The Importance of Word Stress for Pronunciation
When words have multiple syllables, we don’t pronounce the syllables equally. Instead, we emphasise certain syllables and pronounce them stronger than the unstressed syllables. This is known as word stress, and is an important part of pronunciation.

For example, when we say the word polo, we stress the first syllable and pronounce it as POlo instead of poLO.
"Polo" pronounced with a correct stress on the first syllable (ˈpoʊloʊ)
A dessert блюдо (обычно сладкое), которым завершается прием пищи. (/dɪˈzɜrt/) The stress is on the last syllable.
How to stress syllables
A stressed syllable is seen as being stronger, and this can be a combination of it being louder, higher pitched, or longer. However, try not to overly focus on speaking stressed syllables louder as this leads to an unnatural speaking style.

Word stress and phonetics
Although word stresses are sometimes marked in Russian with an accent (´), e.g. большóй, they are never marked in English. Therefore you have to learn the correct stresses through observation, looking up the dictionary, or lessons with a native speaker.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) system, stresses are marked with an apostrophe (ˈ) before the syllable. Longer words may have multiple stresses, although there will always be a primary stress. The secondary stress is less strong and is marked with a comma (,) before the syllable.

For example, the word identification has a primary stress on CA and a secondary stress on DEN. This is written in IPA as /aɪˌdɛntəfəˈkeɪʃən/.

When learning words, it is helpful to use your own system memorise the stresses. For example, you could use bold and underline for primary stresses, and just bold for secondary stresses. So “identification” would be written as “identification”.
Word stress helps clarity
Most cases of mispronunciation do not cause misunderstanding. Did you know that besides Standard American English, there are more than 20 English accents in the United States? Native speakers are used to a hearing a wide range of English accents.

However, there are standard patterns of word stress. Native speakers rely on word stress as an important clue to help them process and understand speech. Research (Jenkins, 2000; Deterding, 2013) shows that the incorrect word stress leads to misunderstanding. Because the main goal of spoken English is to be understood clearly, word stress is important.

Even if the speaker can be understood, incorrect word stress can make the listener feel annoyed, or amused, and prevent good communication.
Different stresses imply different words
Sometimes, incorrect stresses may lead to a completely different word being meant. Although context can often help a listener determine what word was meant, it still causes unnecessary confusion.

For example, do you like deserts or desserts?
A desert is barren land with little life.

(/ˈdɛzɜrt/) The stress is on the first syllable.
A dessert is the (usually sweet) dish at the end of a meal.

Same words, different stresses
In English, stress serves a distinctive function helping to differentiate between meanings. The same word may change from a noun to a verb or adjective depending on how it is stressed.
As a noun, contest (a competition) has a stress on the first syllable.

"I dream to take part in a beauty contest."

As a verb, contest (to challenge) has a stress on the last syllable.

"I have to contest the decision of the judge."
As a noun, content (something that is contained) has a stress on the first syllable.

"Even though his speech was entertaining, it lacks any serious content."
As an adjective, content (satisfied) has a stress on the last syllable.

"Even though my life is not perfect, I feel content."
General rules
Word stress in English is not random (unlike Russian). Even though there are no strict rules on which syllables to stress, there are some general guidelines.
Most two-syllable nouns and adjectives have a stress on the first syllable. For example, table, police, lotion, happy, and charming.

Some words can be used as both a noun and a verb. In most cases, the noun has a stress on the first syllable, and the verb has a stress on the second syllable. For example, “I suspect the suspect.” and “He insulted her with an insult.”

Compound nouns (nouns made up of nouns) tend to have a stress on the first part. For example wastepaper, football, and bookshelf.

Compound words made up of an adjective and a noun tend to have a stress on the second element. For example loudspeaker, black-market, and cold-blooded.

Words with special endings/suffixes (-ain, -ee, -eer, -ese, -esque) usually have a stress on these last syllables. For example, remain, oversee, bioengineer, Siamese, and grotesque.
Words with these endings/suffixes (-ion, -ious, -eous, -ity, -ive, -graphy, -meter, -logy) tend to have a stress just before. For example application, contentious, simultaneous, impossibility, incentive, photography, thermometer, and archeology.
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