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    #1

    First communication obstacle

    Hello everybody. Finally I made it into the promised land, AKA New York, and the first thing that dawned on me was how fast and entangled people talk on the streets. As you all know English is not precisely the most patient language, specially when people are talking. It's packed with abbreviations and one of the most common ones is can't. I've been having problems trying to assimilate the difference between both (can-can't). The pronunciation is exactly the same to me and I've tried to get it based on the context but sometimes I just can't figure it out. Can any of you give me some pointers on how to recognize each properly? Thank you.

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    #2

    Re: First communication obstacle

    If it's short (like cn) and unstressed, it's can. If it's stressed and long (like caan't), it's can't. This makes them easily distinguishable.

    You can figure it out.

    You can't figure it out.

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    #3

    Re: First communication obstacle

    Welcome to the United States!

    Can ends with an /n/ sound, while can't ends with a glottal stop (where the flow of air is cut by closing the throat). You're not the only English learner to struggle to hear the difference. All I can suggest is that you listen for the brief cessation of the voice between can't and the following word.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #4

    Re: First communication obstacle

    The trouble is that can can also be long and stressed, as in You can tell them apart but it will take practice. In fact, I think can't is shorter than a stressed can.
    I am not a teacher.

  1. Piscean's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: First communication obstacle

    However, if it's stressed and long, it's not at all easy for some of us to distinguish. I am a native speaker of (British) English; I sometimes have problems with this.

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: First communication obstacle

    New Yorkers do talk fast. Just hang in there. You'll pick it up.

    And remember that English is a second language for many, many New Yorkers. Most people will be glad to talk more slowly if you ask them to.

    New York is a strange and wonderful city. It takes about six months to get used to it. Mark your calendar!

    And welcome to the USA!
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #7

    Re: First communication obstacle

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    And remember that English is a second language for many, many New Yorkers.
    It's worthwhile to remember that. If your experience with English is like mine with my second language, French, you'll probably find that you can have long, comfortable conversations with other people who speak English as a second language. This happens because they've studied a more formal version of English which is similar to the formal version you've studied.

    When you encounter native Anglophones, you'll probably have a wide range of aural comprehension. Some people naturally speak more clearly than others, and some people are much better at adapting their speech to their interlocutors' ability (or what they perceive to be their interlocutors' ability) than others.
    I am not a teacher.

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: First communication obstacle

    One of the most interesting things about New York is the variety of languages you will hear on a daily basis.

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