How to understand native English speakers: “Whaddya…?”

How to understand native English speakers: "Whaddya…?"

Why is it so hard to understand native English speakers? Because we use relaxed speech. Most English speakers will combine words, leave out letters, and even change letters! But you can understand by learning how and why these changes happen. And when you understand, your pronunciation and comprehension will improve. In this lesson, I’ll explain some of the most common pronunciation changes that English speakers make, so that you can understand what native speakers are saying. Once you learn these changes, practice listening for them with native speakers, or with your favorite English shows or movies. Find some usages of relaxed speech in a show or movie and tell me in the comments what you found.


Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo. What am I going to make for dinner tonight? Hey. James from engVid. Whaddya want to learn today? Excuse me. “Whaddya mean?” Oh, sorry, he’s saying: “What do you mean?” What do you want to learn? We’re doing two quick pronunciation tricks. When I’m saying that it’s a little bit different, when I say two different pronunciation tricks, I’m going to teach you what’s called relaxed speech in English or when we make… We blur words together. Sometimes we blur words, we make words, two words into one, sometimes three words become one, so when you hear it you think you’re hearing one word, when in reality what you’re hearing is three words and sometimes we drop the sound. Today I’m going to give you two very common phrases, that if you learn to say it properly, you’ll sound like a native speaker, which is really cool. Right? So let’s go to the board and take a look.

To start off with, Mr. E… Hey, say: “Hi”, E. Okay? Mr. E is saying: “Whaddya mean?” Try it. If you look in your Google Translator or your phone, you’ll notice this word doesn’t exist, but it does for us English people, and in fact it’s for two different things that are not related. I’ll show you a trick so you know what it is you’re saying; or when someone’s speaking to you, what it is they mean. Let’s go.

First things first, this is real English, relaxed speech. I have two statements. The first statement is: “What are you doing?” Right? “What are you doing?” Pretty clear and understandable. And the second statement is: “What do you want?” They’re not the same at all, you can see with your eyes. But when I say it, actually it’s going to come out like this: “Wad-da-ya doing? Wad-da-ya doing?” or “Wad-da-ya want? Wad-da-ya want?” The sound… This is phonetic spelling, so I’m just trying to show you the: “Wad-da-ya”, “Wad-da-ya”, basically sounds like this: “Whaddya”, okay? And it’s when we’ve cut sounds, and there’s reasons we do it and I’ll explain here why. When we speak very fast, especially when there’s a “t” or a “d” involved in English, we tend to either change the “t” to a “d”-okay?-or we actually just get rid of it. An example is “often”. In English you’ll sometimes hear people say: “Often”, “I often do this”, but more casual is to say: “I ofen”, the “t” is just dropped. It’s understood to be there. Okay? “Often”, but it’s just dropped. And a lot of times people have trouble saying the word: “Bottle”, you saw my face, like: “I want a bottle of Coke”, it’s difficult to say, even for us, so we say: “I want a bodle”, “bodle”, and that double “t” actually becomes almost a “d” sound, so: “bodle”. “I want a bottle of Coke or a bottle of beer.” We tell you to say “t”, but we don’t even do it ourselves because we’re lazy.

And speaking about lazy, I want to talk about the second reason this funny thing occurs here where we have: “Whaddya” instead of the words that are supposed to be there. When we have lazy vowels… Lazy vowels we call the schwa, schwa. I’m exaggerating because I open my mouth too much. When you do the schwa, it’s like an “uh”, you barely move your mouth. In fact, later on I’m going to show you a test you can do to see the schwa for yourself. Okay?

Here’s two examples for you because we barely say them, like the word: “problem”. It’s not “probl-e-m”, you don’t say the “e” really, you just kind of, like, make it fall with the “m” so it becomes “um”: “problum”. Right? And when you say: “family”, do you say: “fam-i-ly”? No. You say: “Famly”. It’s “fam-ly”, it just blends right in there. Okay? So now we’ve taken a look at this and “whaddya”, and I just want to explain something, how it happened. Remember we said the “t”? The “t” gets dropped here. Okay? We just take it out. And the “r” we don’t even say. It goes from here-you see?-there goes the “t” becomes a “d” there. Right? “What are”, “What are ya”, and we just drop it right off. Here it’s even more obvious you can see it because we take the “t”, and make that an “a” over here. We do that a lot in English with “o”, we change o’s to “a”. Okay, so here are we. We drop that, we put the “t” to a “d” here, once again that drops off, and we have: “whaddya”.