1. How to pronounce foreign languagesEven if you cant master a native accent, the key is to be clear and comprehensible.Anne Merritt offers five top tips.The tongue, lips, teeth and breath all contribute to the way a sound comes out of the mouth. Photo: STOCK4B GmbH /AlamyBy Anne MerrittMany language learners will work tirelessly on their pronunciation skills, spending long hours(and sometimes large sums of money) in hopes of attaining that clear and perfect native accent.In this teachers opinion, its a goal that sets you up for failure.First off, its incredibly hard to imitate a flawless accent, especially as adult learners. Moreover,its not essential. Instead of trying to pass as a native speaker, language learners should insteadfocus on honing their pronunciation so that its clear and easy to understand. Its a far moreattainable goal, and one that can be reached with the following tips:The parrot approachAs with any language skill, practice is key. For pronunciation, the more focused listening andrepetition a learner does, the more comfortable they become with the phonics and soundpatterns of the language. Listen-and-repeat exercises can be done with any medium, fromtraditional language learning CDs to TV, movies, and song lyrics. Podcasts about language studyor any other topic are especially helpful, because listeners can adjust the speed of the audio andreplay sounds easily.
2. These exercises also help self-conscious speakers become more familiar with pronunciation.The parroting of accent and inflection may feel silly, or even mocking of the target culture. This,however, is a case of simple discomfort, which will pass in time.Mind the stressThe English language is one that stresses words (BROC-co-li; trans-por-TA-tion). It is theinstinct of native English speakers to use our own framework of stress patterns when we learnnew words. However, we cant project our own assumptions about rhythm onto foreign language.Some languages have different stress patterns, while many do not use stress at all.When learning the new vocabulary of a foreign language, it is important to be mindful of stress,or absence of stress, in new words. It helps neutralise your own British accent, and start adoptingthe accent of your target language.Use a mirrorSometimes its not enough to imitate a new word based on sound alone. There are physicalmechanics at play, too. The tongue, lips, teeth and breath all contribute to the way a soundcomes out of the mouth. When trying to manage a word thats tough to pronounce, learnersshould grab a hand mirror and try to move the mouth in the same way that native speakers do.This is best done with a teacher or friend who can demonstrate the sound, but imitating speakerson television or YouTube can work, too.For trickier vowel sounds, learners can even consult a Vowel Trapezoid, a diagram of the mouthused by linguists to map where the sound is made. Visual learners may find them to be a handystudy tool.Practise in contextTo practise the pronunciation of a word or phrase, its best to review it on its own and in thecontext of a full sentence. The reason? Some word pairings will subtly alter pronunciation.Mastering these pairings is a key component in emulating a native accent. The English languageis full of words whose pronunciation changes slightly with context, depending on the type ofEnglish accent. For example, the word will has a definitive "i" sound, but in the phrase willyou, the "i" tends to become a "oo" as in wool.Record yourselfAfter using all of these tools, students can record their speaking exercises and listen back. Themistakes learners make are often not conscious. They tend to be the product of those deep-seated patterns of our native tongue, such as stress and inflection. Listening to oneself is a goodway to hone in on strengths and weaknesses. Most smartphones come with a built-in voicememo app, and websites like Audacity and Vocaroo let users make audio files for free.Ngun TEFLThanh Tm (su tm)