You already know more about intonation than you might think: watch the video below for a listening exercise that will demonstrate that you already understand some of the subtleties of American intonation.
Now you are ready to try to apply what you know about word stress to your speaking. A good place to start is with small talk. You can read about what small talk is and why you should learn to do it here, but the point of this exercise is to begin to try out your listening and speaking skills. Listen for the stressed word: can you hear the pitch rise? Can you hear the long vowel? Click on this link to go to Intonation Exercise: Small Talk.
Next we'll zero in on which words get the stress. Click on this link to go to Intonation Exercise: Stress Content Words.
Some words can be a noun or a verb, like the words record and project. The stress pattern changes depending on whether the word is being used as a noun or a verb. Click on this link to go to Intonation Exercise: Nouns and Verbs.
Not only do phrases and sentences have stressed words, longer words have stressed syllables. Click on this link to go to Intonation Exercise: Word and Syllable Stress.
We use a long vowel on the stressed syllable. We also lengthen the vowel before a voiced consonant. Use this link to practice making a longer vowel for words with voiced consonants.
As you work through your pronunciation exercises, notice that you have the opportunity to listen for and imitate the intonation for all of your patterns in the phrase level practice. You should begin to try working on pronunciation and intonation simultaneously once you are confident in your ability to correctly repeat the target sounds.
What are the patterns we use in sentences? Try the following exercises to work sentence level intonation. First, click here to try some simple sentences to practice with vowel length and pitch and view some visual information. Next, click on this link to go to Intonation Exercise: Sentence Level Intonation. Next, click on this link to go to Intonation Exercise: Three Types of Contrastive Tone.
How does intonation work in a conversation? Use the conversation recordings and scripts to try out some of the hidden signals we use when exchanging information. Click here to go to the Intonation Exercise: Intonation at the Conversational Level.
For more intonation practice, consider using media to imitate the stress patterns you hear. TV, movies, TED talks, and the radio are full of good models for a variety of types of communication. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of watching a program pausing after someone speaks and trying to match what they said just how they said it. Turn on a talk radio or news station and imitate the speaker while you're driving in the car. Now that you've worked through these exercises, you should be better able to hear the pitch changes they are using.