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[Speaking-Out-Loud October 2017]On perfecting pronunciation
October 25, 2017
In this Issue
If you're a non-native speaker of English you'll appreciate how hard it is to get those pesky words containing "ough" pronounced properly. There's rough which sounds like "ruff". And cough which sounds like "coff". In thorough it sounds like "err", and in thought it sounds like "or".
You have my sympathy. Learning to pronounce English words correctly is tough. (That's pronounced "tuff".) They can slip and slide in your mouth and emerge so disguised that very few people understand you.
The frustration of knowing you've got the right words to express what you want to say and, they're coming out wrongly, is huge. If you're asked to repeat yourself several times and you still get blank stares, I completely understand the temptation to give up.
Here's a tip I know will help. It won't fix the problem immediately but practiced in conjunction with gaining vocabulary and grammar skills, it will help speed the process up. It's to actively listen. I am aware that may sound too easy and perhaps even patronizing.
Let me explain. If you are actively listening you are listening to and registering the patterning of language. You can hear the underlying musicality, its rhythms and beats, the stresses. All of which combine to carry meaning. A word by itself seldom does that. In context, in a sentence or a paragraph, meaning becomes clear.
Practicing actively listening can take many forms. Here's a couple.
Tuning your ears to English is good. When that is combined with training your mouth to produce the sounds you want you're well on the way to being able to communicate clearly in English.
Practice is the only method there is to become a proficient speaker. This is learning by doing which also means being prepared to allow yourself to be a beginner, to make mistakes, and then to learn from them. Making mistakes is an essential part of the process. You need them, I need them. We all need them to help us understand where we need to focus in order to move forward.
Here's two of the speech practice suggestions I use with the people I work with. I hope you find them useful too! Two weeks of ten to twenty minutes a day of focused practice and you'll hear a vast improvement in your speech! If you record yourself over that time you'll have irrefutable proof.
If you'd like one-to-one assistance, I offer coaching via skype. You can read more about that here: Skype coaching.
Here's a fabulous round-up page of English as a Second Langauge (ESL) resources - a collection of 43 valuable links.
Here's an example: Common English Errors. This is the website of Washington University Professor Paul Brians, featuring lists, with examples, of frequently made errors. For instance he explains the difference between the words "affect" and "effect".
If you're a teacher, a student, a non-native English speaker, or interested in exploring the language, you'll want to bookmark the page.
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Until next time,
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