Isolated Pronunciations vs. Natural Speaking

We suggest reading Judy B. Gilbert's booklet, titled "Teaching Pronunciation - Using the Prosody Pyramid" found here ( A couple snippets particular standout to us:

For example, to find out how a word is pronounced a learner will often look in a dictionary. But it is important to realize that actual pronunciation of that word may be dramatically changed depending on its importance to the speaker at a particular moment. In actual speech, words run together, consonants or vowels disappear or change in sounds all in relation to the prosody pressures. Also, the word stress pattern as indicated in the dictionary is actually only a "potential" stress pattern; the potential is activated in specific contexts, but it is not necessarily realized in every context. So if students depend on the "dictionary pronunciation" of words, they will likely fail to recognize a spoken vocabulary item when they hear it, even though they "know" the item in print. In fact, they do not really know the word until they can identify it in actual speech.
... the individual sounds of words are affected by the surrounding language, and often are said quite differently than an English learner depending on the dictionary would expect. For this reason, effective listening comprehension is greatly enhanced by learning (through explanation and adequate practice) how the sounds actually change according to the prosodic influence of the speaker's intentions. The focus of English pronunciation instruction, therefore, should be to give learners the prosodic framework within which the sounds are organized. Instruction should concentrate on the way English speakers depend on rhythm and melody to organize thoughts, highlight important words, and otherwise guide their listener. In addition to helping learners understand words in context and to recognize prosodic "road signs" in spoken English, instruction about prosody also helps learners develop improved ability to clear up misunderstandings in the middle of a conversation. This is because when learners understand how prosody affects sounds and meaning, they are made more aware of potential sources of confusion in conversation. When there has been a breakdown, instead of focusing strictly on pronouncing individual sounds correctly and not making grammatical mistakes, they are able to identify prosodic elements that may have sent a wrong signal. Further, students can make adjustments to rhythm and melody and correct the sounds in the most important syllables in order to correct the confusion. Since correction of a conversational breakdown has to be rapid, knowledge of the prosody system gives students the tools to efficiently scan what was just said and make a quick repair.