The idea is this: the number of letters does not necessarily match the number of sounds. Two written vowels might give only one vowel sound (bean) and two consonants might only give one consonant sound (pinned & skilled). Sometimes a letter is not pronounced at all like the letter p in psychology or the letter e in charge.
What is a syllable?
A word like Spanish has two syllables: Span-ish; intensive has 3 syllables: in-ten-sive.
A syllable must contain a vowel sound to be counted as one. It is important that you understand what a syllable is because French is a syllable-timed language. In other words syllables are the rhythmic elements of French sentences…We shall come back to this matter later on in this course.
What is a stress?
A stress is an emphasis put on a syllable. For instance in the 3 syllable word pho-to-graph the syllable pho is pronounced with more strength than the other two. We could show the stress in photograph like this: photogragh. From the examples you are about to hear, you can easily see how stress is used in French (as opposed to English). French stress is one of duration rather than intensity and it is always placed on the last syllable of a word or group of words. In the French word photographe the syllable graphe will be made longer (but not really louder as it is in English). Stress in English depends on the words; they have most of the time the stress placed on the first syllable, but not always. The vowel in a non-stressed syllable may disappear in English it is never the case in French (Compare the words ‘Adresse’ where the vowel A is still heard and ‘Address’ where it has changed into a schwa.)
> Now listen to the following :