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  1. #1
    Silverobama is online now Key Member
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    I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    Tonight I met a young woman in an English club (English club meeting). Her spoken English is fluent and she's learning medicine at her university.

    She recalled that when she was a freshman, she was asked to join many English competitions. She also mentioned that her biggest problem in pronunciations was that she didn't how where to stress when reading English words. I then wrote a sentence to express the idea:

    I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables when speaking English at that time.

    Is my italic sentence natural?

  2. #2
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silverobama View Post
    Tonight I met a young woman at an English club meeting. Her spoken English is excellent, and she's studying medicine at her university.

    She recalled that when she was a freshman [no comma] she was asked to join many English competitions. She also mentioned that her biggest problem in pronunciation was that she didn't how what to stress when reading English. I then wrote a sentence to express the idea:

    I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables when speaking English at that time.

    Is my italic sentence natural?
    In my opinion, no. Perhaps:

    I was unsure what to stress when speaking English.

    (Please note that pronunciation is a noncount noun.)
    Last edited by GoesStation; 12-May-2021 at 16:00. Reason: Fix a typo.
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  3. #3
    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    I'd suggest that since the idea is to contrast what she couldn't do in the past with what she can do in the present, you front the sentence with the time phrase:

    At that time, I didn't know which syllables to stress.

  4. #4
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    We don't join competitions. We enter them.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. #5
    Silverobama is online now Key Member
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I'd suggest that since the idea is to contrast what she couldn't do in the past with what she can do in the present, you front the sentence with the time phrase:

    At that time, I didn't know which syllables to stress.
    Much appreciated, jutfrank.

    Is the above italic sentence natural? Or did you just point out the use of that phrase?

  6. #6
    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    It's natural. Unless we specifically say otherwise, every suggestion of expression we make on the forum is natural, and meant as an improvement on the original.

  7. #7
    Silverobama is online now Key Member
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    It's natural. Unless we specifically say otherwise, every suggestion of expression we make on the forum is natural, and meant as an improvement on the original.
    Got it. I asked because I noticed that Tarheel said my sentence in the OP isn't good. And your rewrite in #3 (yes, perfect as usual) was not very different from my original version. Now I got it!

    Much appreciated!

  8. #8
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    Okay, Silver. Remember that when we give suggestions, we generally try to stick as closely as possible to your original sentence, making the minimum number of changes for it to pass as natural.

    However, sometimes we have to read into what you're trying to say, which is often quite difficult. You'll remember how I've advised you recently to tell us exactly how you mean to use your sentences in context, by creating mini-dialogues, for example. I hope you understand very clearly that this is because the exact phrasing of any sentence depends on the context within which it is used. So when we read your sentences, which are invariably imagined to be part of a conversation, we must try to imagine what has been said directly before. In a sentence that is part of a conversation, the areas of expression that are highly dependent on context include reference phrases, word order, linking words, and discourse markers, to name just four big ones.

    In the sentence in this thread, the phrase At that time is an example of a reference time phrase, because that time points to a time that has been mentioned previously in the conversation. My decision to move it from the end of your sentence to the beginning was based purely on how I was imagining the previous part of the conversation to play out, and what you really mean to say. You'll also notice that unlike Tarheel, I made a decision to remove any reference to the fact that the language in question was English. This was again based on the way that I was imagining the conversation to go, which was that the listener knows full well that the speaker is talking about English. You forced me to make a decision I shouldn't have needed to make, and it may have been ill-made. I still don't know. Tarheel chose to keep the element of specifying which language in his suggestion.

    When you don't provide enough context for us (as I've asked, and am asking you to do yet again), it makes us work harder than I think we ought to, and it often means that we can't really provide you with suggestions that work naturally within the specific context of use. And that is what you really need, in my opinion, in order to take your English up towards the level of a native speaker. Please take more time in future to think about how your sentences work in the context of the wider discourse. If you do, you'll get more valuable answers from us.

    Do you understand what I'm saying?
    Last edited by jutfrank; 13-May-2021 at 02:22.

  9. #9
    Silverobama is online now Key Member
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    Remember that when we give suggestions, we generally try to stick as closely as possible to your original sentence, making the minimum number of changes for it to pass as natural.
    I'm deeply sorry. I noticed my mistake when I was re-reading my question in the OP. Yes, you two made some changes to it.

    I hope you understand very clearly that this is because the exact phrasing of any sentence depends on the context within which it is used.
    Much appreciated! I actually do remember this and I've tried to creat mini-dialog to "make things easier". But for this one, hmm, we were in the middle of an English club meeting and there were ten people there. It was Rachel's turn (the woman I mentioned in the OP) and she just shared her stories about learning English. We didn't interrupt her.

    Please take more time in future to think about how your sentences work in the context of the wider discourse. If you do, you'll get more valuable answers from us.


    Thank you so much for this valuable suggestion, jutfrank. I'll try my best to provide useful context.

    Do you understand what I'm saying?
    Yes. In a word, to create a mini-dialog.

    I know you've been reading almost all my threads here, jutfrank. I really appreciate that. Sometimes I didn't create a dialog because there was just one person speaking English or Chinese; it was a monologue.

    But I read your suggestions above carefully and I know and will try to make it better in the future. I really need and want to learn idiomatic English because people here are learning Chinglish.

    As for this one, I should have said clearly that when Rachel said "At that time", she meant "when she was a freshman" and now she's studying for her PhD degree. Now she knows which syllables to stress because her English has greately improved.

  10. #10
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    Re: I didn't know how to put emphasis on syllables.

    Learning where stresses should go comes with practice. Also, I would not normally in everyday speaking situations consciously think about where to put stresses. Even in public speaking situations I wouldn't ask myself what syllables I am going to stress. Not that I'm that special, but if you are studying ESL you want to get to the point where you are like me and you don't have to think about it. Practice makes perfect.
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