From the archives...
A customer posted the following question on our (now discontinued) LOE Forum.
We are having a lot of trouble with stressed versus unstressed syllables. We are on Lesson 154 in Foundations D, and the teacher manual doesn't actually show which syllable is stressed so it makes it really hard for me help my child. If you have some suggestions for figuring out stressed versus unstressed I would love them, but I would also suggest showing what is stressed in the teacher manual so that the teacher or parent can apply the rules without having to look it up somewhere else.
I do have some tips for you!
(First, are you a native English speaker? If you aren't, then you will need to check a dictionary for pronunciation of words you don't know — tips 1-3 below won't necessarily be enough.)
Here are the things I've found helpful when the parent or teacher is having trouble understanding which syllable is stressed.
If you are a native English speaker, then you already are stressing the correct syllable on any word in your spoken vocabulary. The difficulty is in feeling which one you are stressing.
Often people who are struggling with this are unknowingly making it harder for themselves by trying to say every syllable very emphatically in their effort to find the stressed one: PO-TAY-TOE. But what you actually want to know is which one you stress in your normal pronunciation. So the most important thing is to say it naturally. Try the following steps:
1) Hold your fingers against the bottom of your chin. Say the word in your normal, everyday, relaxed way. If it helps, say it in the context of a sentence. As you say the word, feel which syllable your chin drops down more for. Make sure you do not emphasize every syllable, as otherwise you won't be able to tell.
2) Try 'humming' the word and see which syllable you hum the loudest. Again, this only works if you hum your normal, everyday pronunciation of the word, not if you artificially exaggerate the syllables.
3) If you are still unsure, say the word multiple times and stress a different syllable each time: the first one, then the second one. /PO ta to/... /pə TA to/... /pə ta TOE/. When you stress the one you stress in your natural speech, the word will sound normal, just a little exaggerated. But when you stress one of the other syllables instead, it will sound silly. (Try this with your kids!)
4) These steps should help you get much more comfortable feeling which syllable you stress in a word. But whenever you're really stumped, you can also look the word up in your dictionary. They normally mark the stressed syllable with a vertical line that is sort of like an extended apostrophe.
Please let me know how it goes! And I will make a note about the idea of marking the stressed syllable in the books as well.