Master the Rhythm of English to Speak English Well

Many people find it difficult to understand the concept of rhythm when learning English, but actually it’s a lot more simple than it seems at first. There is a secret to understanding the rhythm of English, which I’m about to reveal to you.

That secret is iambic pentameter – de dum, de dum, de dum, de dum, de dum.

It’s amazingly simple and that’s all you really need to know about the rhythm of the English language. It is a pattern of unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables, times 5.

Now, people don’t actually speak in the rhythm of iambic pentameter in their everyday speech. It’s a special rhythm that’s only found in poetry – such as in the great works of Shakespeare.

Whenever a character speaks using iambic pentameter in a Shakespeare play, you know that something important is happening. Plus, only very elevated, high characters such as Kings speak like this in Shakespeare’s plays.

What this tells us is that iambic pentameter is the English language at it’s most stylised and pure. We like the way this rhythm sounds to our ears. We don’t speak like this in our normal speech, but iambic pentameter exaggerates the rhythm that is already naturally there, just making it more beautiful in the process.

The natural rhythm of English is in iambs – an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. That’s how we like English to sound when it is spoken.

Non-native speakers who apply the rhythm from their own language when speaking English are difficult for us to understand and they sound unnatural. You really must master the rhythm of English by learning to speak in iambs, if you want to be understood when speaking English.

When speech is not in iambs and we have the opposite rhythm, which is called a trochee, it sounds strange and unusual to us. Shakespeare used this opposite rhythm to great effect in his poetry.

However, in normal, everyday speech we do also have the reverse rhythm. We have this in questions. This different rhythm causes us to pay attention and helps us to realise that we are expected to respond to a question in conversation.