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From the Jobs' speech, there is a sentence:

Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl.

You can see it's they decided at the last minute but I can't clearly hear the word at.

I just want to know is the word at really there, and if there how can I read it smoothly like Jobs'?

I tried very hard but still can't read it smoothly if I read the at, but without it, it's much easier to read as fast as Jobs'

  • At is really there. – Damkerng T. Dec 16 '14 at 15:53
  • @DamkerngT. Thanks, then, how can I pronounce it correct and fast, as Jobs' does? – Freewind Dec 16 '14 at 16:08
  • I don't think that this instance of at is really fast. It might seem fast because it's an unstressed word. If you want to talk like native speakers, one possible way is to imitate them the best you can. Also, knowing how English works, phonologically, is helpful. – Damkerng T. Dec 16 '14 at 16:16
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[The sentence is at 1:30 in the video, if anyone else wants to hear it.]

The "at" is really there, and needs to be there. When Jobs says it, it's closer to "eht". Listen for the rhythm in this phrase:

decided at the

Every syllable takes the same amount of time.

de ci ded at the

You might be having trouble with the T sound. Are you making a puff of air at the end? If so, stop doing that. At the end of the word "at", your tongue should still be touching the roof of your mouth. It will sound almost like there's no T at all. This flows naturally into "the", where your tongue starts on the roof of your mouth.

"Decided" is similar, but when there's a vowel after "decided", you end up saying the D at the end. So "decided at" sounds more like "decideh dat". Don't force this -- it's a weak D. When your tongue moves from the roof of your mouth to the bottom, you'll make the D sound automatically.

That's how to say the phrase like a native. If you keep the puffs of air, everyone will still understand you; you'll just be slower.

  • You can even produce the dental of "at" back in the throat, with the tongue not quite touching the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth. I don't know what to call this--a pseudo-dental? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 16 '14 at 23:20
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    @TRomano I think you're referring to Glottal Stop. – Damkerng T. Dec 16 '14 at 23:46
  • Thanks, Damkerng T. Is there a name given to the act of substituting a glottal stop for the dental? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 17 '14 at 11:39
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    @TRomano Glottalization (sometimes t-glottalization for the t sound), or more specifically glottal reinforcement (when it's partial), glottal replacement (when it's complete). See also: phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/glottals2-colour.pdf, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-glottalization (credits for the links and terms goes to snailboat). – Damkerng T. Dec 17 '14 at 13:08

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