Entries Tagged as 'American English Pronunciation Tips'

Accent Reduction Tips

If you’re thinking about altering your accent, try focusing on these aspects of language:

  • study the characteristics of your language’s sound system and how it differs from English.  Start with the differing consonants, which seem to create more misunderstandings.
  • practice in phrases (not individual words) and how one word blends with the words surrounding it
  • move your mouth more than you’re used to – open it wider like you’re yawning, spread the corners of your lips to meet your ears!  This sounds like an exaggeration, but moving your mouth in different ways is a major component of forming new sounds.
  • watch Americans’ lips when they speak – watching on TV is OK to avoid any awkwardness, but the Simpsons, Family Guy, or some other cartoon won’t help you.
  • listen to and imitate sentence stress and intonation and stress patterns within phrases (my favorite activity for this is listening to and singing along with music)
  • copy what you hear exactly and often (as exact and as often as you can)

This is all I can think of for now, but there are more.  I’ll post them as I start to remember them.  For now, I hope these help.

Lose vs. Loose

Lose and loose are commonly misspelled.  There are often mispronounced, too, so maybe this will help:

The ‘s’ in lose (a verb) is pronounced with a /z/ sound.  Lose means that you have misplaced something.  Example: Where did you lose your keys?  If I knew where I lost them, I would still have them!

The ‘s’ in loose (an adjective) is pronounced with a /s/ sound.  Loose means the opposite of tight.  Example:  I have to tie my shoe because my shoestrings are loose.

A Map of American Accents

If you’re interested in learning about the differences in American English throughout the United States, take a minute to look through this map developed by linguist Rick Aschmann.

As seen on the Daily Dish.


Tip for Tuesday: Language Rhythm

Begin to understand English better by understanding the rhythm of languages.  While some languages rhythm patterns are similar, recognizing how languages have different rhythms can help your listening skills.

First, listen for  a rhythm to your native language.  The trick is that you are so used to your own language patterns and finding the rhythm might be difficult at first.  The good news is you know your own language’s rhythm already;  you learned it at a very, very early age.  You will have to rediscover it for this activity.

Second, listen for a rhythm in English.  How?  Listen to any news or radio talk show, native speakers, interviews, podcasts, etc, and start paying attention.  Don’t pay attention to the words yet.  Just listen for a rhythm.  The rhythm comes from the timing of the stressed syllables.  When you think you have found a rhythm, start tapping or clapping along.  Tap only on the beats.

This activity alone will not be enough to perfect your English, but combined with other speaking activities, it will certainly help.  Recognizing the rhythm helps you identify where strings of speech break down into individual phrases and words.  This activity will also eventually help you speak with the rhythm that native speakers are expecting…making your speech more understood by others.

One way or the other, the rhythm is going to get you…

Puzzling Plurals: Resident

The plural of the word resident is residents.  Just add an -s.  Why is it puzzling?  The plural residents sounds like the word residence.  If you get confused, this might help:

  • resident – one person who lives in a place (a resident of Virginia, the resident of this house)
  • residents – people (2 or more) who live in a place (residents of Virginia, the residents of this house)
  • residence – the place where one or more people stay or live (a college student’s permanent residence is in Florida, but their current residence is at the university).
  • residences* – the places where one or more people stay, live, or have lived.

*When you change residence to the plural form, remember to add a syllable /Iz/ when you pronounce it.

Tuesday’s Tip: Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are not ideal to use in an ESL class.

Picture yourself trying to communicate in a new language.  It can be intimidating speaking with correct grammar or using the right pronunciation of a word (is it sheep or seep, or jeep?).  Maybe you’ve been misunderstood or laughed at.  That’s not very fun.

Then your teacher hands you a sheet with funny phrases that have only the most difficult sounds in this language.  Now, the teacher wants you to say them!!!??

Any research on good teaching practices would advise against creating uncomfortable situations for students, and using tongue twisters in an ESL class qualifies.  Not only can they make students distressed, they are linguistically confusing.  Hearing the differences in sounds is hard because some sounds that exist in English don’t exist in other languages.  Not only that, but it also provides occasions for students to involuntarily recreate errors, solidifying the very sounds they may wish to eventually correct.

Now, I’m not a total fuddy duddy, and have been known to use tongue twisters myself.  They’re fun…what can I say?  There is, however, a time and a place to appropriately use tongue twisters.

When you have a class who might enjoy the word play, here are a few tongue twister links.

Pronunciation: Words with -ough

Words that are spelled with -ought have some different pronunciation patterns.  Click below to hear the differences in how these words are pronounced: