Words are made up of syllables. If you were to speak to the beat of a drum, you could consider each syllable as one beat. I can still remember back in my early grammar school days when my teachers would clap along to words so that we could hear and count the syllables in each.
Here are some examples. Try to hear the beats in each of these words. The periods (full stops) mark syllable breaks. This is also how syllables are notated in dictionaries.
com.pli.ca.tion (4 syllables)
ed.u.ca.tion (4 syllables)
per.fect (2 syllables)
ab.bre.vi.a.tion (5 syllables)
can (1 syllable)
cal.en.dar (3 syllables)
Notice how each syllable contains one vowel sound (not one vowel, but one vowel sound). It is safe to assume that every vowel sound will have its own syllable.
Syllables become important when we begin to discuss word stress. Since English is a stress language (and we’ll talk more about what that means later) the syllable that you choose to emphasize is extremely important for your meaning.
PRO.gress is different from pro.GRESS and REC.ord is different from re.CORD. We’ll go into these differences and the rules surrounding their usage in future posts.
For now, just begin taking note of how many syllables are in the words that you hear. In addition, can you hear any differences in how the syllables are spoken? Are some syllables louder, longer or higher in pitch than others? Let me know your findings in the comments below!