Below is a copy of the poem. In each line the second, fourth, sixth and eight syllables area stressed.
We found her sat beneath a tree
A kitten, meowing miserably.
With heavy hearts we walked on by
And crossed the street to dine nearby
We sat and ate our spicy meals
While outside kitten squeaked at heels
We wolfed our chicken tikka down,
The greatest curry dish in town.
We paid our bill and left the place,
Still smiling from that lovely taste.
And when we saw the tiny cat
We had to stop and have a chat.
‘Why don’t we take it?’ said my wife.
I wasn’t one for marriage strife
‘Okay, let’s do it,’ I agreed.
And so we did our noble deed.
We took the little kitten home
And through our house it had a roam.
We gave it chicken, fresh and white.
It ate it up with clear delight.
And then we checked if it was male
By lifting up its bushy tail.
Though we’re not vets it’s true to say
We knew its gender right away.
The cat was female, yes indeed.
And now that she had had a feed
Twas time to pick a name for her.
A dozen names we did consider.
Until at last we made a deal
To call her Tikka like our meal.
Some years have passed since curry night
And Tikka’s gone and taken flight.
Sri Lanka’s where she lived before
But now she stays in Singapore
When we speak English, we do not give every word equal stress (or push). If we did, we would sound like a robot. An English sentence is like a wave, it goes up and down, up and down, up and down, strong stress and weak stress, strong stress and weak stress, strong stress and weak stress.
How do you know which words to stress and which not too? Easy. Generally, all of the verbs, adjectives and nouns in a sentence should be stressed whereas all of the ‘grammar words’ such as prepositions, articles, pronouns and auxiliary verbs should not. And not only that, these grammar words should be made weak. For example, in the sentence ‘I’ve got a car’ ‘a’ is weak and does not have the same sound as the ‘a’ in ‘car’. The weak form of ‘a’ uses the ‘schwa’ vowel sound. Click here for more information about the most important vowel sound in English, the Schwa.
In English the syllables in a multi-syllable word are not given equal stress. For example, we don’t say BA-NA-NA, we say ba-NA-na. Many students have problems with English syllable stress because in their language different syllables are stress. A good way to improve your syllable stress (and sentence stress) is to listen to short fragments of English and repeat, focusing on the stress. You could even use this podcast J.
Here are some links to some useful pronunciation websites that I have used with my students:
Thanks for listening.