Authentic rhythm, melody, and pronunciation are important not simply because it ‘s important to have your English “sound good.” The rhythm, melody, and pronunciation are in fact EMBEDDED into the grammar of any language.
There are a number of grammatical structures that you cannot master until you master the melody: one obvious example is the past counter-factual conditional (kateho kanryo). I will bet that if you read this sentence, you have no trouble understanding it :
“If I had studied I would have been smart.”
VERY EASY. Right? Now look away. Can you say that sentence without reading it? Maybe. But can you say …
“If I had not studied, would I have been smart?
Or how about …
“I might not have been smarter if I had studied, but I would probably have been more successful.”
The syllables in an English sentence do not follow in a nice, even stream, the way they do in Japanese —
“WA-TA-KU-SHI NO NO-MAE WA PI-I-TA-A A—KA-RI-I DE-SU.
In English, the syllables go fast and slow then fast then slow –
” MY name is Peter ACK-erly.”
— like you are on a roller coaster.
This video talks about …
- How English (like French and German) is a STRESS-TIMED language, not a SYLLABLE-TIMED language (like Japanese and Spanish and Hindi).
- How we use pitch, not volume, to signal the importance of different words. AND
- The importance of INFLECTIONS. In English, how you BEND the pitch on a given stress signals the word of place in the larger argument that you are trying to make.