Proper Pronunciation ...
What will speaking 'proper' English do for you?
Do you say 'I wanna ' or 'I want to' ?
Is it 'gonna' or 'going to' ?
The proper pronunciation debate is ancient and not confined to English speakers. It's universal. All over the world as soon as anyone is old enough to speak, there'll be someone guiding their pronunciation in an attempt to make it right. And right or proper depends on where, who you are and what is common or accepted practice in your community.
|How many 'proper' interpretations of English are there?
So what does this mean for a person who wants to speak correctly?
It means developing the understanding that what might be acceptable in one setting may not be in another and having the flexibility to change.
Getting it wrong may have the pronunciation police out to get you and that's a problem because you never know where they may be lurking!
Offending your listener's ears is hardly a grievous crime, but it is one that can boomerang. The real victim of your lack of proper pronunciation is not your audience but potentially yourself.
For some people, mispronunciation is an irritation that detracts from whatever you are speaking about. Instead of hearing your message, your listeners hear what they interpret as sloppy or poor English. On the basis of that impression they judge you.
In some settings how you pronounce your words matters. Think about a job interview or giving a formal speech and you'll realize the impression you create counts. How you pronounce your words can make a positive difference. So aside from making sure you are saying names and any specialist vocabulary correctly, listen to yourself and really hear how you habitually speak.
Here's a list of commonly mispronounced words and phrases that can quickly close off ears, hearts and minds. Mostly they are the result of habitual speed. Slow down while trying their proper pronunciation (sounding the syllables clearly) out loud.
- anything, everything, nothing, something
The 'ing' is replaced with 'ink'
- I am going
The words are abbreviated to 'I'm gunna'
- I have got to
The words are abbreviated to 'I gotta'
- I want to
The words are abbreviated to 'I wanna'
- Let me
The words are abbreviated to 'Lemme'
- I am not
The words are abbreviated to 'I ain't'
- matter, flutter, butter, splatter, stutter...
Words with 'tt' which are pronounced as 'dd' so they become 'madder', 'fludder', 'budder' ...
The 'k' gets left off. The word becomes 'ax' as in 'I wanna ax a question.'
Its two letters are abbreviated to one; 't' as in 'I'm gonna go t town.'
- Don't you?
The phrase is abbreviated to 'Doncha?'
- How did you...?, Where did you...?, What did you...?
These three are commonly abbreviated to 'howdja', 'wheredja' and 'whadja'
Examples: 'Howdja get here?', 'Wheredja come from?', 'Whadja do last night?'
Did you know the quality of your voice helps determine what people think about you?
Yes, it's not only looking good; dressing well and walking tall but sounding good too.
Find out about voice image.
The only way I know to learn 'approved' or proper pronunciation is to listen to speakers you know are regarded as good and practice speaking like them.
If that type of English is not being spoken around you, tune your radio to get broadcasts from the best or listen to recordings of books read by professional English speaking actors. For a faster and more direct result get lessons from a qualified speech teacher.
The ability to speak 'proper' English doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to lose your accent or turn into a snob - a person who considers themselves better than others purely because they pronounce their words carefully.
What it will do is give you choice, more control. You can choose your pronunciation and words to fit the setting and that's got to be a good thing, don't you think?
Do you really speak American?
Here's a list of 100 Beastly Mispronunciations from The Big Book Of Beastly Mispronunciations: The Complete Opinionated Guide For The Careful Speaker by Charles Harrington Elster.
You'll find less common examples than the ones I listed above. If you or somebody you know habitually mispronounces words like 'newspaper' or 'with' or 'diagnosis', then this is essential.
American English Podcasts
These are weekly lessons in pronunciation from Seattle Learning Academy especially for non-native English speakers that provide practical specialist professional advice.
And now read the interview! Mandy Egle, founder of the Seattle Learning Academy, and producer of the popular podcasts (above) talks about American English pronunciation training.
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