - people might fall about laughing at you. And we don't want that, do we?