Saturday Listening Lesson: Nilofer Merchant 2



(1) To point out: To show a specific thing

I should point out that you need to file this with the other CVs.

(2) Timing: The speed we use when we say something. Also how long we wait between sounds.

Careful timing can make your listeners notice some words more.

(3) Stress: Emphasizing a word by making it louder and longer.

You should stress the important words and say the unimportant words quickly.



1. In the first example, why does she have three big pauses?

a. To add melody to her speech

b. She’s nervous

c. To make you listen carefully

2. What’s the difference between “I had some rice.” and “I did have some rice”?

a. In the first, we don’t know anything for sure

b. The first strengthens the idea because there’s no did

c. The second strengthens the idea because of did

3. Why does she say some words slowly and some words quickly?

a. To stress some words (the important words)

b. She’s nervous

c. To add melody to her speech


Saturday Listening Lesson


By Jeremy Schaar

When listening to a video, you might notice a new word. You might write down the word and then try using it later. After you use it a few times, you remember it and then you know that word. That’s a great way to learn vocabulary. But, if you want to listen better, you need to do a little more. You need to notice how people speak and try to learn those things, just like you learn vocabulary.

I’ve covered this great video by Nilofer Merchant before. But today, I’d like to point out five sentences she says. You should note how she says them and try to repeat speak in the same way.


“What you’re doing, right now, at this very moment, is killing you.”

Note her timing. There’s a big pause with each comma. She does this to make people listen carefully.


“Sitting is so incredibly prevalent, we don’t even question how much we’re doing it.”

Note how quickly she says “we don’t even”. She says “wedoneven”. You should say it the same. (You can’t really hear the “t” sound at all.) As long as you stress question, people will understand you.


“What did get me moving, was a social interaction.”

Note how much she emphasizes the word “did”. She could have just said “What got me…”, but using a strong did gives the sentence strength.

Also note how she emphasizes the word “social” because it’s the most important word in the sentence.


“Could you come then?”

Note how she says “kudjuh” instead of “could you”. Then both “come” and “then” are stressed equally.


“First there’s this amazing thing about actually getting out of the box, that leads to out-of-the-box-thinking.”

Note how she says some words quickly (“there’s this”) and other words slowly (“out of the box”) to focus our attention on the important words. Words that don’t give any meaning are said quickly.

So, how well did you understand? As always, if you have any questions or want more practice, comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, C, A


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Saturday Listening Lesson–Designing For Five Senses and Speaking Practice



(1) Intonation: The way your voice goes up and down while you speak.

In English, rising intonation can create a question..

(2) Word Stress: How loud and long you say something.

You need to give word stress to the important words.

(3) Timing: The speed you say different things and the pauses in your speech.

Timing is very important when singing or telling a joke.



1. What is this video about?

a. Prosody

b. Word stress, timing, and intonation

c. Using five senses in design

2. Why is it hard to understand these phrases?

a. People say them quickly

b. People don’t use the same intonation

c. They have hard vocabulary

3. Why are non-native speakers hard to understand?

a. They have bad grammar

b. They use different intonation, word stress, and timing

c. They use strange words


Saturday Listening Lesson


By Jeremy Schaar

Today’s Saturday listening lesson is on an easy idea. Jinsop Lee says that most design focuses on sight and touch. But these are only two of the five sense. He suggests that designers should start thinking about sound, taste, and smell. Good idea, right?

He makes a chart to show this and I think you’ll easily understand the video.

It’s also a good idea for anyone who makes or markets a product.

For you improving your listening, let’s focus on a few phrases that are simple, but difficult to understand.

:30 Let me tell you about: This is used before presenting an idea

2:30 To do this: This is used before explain how to do something

4:15 I used to: This is used to talk about some past action

4:50 It’s because of the: This is used to explain why something is true

These phrases are easy to understand when you read them, but hard to understand when you hear them. They’re hard because native speakers say them so quickly. We push the words together. Watch these videos to understand. You’ll hear me say the expressions above and then hear Jinsop say them in the video.

While you listen, notice my intonation pattern is similar, but the timing and word stress are different.

For your practice, you need to do two things.

(1) When you’re listening to someone speak, notice the way they say the words.

(2) Practice speaking like Jinsop. If you can speak like him, then you can understand him.

Non-native speakers are really hard to understand when their intonation, timing, or word stress is different, so work hard to make sure yours sounds like a native speaker.

So, how well did you understand? As always, if you have any questions or want more practice, comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, B


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To


This lesson is part of a series of one-hour lessons that will help students improve their prosody skills. Prosody, in short, is word stress, timing, and intonation. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: Unstressed

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: It depends on how much you already know about word stress. You may have to learn a little more before starting.

Materials: This Worksheet

Primary Objective: Improve Word Stress Skills

Other Benefits: Become familiar with some money expressions


5 Minutes Review what word stress is. Explain that today, instead of focusing the stressed words, you’re going to work on noticing the unstressed words.

15 Minutes Pass out this sheet. Read the full sentences from the answer sheet. Make sure to say the missing words with minimal stress. The students should try to write the missing words. Review the answers.

20 Minutes Put the students in groups and ask them to add to the list of commonly unstressed words. Ask them to try to make groups of similar words. Demonstrate by making a list of helper verbs (e.g. have, do, etc.) on the board.

Then, each student should come to the front of the class and write one commonly unstressed word on the board. Demonstrate the groups of words by circling the prepositions, underlining the helper verbs, and putting a square around the pronouns.

Write an example sentence on the board with one word from each group.

5 Minutes Have the students practice reading the sentences on the sheets in pairs.

15 Minutes Have the students write their own sentences. They should leave out or erase the unstressed words. Finally, they should read the sentences for their partner. The partner should try to fill in the missing words.

Extension Practice reading the sentences a final time, but use physical movements to reinforce the stressed/unstressed words. For instance, have everyone stand up. When there is a stressed word, they should jump. When there is an unstressed word, they should duck.

Notes: Just because a group of words is commonly unstressed, doesn’t mean they are always unstressed. Of course, lots of prepositions, pronouns, and helper verbs are stressed sometimes. This is all just a guideline.

Ideas for Homework: Students might watch a short clip of something and rewrite the transcript. They should underline the stressed words. (For example, they might watch a video like this, open the interactive transcript on the right and choose one paragraph for them to do).

Worksheet—Unstressed Words

These words are not usually stressed

Have Are Do Is
The A Lot Not
That It This In
For Of On At

Listen to your teacher read these sentences. Use the words above and other words to complete them.


1.  I __________ never saved __________  __________  __________  money.

2.  Don’t __________  think that __________  too expensive?

3.  How __________ __________ usually spend __________  money?

4.  This __________ __________  good price. You should think __________  getting __________.

5.  __________ __________ usually find __________  good deal?

6.  How much __________ __________ pay __________ __________ dress?

7.  Who handles __________  money __________ __________ family?

8.  He asked __________ __________  new loan, but they denied __________.

  1. A: __________ __________ want __________ go shopping?
  2. B: No, I can’t afford __________  buy __________  more clothes.



1.  I have never saved a lot of money.

2.  Don’t you think that is too expensive?

3.  How do you usually spend your money?

4.  This is a good price. You should think about getting it.

5.  Do you usually find a good deal?

6.  How much did you pay for that dress?

7.  Who handles the money in your family?

8.  He asked for a new loan, but they denied him.

  1. A: Do you want to go shopping?
  2. B: No, I can’t afford to buy any more clothes.

Word Bubbles

This lesson is part of a series of one-hour lessons that will help students improve their prosody skills. Prosody, in short, is word stress, timing, and intonation. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: Word Bubbles

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: None

Materials: These Worksheets

Primary Objective: Improve word stress skills

Other Benefits: Discuss sports


Introduce the concept (5 minutes) On the board, write three sentences with circles above each word. Bigger circles mean more stress. Read them with the students.

(Note: It’s difficult to change the font in this blog, so in place of circles, you’ll see letters here. S=Small, M=Medium, B=Big. On the worksheets, you’ll see circles (bubbles) instead.)

S     B    M   S

I   love football.

S       B  M  S

She’s so stupid.

M  S       S      M      M

I don’t think that’s true.

Practice as a class (25 minutes) Pass out the first page of these worksheets. Students should listen to you read the sentences and make circles above the syllables depending on how much stress the syllable needs. More stress means a bigger circle.

Then, pass out another worksheet with suggested answers and practice reading the sentences together.

Practice in Pairs (20 minutes) Pass out the third worksheet to half the class with similar but slightly different sentences.

Pass out the fourth worksheet to the other half of the class.

Students should complete the worksheet in pairs, with one student reading and the other making circles above their words.

Then they should practice reading them in pairs.

Finally, practice reading them as a class.

On their own (10 Minutes) Now, ask students to write a couple sentences on their own and make their own circles above the words. They should practice reading these in pairs as well.

Extension: Instead of just writing a few sentences, students might write whole dialogues and note the word stress throughout.

Ideas for Homework: Tell the students to choose a song they enjoy, find the lyrics, and create stress markings for them.

Five Ways to Practice Stress

Five ways to practice stress

Two weeks ago, we discussed word stress. Here are five ways to teach it.

First off Start by giving them a handout of, say, ten sentences. Write the first one on the board and underline the stressed words as you read it out loud.  Then, move towards having them do it on their own. Ask the class to discuss which words are stressed. Then, they can do it in groups. Finally, they can try it alone or even take a quiz.

Quizzes Nothing like a quiz to get students motivated. Ask students to listen to something and then underline the stressed words on a transcript.

Just the Stress Read something and only say the words you would stress when saying it. For diminished words, ask the students to fill in the blanks. (See this lesson plan.)

Music Listen to songs that have the same lines again and again. In a song, stressed words are often even more obvious. They’re louder, longer, and the pitch changes to boot. Here’s a song you might use. Here’s another.

Throw Your Hands in the Air Use physical gestures. Read sentences with the students. The more stressed a word is, the higher everyone’s hands go while reading.

Focus on Reductions Rather than focusing on the words that are stressed, point out all the unstressed words. Often, these words get said like one word. For example “Jawanna” = “Do you want to” and “I’m going to go” = “I’m gunna go”. Teach common ones so the students know which words usually aren’t stressed.

Beaker Method Beaker was a character on The Muppet Show (popular in the U.S. in the 1970s). He could only speak making “Meep!” sounds. He communicated entirely with word stress, timing, and intonation. Have your students try the same. Here’s a lesson plan to help.


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