unable to understand is as serious as unable to get understood

wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 03:27 GMT
Most of the English speakers in the world are not native speakers. And tens of millions of people speak with an accent like mine or even worse than mine. I think Jackie Chen shares the same accent with me.

Of course it is my responsibility to make myself understood. But if I really have tried my best and years after years, clients after clients, native speakers can understand me, my English then serves its basic function well.
One thing baffling me most is that Tom, who can pass as a native speaker, had to hear my recording 8 times to understand. If it is 2 or 3 times, I think I may have to show some improvement next time. But now it is 8 times, which means that if Tom and I were to talk in person, we cannot even start a conversation. I just don't know whose fault it is.

I personally want to speak like a native speaker, but I am already 23. I have tried my best. So what can I do?
Ryan   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 04:18 GMT
Well, Tom does speak a better accent than you, but I am a native speaker and I thought your reading was somewhat understandable. I did not understand the word "men" at all because you did not put the proper nasal 'n' ending to it, though. You should probably practice that sound. I understood the word "trap" but it did not sound like "trapped" to me because it did not sound like you put a 'd' ending on the word. I also could not tell if you were saying seventeen or seventy, as someone else stated.

The second sentence about the miners losing their lives was very understandable though. I don't think any Americans would have misunderstood you. You have a very good accent for someone who has lived so long in China. I have a friend from Guangzhou who has been in the USA for two years now and you speak better than he does, so I can tell you have been practicing. Just keep practicing and be willing to accept some criticism and someday you will speak as well as Tom does. Listen to as many native speakers as you can as well.

wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 04:26 GMT
I do want to speak better. But I am out of method. I do need to ask for help from you all. If you don't mind speaking to a stranger, please find some way to talk to me on phone or netmeeting.

I am open minded about criticism, but I am not sure if people really have to hear it 8 times. Of course I want to speak as well as Tom, but I don't know what to do. That is my problem.
Ryan   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 05:55 GMT
Can't you rent any American movies or aren't there any American TV shows on television where you are?

wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 06:58 GMT

I have 200 DVDs at home, all Hollywood. And I can understand them all.
I think you will never understand my problem.

I ask Tom how he learnt and so far he has not replied.
Wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 09:23 GMT
I respect Tom a lot. That's why when he said the 8 times thing, it hurt me a lot.

I have sent Tom several recordings, including some free talks.
Tom   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 10:51 GMT
The reason Americans can understand you is that they are used to talking to Asian immigrants. America is such a melting pot that the average American is very tolerant of accents. I suspect this may not be the case with other English speakers, such as Europeans, maybe Britons.
wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:15 GMT

Can you upload a recording of Polish? I want to know if it has anything to do with our mother tongues.
Ryan   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 13:45 GMT
Well, I am a a native speaker, wingyellow, and it only took me three times to understand you. You don't sound that badly, but you could still work some more on your accent. I have heard other people from your country speak English, and you sound very well compared to them.

wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 15:33 GMT

You don't have to say anything now. I know my problem and I will work on it.
Thank you for telling me what my problems are.
Lana   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 16:10 GMT
Here are two suggestions that could help. I do this to help me practice pronunciation with the languages I am learning.

Say the word(s) you are having trouble with slowly and with exaggerated pronunciation. For the word men say mmmm...eeee...nnnn. Make sure you fully pronounce all the sounds. It will sound stupid, but you are training your mouth muscles to make the new sounds. Repeat it several times, each time a little faster until you are saying it at normal speed. For seventeen, sssseeeee...veeeeeeennnnn....teeeee.....nnnnn.
Your mouth will get tired!

The second suggestion: Have a sound clip of the native speaker saying a phrase. Tape yourself saying the phrase. Play them back and forth, comparing your pronunciation. I have software (Berlitz) which has this feature built in. This is extremely helpful. I have to hear myself several times to be able to detect where I am making the mistakes.