TOM : can you share more on how to improve pronunication

Karen   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 06:22 GMT
I have read your English learning story, you mentioned that your English teacher, Mr Janusz Laskosz, gave a lot of good advice, especially on pronunciation. Would you share more? As I have tried all methods for years and still can't improve my pronunication. This is what I have tried:

1. Attend phonetic course
2. One-on-one tutoring
3. accent reduction course (on-line)
4. Ann Cook

What else can I do? Do you mind to share step by step.
Tom   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:03 GMT
Apart from recommending http://www.antimoon.com/how/pronunc-how.htm as a basic resource, I'll just paste my recent reply to Wingyellow (he also asked about our pronunciation software):

Here's how I learned English pronunciation:

1. Learned phonetic transcription and got a dictionary with transcription.

2. Imitated American versions of the sounds by listening to Shaggy Dog Stories, CNN, and my English teachers. When listening, I'd often try to pronounce some phrase exactly like the speaker.

3. Looked up the transcriptions for a LOT of words. Every time I looked up a
word I also checked the transcription and tried to pronounce it.

4. The rest (word linking, sentence stress) came through listening. I picked it up naturally. Actually, I didn't even know the word "linking" until about 2 years ago.


In order to imitate native speakers' pronunciation successfully, you need a reasonably good ear, i.e. you need to be able to hear the difference between your version and the original (if there is a difference). I've always had a good ear, but many learners do not, as in the following typical situation:

Teacher: Okay, repeat after me -- BED.
Student: BET
Teacher: No, say BED
Student: BET
Teacher: No, that's not right.
Student: What do you mean? You wanted me to say BET and I said BET.

If you don't have a teacher who will point out such discrepancies, I've found many learners find it helpful if they can listen to their own voice alongside the proper recording.


PerfectPronunciation is something we developed to make it easier for learners to do step 3, i.e. learn the pronunciations of English words and keep them in memory. The program also allows you to record your own voice, compare it with the proper pronunciation, record it again, listen to it again, and so on ad nauseam. I think it's helpful, because it lets you listen to good pronunciations of 500 English words as many times as you want, compare your voice with the original, and also drills you every day (so it forces you to learn regularly and chooses the questions according to their difficulty).

I want to stress that obviously I did not get my accent thanks to PerfectPronunciation (which we developed this year). I didn't have to record and listen to my voice at all; I can just hear it when there's a difference between my pronunciation and the source, and with patience I can get it right eventually. Sometimes it takes weeks to arrive at the right version, and even more time to use it consistently.

It's important to listen to a wide range of speakers within the accent you want to master (e.g American English).
Sometimes, you practice one day without good results. After a few days, you go back to practicing, and you find you can produce a much better version now. Your brain and speech organs have gotten used to the new sound.

For points 2 and 4, it may be helpful to read (in books about phonetics or online resources) how the sounds are produced (whether you should round your lips, etc.) and read about linking and sentence stress, looking at examples.

Best,

Tom
wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:14 GMT
At least you had teachers.
Where can I find one in Hong Kong?
Tom   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:23 GMT
No, I did not have a pronunciation teacher. I relied on my ear.
wingyellow   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 11:38 GMT
Tom,

Are you good at music?

Can you upload my other files too?
Karen   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 12:49 GMT
Tom,

If PerfectPronunciation is only for one word, not a short sentense?
Tom   Wednesday, August 13, 2003, 23:27 GMT
wingyellow,

I can't sing and I don't play any musical instruments.

Karen,

Yeah, it has individual words.
Richard Li   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 22:10 GMT
Karen, if you want to learn how to speak like a Briton, try listening to BBC broadcasts instead of CNN and Perfect Pronunciation. BBC Radio is available free online @ www.bbc.co.uk . Then, as Tom said, try to imitate the newsreader's pronunciation and accent. Most BBC World Service newsreaders speak RP or Estuary English, as I do, though I have heard some newsreaders from the south-west with an accent resembling American English.