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Thread: Pronunciation problem....

  1. #1
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    Pronunciation problem....

    Hi all!

    I always feel that a language should be spoken in its own form and fashion to retain its charm and beauty. I understand that foreigners cannot speak like natives when they learn a language in their home country, but isn't there a way to come atleast somewhere near perfection?

    The thing here is that if we learn a foreign language from a non-native instructor, its not always the right kind of pronunciation we learn. I know it because I've clearly observed the diference between a native and a non-native french speaker. And I thank god that I started off french from a native teacher.

    But what if we have no option like that?
    Its like you are taught to pronounce things in a particular way and when real life situations arise, u feel like dumped. And after learning everything, its hard to change your pronunciation and accent. starting from scratch.
    Would'nt it be tough then?

    I donno if I explained myself clearly, but this is what I want to know.

    How to get the correct pronunciation and accent + how to retain them even if your tutor is a non-native and you don't have any other way to communicate in that language?

    I've just started learning spanish and a find myself in a difficult situation as I was used to being trained under a native french tutor.


    Shaloo
    Last edited by shaloo; 3rd July 2006 at 7:49 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    Hello shaloo
    I am of the opinion that what you seek is close to impossible.

    I believe that I am able to detect the accent of the person who taught English as an additional language to the person I am listening to.

    There is no other way to learn language than by repetition so you will most definitely be heavily influenced by the accent of you instructor but this is not a problem and I doubt if anybody will care.

    If your pronunciation is so horrible it will be quickly polished when you start talking with the natives.

    .,,
    Last edited by timpeac; 9th July 2006 at 11:44 PM. Reason: Standard language, including punctuation, is required.

  3. #3
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    For my own experience, I believe that accent related problems pale in comparison with cultural clashes big time!

    The main advantage in learning from a native, I think, is the cultural overcoat you get just by linteracting with them ( ´ー`)―♪
    ¿Y que le va usté a hacer?, si ha de haber gente pa' todo... Joan Manuel Serrat

  4. #4
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    Quote Originally Posted by Gato_Gordo
    For my own experience, I believe that accent related problems pale in comparison with cultural clashes big time!

    The main advantage in learning from a native, I think, is the cultural overcoat you get just by linteracting with them ( ´ー`)―♪
    Exactly true.
    When I put myself in comparision with other classmates of mine who learnt french from non-native speakers, I could observe this.

    As everyone knows, India is a highly traditional country and the concept of boyfriends etc... is always looked down at(even in cities, except the very hihgly elite groups).But i knew that all that was too common (and even more than that ) in France, thanks to my tutor, who gave his best in order to make us understand the cultural differences.
    I used to feel embarassed in the beginning even to utter a few words, but im now fine hearing them and continuing discussions on such topics whereas my friends are like......how the hell could you discuss such things with a 'teacher', who is to be revered ? ......r u going out of track.......?
    ..............do you forget that you are an indian if you speak french?...what will your parents think about you ..........and oh..god! People misunderstand very easily.
    Its like as if i've comitted a grave mistake thats really unpardonnable.

    But for me, Im happy that I can very well understand the cultural differences and can beautifully handle discussions with natives without any sort of embarassment.
    I wish I could do the same with spanish too. But then, I feel I've learnt and I'm learning so much by participating in these forums of WR. They benefit me a lot.

    By the way, are there any websites which make us repeat alphabets, words and their pronunciations in spanish? Atleast, I could try that(I dont think i've any other option left ).
    Last edited by shaloo; 4th July 2006 at 6:18 AM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    To me, the whole point of leaning another language is to broaden the perception of my own world, what's the point in learning that inu means dog in japanese if the only dog you are going to pet is your own?

    You need to get to know japanese people to also learn that dogs in japan bark in japanese (wan, wan, wan)

    Once you understand why the same word have different connotations in different languages, you tap into the life experiences of millions of souls that have lived in this old world, each one adding to the richness of the stoy of each word.

    man did I get excited! ( ´ー`)―♪
    ¿Y que le va usté a hacer?, si ha de haber gente pa' todo... Joan Manuel Serrat

  6. #6
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    I don't think that if you're taught how to pronounce something incorrectly, your pronunciation is irreparable. It's almost undoubtedly much more difficult to repair your pronunciation than it is to get it right from the beginning.

    Also, perhaps some words of encouragement for shaking off any accent you may have, my Italian teacher was born in Italy and came to America at the age of 13. He's about 40 now and has absolutely no accent whatsoever. When I first met him, I actually thought he was born in America and learned Italian in America. When he said he was born in Italy, I didn't believe him at first! But he was! Surely, it must've taken him many years to get rid of the accent, and I don't know how many it did, but he got rid of it!

    The best I can recommend is see if there's anyone on the forum that speaks the language you're trying to learn and see if you can get in voice contact with him or her. Phone would probably be asking too much, in my opinion, at least if for no other reason the long distance rates, but perhaps by using computer microphones and a medium such as MSN or AIM to initiate the voice conversations?

    Best of luck!

    -M
    It was then that I knew that the question mark was the answer to all my questions.

  7. #7
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    I'm very pessimistic about getting a perfect pronunciation, mostly from my own experiences. I should have been in a great position to learn how to speak Greek with a correct accent since I grew up in a Greek-speaking home among people born and raised in Greece, but still my English just overpowered my Greek and I can't speak 20 words without it being obvious I wasn't born in Greece. It's not major but it is noticeable. Other people I know in similar situations also say that their accent is off somehow. I do know some people like Moogey's teacher where it's very hard, if not impossible, to tell they were born elsewhere but all of them moved to Canada when they were pretty young, no older than 14 or 15, and everyone says that age is a huge factor here.

    But even if you can't get a perfect accent, you can always get closer and closer, and I agree that the best way to do this is complete immersion in the language you're learning, and I'd also add that it's good to limit your exposure to your mother language, since you're basically trying to break the patterns that you've developed. This, though, wasn't possible for me but I have noticed improvements simply by increasing my exposure to a language by watching movies and tv, listening to music, and so on. Voice conversations would probably be even better since it'll force you to develop active knowledge instead of it just being passive.

    Thymios

  8. #8
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    Hi Shaloo,
    While I agree with those who say it is difficult I do not believe that it is impossible to acquire a good “almost” native accent and speech pattern. So do not give up hope.
    Your profile shows that you know several languages. That is a good start. I think it is easier if you know several languages. Total immersion with not one but many natives you already know is best. Here we are talking about alternatives, since not everyone can jump on an aeroplane and fly to the target country. If you investigate other threads, you will see that using audio cd for conversation or music with lyrics and DVDs with subtitles will imitate the optimum circumstances. You will have to work harder but you can do it.
    Listen and read together then separately try to mimic what you hear seek out people who can help you. Keep in mind it is more valuable to study 15 or 20 minutes a day rather than 1-2 once a week. If you only use school time to learn a language you will be no better than the millions of students who study a language and yet do not speak it.
    So keep your chin up and try to simulate the total emersion approach. This includes using pictures and speaking without translation into your native tongue. Buena suerte!

  9. #9
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    I think my pronunciation of English is quite good, even though most of my teachers were not native speakers. I did, however:

    - have some teachers who spoke excellent English in the final years I studied the language, one of which was a native speaker;

    - have the opportunity to interact with native speakers early in my adolescence;

    - watch a lot of television in English, listen to a lot of music in English, read a lot in English.

    Make of that what you will.

    In my opinion, getting a good accent in a foreign language is not as difficult as most posters in this thread seem to think. I mean, I know people who moved from one region of my country to another, and after a number of years they had lost their original accent completely, and acquired the one of the new region. If we can lose accents in our own language, surely gaining a foreign accent can't be all that different from that...
    Deuparth gwaith yw ei ddechrau.

  10. #10
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    listen to native readio, watch TV listen to as many natives as possible. Live in the country if possible.

  11. #11
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    I think that in Portugal most people have a good accent of english (specially) because in our country television is subtitled instead of having a portuguese voice over, so we listen to the original languages of the films and tv shows, what is very good and gives us a good knowledge of several languages and even of their diferent accents.
    "Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say 'Why not?'"

  12. #12
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    Quote Originally Posted by sjofre
    I think that in Portugal most people have a good accent of english (specially) because in our country television is subtitled instead of having a portuguese voice over, so we listen to the original languages of the films and tv shows, what is very good and gives us a good knowledge of several languages and even of their diferent accents.
    Hmm, Sjofre, I wouldn't say that. Perhaps our accent is not as conspicuous as those of speakers of other languages, but most people do have one. I'm sure even I have a bit of accent.
    Deuparth gwaith yw ei ddechrau.

  13. #13
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    I'm not saying we don't have any accent, just that it is good in comparison with other countries. Even in comparison with brazilians, who also speak portuguese, our english accent is better.
    "Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say 'Why not?'"

  14. #14
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    The first thing to do is to find out how sounds are pronounced in the target language. For instance, most English people learning German know that they have to learn how to say the "ch" sound; far fewer are even aware that, say, "l" is pronounced differently (e.g. german "hell" v. English "Hell"), and consequently have no chance of getting the accent right.

    Secondly, you need to learn where the target language places emphasis within a sentence; this differs between, say, English and French, and is something that many Indians never get right, even when the rest of their accent is good.

    To learn these is a combination of picking up some theoretical knowledge and lots of listening and practice.

  15. #15
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    Quote Originally Posted by shaloo View Post
    ...How to get the correct pronunciation and accent + how to retain them even if your tutor is a non-native and you don't have any other way to communicate in that language?...
    I think one of the best methods is to record your speech and pronunciation on the PC and listen to it and notice the errors, try to correct them and do this as long as you will find your pronunciation OK.
    [ɒkinɛk humorɒ vɒn, mindɛnˤtud, ɒkinɛk niŋʧ, mindɛnrɛ ke.pɛʃ]

  16. #16
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    Quote Originally Posted by Moogey View Post
    I don't think that if you're taught how to pronounce something incorrectly, your pronunciation is irreparable. It's almost undoubtedly much more difficult to repair your pronunciation than it is to get it right from the beginning...

    -M
    Not true. Just as well as you can learn one more, very similar language, you can correct your translation along the way. Or switch from AE to BE. Or swithch from the dialect where you grew up and the dialect in some other part of the country.

    .........

    Besides, I don't understand why it should be impossible to learn a close to correct pronounciation from a non-native teacher: Even if the teacher has a slight accent and the student is so incredibly talented that he can imitate that accent 101% - then he ought to be sufficiently talented to imitate the native speakers he hears in the media as well.

    I have not seen that student yet, maybe he is somewhere out there.

    Anyway, I don't think it is a good idea to entirely to depend on your teacher when you learn a language. Not even as an absolute beginner.
    Last edited by Sepia; 7th April 2013 at 11:05 PM.

  17. #17
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    If you want to sound like a native you have pick a specific area and stick to it rigidly. In English, for example, Americans and British pronounce some words completely different (which at times can be quite frustrating and have you shouting at youtube, but that's another story! ) And, within England itself, many words are pronounced differently depending on whether you are from the north or south, all of this is ignoring accent, that's another layer entirely, the mispronunciation of one word (for the area you've chosen) will mark you as non native straight away.

    I've yet to meet (who professed an origin) one single non native "local" who didn't one or two blips in either their pronunciation, accent, grammar, syntax,cultural reference, whatever, that ,marked them as non local.

    It should also be noted that if you want to sound "local" then locals seldom speak in "correct" ways, sometimes a student can learn a language in too strict a format, formal English for example, and then have no comprehension when faced with the real language.

  18. #18
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    I don't think traying to sound exactly as natives is the first goal when you start to learn a language. If you want to learn Spanish, your first goal should be being able to comunicate with Spaniards or other hispanian people. Try first to learn real conversation about common topics. Obviously you have to study many years to get to sound like natives, first try to understand us :P and get us to understand you.

    The second thing is that you don't need to depend only on your teacher, you have the internet (on Wordreference you can listen to the pronunciation of any word in the Peninsular Spanish dialect, you can find other webs that may help you as well), you can find movies (DVDs will allow you to watch a movie in Spanish with Spanish subtitle), you can find many songs in Spanish and their lyrics to compare the pronunciation,... Try not to depend only on you teachers, sometimes teachers are wrong, and sometimes non-natives that learned the language form another non-native have funny pronunciations, etc.
    El ojo que ves / no es ojo porque tú lo veas; / es ojo porque te ve. Antonio Machado.

  19. #19
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    I am sure I have written this before, but I'll repeat it anyway. In my experience the importance of native speakers as teachers is terribly overrated. Many of them tend to believe that when they repeat something often enough, you are supposed to recognize the pattern - while on the other hand they are often not able to answer the simplest questions regarding the grammar of their language. Some of them just teach their native language, but have no experience in learning a foreign language themselves.
    Why is it that so many people want to assume that a language student only picks up the pronounciation of his formal teacher and there are no sources whatsoever where he would hear what the language should sound like, if he does not live within the area where it is spoken by natives? Especially today, this assumption is absolute nonsense. I grew up in Denmark with BBC 2 blasting most of the day. While I learned French my radio was tuned in on France Inter most of the time and I had no problem finding people who mainly spoke French.
    Today it is even easier - the Internet is packed with audio sources in a load of different languages: Radio, TV, Youtube, podcasts, you name it.

  20. #20
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    Re: Pronunciation problem....

    Quote Originally Posted by Sallyb36 View Post
    listen to native readio, watch TV listen to as many natives as possible. Live in the country if possible.
    Yes, I agree. These things may really be of the utmost importance when you live in a country where the language you are trying to learn is not spoken around. The teacher's accent does not even matter that much, if you listen a lot to other sources, and try not to imitate the teacher's pronunciation, but rather use your own instead. I learned almost perfect accent in Polish this way -- as a child listening to a radio station. Of course it is a much more pleasant experience if the teacher speaks with a nice accent.
    Last edited by LilianaB; 3rd June 2013 at 12:57 PM.

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