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Thread: Personal pronunciation difficulties

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by viesis View Post
    Hi, Sam! Nice to see such a serious approach to phonetics.
    First of all I'd like to cheer you up a bit. Don't think about your short frenulum, it's not the point. I can hardly reach half of my upper lip, but still can pronounce palatalized consonants and R.
    Let me try to help you with L and M.
    When pronouncing hard L, back of you tongue should be raised slightly, middle part should be low, and the tip should be pressed hard to the back of your upper teeth (sometimes also to the ridge
    behind the teeth). The tongue should be quite strong. Don't try to raise the tong too much. Raise only the tip to
    the teeth so that it touches only the central incisors.

    Now soft L'. The front and middle part of the tongue should be pressed against the palate and upper teeth. It shoud be pressed hard around the dental arch (note that sides of the tongue are also pressed against premolars).
    I think that hard M is just the same as in English, so I won't dwell on that. Now about how we palatalize M. So, at the beginning the lips are closed, that's right. But the tongue position does have an effect on the sound at the moment you release the lips, despite this moment is short. Therefore, to get a palatalized M the tongue should be in palatalized position at the moment of release and shortly after that. Now about the tongue position for soft M: the tongue is slightly to the forward (as compared to hard M), the tip is at the lower teeth (central incisors), the sides are pressed hard against upper premolars.
    I hope the explanation helps.
    I think it should be unnecessary to explain to an English language native how to pronounce the Russian hard L, as they have a sound which is close enough, as the L in "ball".

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    Interesting question Enquiring Mind - actually yes I do play both classical guitar and violin and can sing in tune. I don't know if I'm as hopeless as Ben Jamin says - I understand his sentiment but it's not like I've never learnt to hear and produce sounds that have never existed in my language before. My pronunciation of French and German unique sounds are correct as natives tell me (at least, according to the standard dialect), and I learnt French for a few years in high school and started German last year. That is, of course, without any concept of hard/soft consonants. The main reason for my exasperation and probably overdramatising my problems is that Liuba complains that I can't say her name properly and it really bothers her.

    She did mention an interesting point last night though - the English word "Lieutenant", which even I pronounce with an undeniable touch of Li-u-tenant, though it's not exactly a "Ly-u-tenant". To me, it still feels like I'm shaping the L the same way as I would "Lunatic", but I'm wondering if somehow this very slight "ee-oo" sound is a closer step towards it. Is it an example of a soft consonant? If so, then are "Duty"/"Music"/"News"/"Tuesday"/"Bureaucrat"/"Cute" etc, are they all examples of a soft consonant? Have I just been unable to see the wood through the trees?

    Thanks for all the replies
    I think you have misunderstood my message. I never meant you are hopeless, but that you would not achieve a phonetic fluency of a native, or near native level. Most adult people learning a foreign language, especially one not closely related to their own never do. This does not preclude your ability to communicate effectively in, for example, Russian, if you work on it enough.
    By the way, it seems you just oversaw my phonetic advice to you. With all respect to the foreros that have tried to describe how to align your tongue and so on, I think that my approach is more practical,and can give you immediate results.
    Last edited by Paulfromitaly; 13th May 2013 at 7:57 PM. Reason: Please use the EDIT button instead of posting twice in a row

  2. #22
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Jamin View Post
    I think it should be unnecessary to explain to an English language native how to pronounce the Russian hard L, as they have a sound which is close enough, as the L in "ball".
    I did it just because Samuelkristopher said his L was neither soft nor hard, to explain the difference. It didn't do any harm, did it?

  3. #23
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by viesis View Post
    I did it just because Samuelkristopher said his L was neither soft nor hard, to explain the difference. It didn't do any harm, did it?

    No, I don'tvthink so, of course. I just was thinking about something more simple and effective: to relate the teaching to something the student already knows.

  4. #24
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Hey Viesis,

    I have tried doing this "front and middle part of the tongue should be pressed against the palate and upper teeth" exactly as you described, but Liuba says it still just sounds like a hard L. It doesn't sound palatized in the slightest. I can now differentiate between this "dark L" as americans call it, and my normal L, but Liu still says both are very different from the Russian way. She even showed me the inside of her mouth as she was doing it, and imitated as best I could, but there was no palatized sound unless I consciously tried to put a "Y" sound after it

    Thanks though. I know that I have to just forget everything I know about language, but since I've tried every possible shape for my tongue while making an L shape without success, at the moment it's more just pushing the boundaries of what I consider to be possible and impossible.

  5. #25
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Surprisingly, no one has offered any sites with audio of the actual pronunciation, here's a nice one (doesn't work with Opera browser), and another one.

    The single most important piece of advice I can give you: don't try adding any Y sounds to anything, it sounds truly horrible and won't help you much. Russians label English consonants hard and soft not because they are, but because of the following vowel. That's because in Russian, a large part of softness is contained in the vowel itself and not only in the preceding consonant. The English light L is the same sound in every position, and it certainly isn't any softer before an Y, as in value. In fact, no RP English consonant becomes softer before an Y. All of them are in the middle of this distinction. The dark L, however, is indeed the same as the Russian hard L, in RP it's the L not followed by a vowel. The French always pronounce the light L, so just say the word "will" with a French accent to hear the difference. Knowing this won't make your other L soft, however.

    Can you hear the difference in the links above?

  6. #26
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    Is it an example of a soft consonant? If so, then are "Duty"/"Music"/"News"/"Tuesday"/"Bureaucrat"/"Cute" etc, are they all examples of a soft consonant?
    I'm afraid I have to disappoint you: all these consonants are not soft; moreover, if they are really pronounced soft, it will sound as typical Russian accent, and Russians have a hard time learning pronounce them hard, because in Russian consonant + j is always soft.
    On the other hand, since your French prononciation is so good, why not to use it? Can you notice the difference between l in already mentioned French liaison and l in English live?

  7. #27
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Sorry Ben Jamin, I did read your advice and I appreciated it, I just wanted to understand what is really going on, rather than just the "adequate English substitute" for it. Sure, I'll probably have to settle with this for now, but ultimately I'd like to think I can learn to understand the concept behind a Russian hard/soft consonant and work towards emulating it. It's not so much about not wanting to sound like a foreigner - with important and devoted hobbies like language I just prefer to do things properly rather than half-heartedly.

    Thanks for your advice though, I didn't mean to undervalue it

  8. #28
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Maroseika View Post
    I'm afraid I have to disappoint you: all these consonants are not soft; moreover, if they are really pronounced soft, it will sound as typical Russian accent, and Russians have a hard time learning pronounce them hard, because in Russian consonant + j is always soft.
    On the other hand, since your French prononciation is so good, why not to use it? Can you notice the difference between l in already mentioned French liaison and l in English live?
    It was good up to the exclusion of hards and softs - I only went by the assessment of other speakers I spoke with, and perhaps they weren't 100% reliable. At the least, perhaps they weren't paying attention to my quality of consonantal hardness or softness. Thanks for the links Sobakus, it is quite useful. Unfortunately, despite any type of raised tongue during the articulation, Liuba says it's still not right. Most of the time I can't hear the difference between myself and the recordings either
    Last edited by Samuelkristopher; 13th May 2013 at 8:37 PM.

  9. #29
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    Hey Viesis,

    I have tried doing this "front and middle part of the tongue should be pressed against the palate and upper teeth" exactly as you described, but Liuba says it still just sounds like a hard L. It doesn't sound palatized in the slightest. I can now differentiate between this "dark L" as americans call it, and my normal L, but Liu still says both are very different from the Russian way. She even showed me the inside of her mouth as she was doing it, and imitated as best I could, but there was no palatized sound unless I consciously tried to put a "Y" sound after it

    Thanks though. I know that I have to just forget everything I know about language, but since I've tried every possible shape for my tongue while making an L shape without success, at the moment it's more just pushing the boundaries of what I consider to be possible and impossible.
    Oh, I think I understand. I've just tried to pronounce hard L with the tongue configuration for soft L. It is really possible, the result being some kind of hard L.
    I think Sobakus is right that the vowel contributes to softness of the preceding consonant. It's like the vowel should be more "narrow" to make the soft sound. Back of the tongue should be very close to the soft palate, which gives a very short Y-like sound immediately before (and with) the vowel. Well, I'd recommend to practice with "ли" first. Ask Lyuba to show you and try to achieve a similar sound.

  10. #30
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    Unfortunately, despite any type of raised tongue during the articulation, Liuba says it's still not right. Most of the time I can't hear the difference between myself and the recordings either
    But do you hear the difference between the paired syllables? Surely they must sound different to you.

  11. #31
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    The soft palate, right at the back? It ends up sounding very dark, as in the L in American "ball" =/

    I hate to sound like I have the attitude of failure but I hope I convey that I'm really trying hard to understand this. Again, I know it's not absolutely vital right at this stage but I'd love to wrap my head around it. Obviously it's physically possible. It must be a mental frame of mind, like a mindset. Perhaps I need to learn to have more control over my tongue as well.

  12. #32
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Sobakus View Post
    But do you hear the difference between the paired syllables? Surely they must sound different to you.
    They do sound different, sure. But I can't really figure out why it's different. I'm trying to ignore and shut out my brain screaming at me that these are just consonants followed by a Y sound then the vowels. I can hear slight differences with the timbre of the consonants too, which is what I'm trying to focus on. But palatizing my tongue doesn't seem to produce these same results. I find T quite hard - the more I try to palatize it, the tip of my tongue is pulled backwards and it ends up sounding more like a TS sound, but still with no palatized sound.

  13. #33
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    The soft palate, right at the back? It ends up sounding very dark, as in the L in American "ball" =/

    I hate to sound like I have the attitude of failure but I hope I convey that I'm really trying hard to understand this. Again, I know it's not absolutely vital right at this stage but I'd love to wrap my head around it. Obviously it's physically possible. It must be a mental frame of mind, like a mindset. Perhaps I need to learn to have more control over my tongue as well.
    I get dark L with the middle of the tongue lowered. If I try to exaggerate soft L (just to understand the mechanics), I get my tongue completely up and stuck to the palate with a narrow gap at the back (between the tongue and the soft palate). Then I push air through that gap to get some noise - that's an exaggerated soft L. Exaggerated sounds are sometimes easier to pronounce.
    It's always difficult to master some unusual movements of the tongue. This is not vital, of course. I think the key to success is listening and talking, even if something does not sound completely right.

  14. #34
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Haha, no matter how hard I try, I can't get away from that dark L sound. I'm fairly sure almost my whole tongue is millimeters away from the roof of my mouth. It almost sounds like I have a serious speech impediment lol.

  15. #35
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    They do sound different, sure. But I can't really figure out why it's different. I'm trying to ignore and shut out my brain screaming at me that these are just consonants followed by a Y sound then the vowels. I can hear slight differences with the timbre of the consonants too, which is what I'm trying to focus on. But palatizing my tongue doesn't seem to produce these same results. I find T quite hard - the more I try to palatize it, the tip of my tongue is pulled backwards and it ends up sounding more like a TS sound, but still with no palatized sound.
    Actually, the soft T is indeed partially affricated, it's even spelled with a ц in Belarusian. When palatalising a consonant, however, you don't pull the tip of your tongue, but raise the part right after it and spread it across the hard palate and the teeth. I can even pronounce them with the tip of my tongue touching the lower teeth.

  16. #36
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    "but raise the part right after it and spread it across the hard palate and the teeth." What do you mean by this? I get an L shape if I spread the bit behind the tip of my tongue across the hard palate and the teeth. Is this what I want? I can't make any vowel sounds like this, it just sounds like "T-LLLLLL"? Maybe I misunderstood lol

  17. #37
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Sobakus View Post
    Actually, the soft T is indeed partially affricated, it's even spelled with a ц in Belarusian. When palatalising a consonant, however, you don't pull the tip of your tongue, but raise the part right after it and spread it across the hard palate and the teeth. I can even pronounce them with the tip of my tongue touching the lower teeth.
    Absolutely correct. What I'd like to add about soft T (and probably any soft consonant) is that the tongue does not release quickly. The gap opens relatively slowly, hence the affrication.

  18. #38
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    "but raise the part right after it and spread it across the hard palate and the teeth." What do you mean by this? I get an L shape if I spread the bit behind the tip of my tongue across the hard palate and the teeth. Is this what I want? I can't make any vowel sounds like this, it just sounds like "T-LLLLLL"? Maybe I misunderstood lol
    You won't get the L shape if you keep the tip pressed against the front teeth (and even between them a tiny bit). And not being able to pronounce a vowel while saying a T isn't surprising :P It's a stop consonant, after all.
    Last edited by Sobakus; 13th May 2013 at 9:24 PM.

  19. #39
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Quote Originally Posted by Samuelkristopher View Post
    "but raise the part right after it and spread it across the hard palate and the teeth." What do you mean by this? I get an L shape if I spread the bit behind the tip of my tongue across the hard palate and the teeth. Is this what I want? I can't make any vowel sounds like this, it just sounds like "T-LLLLLL"? Maybe I misunderstood lol
    The part right after it should not be so large as for L. Just the middle (a small spot) should touch the hard palate, sides should not.

  20. #40
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    Re: Personal pronunciation difficulties

    Ah ok, so soft T =

    1. Tip of tongue touching upper teeth,
    2. Mid-tongue spread across palate and teeth
    3. Release a little bit slowly to affricate it slightly
    4. After the release, I touch the hard palate with a small middle spot of my tongue? Sorry to say that my tongue cannot fix between my upper teeth to touch the palate without touching the sides - either my tongue is too big or jaw too small :P

    I can try and record myself saying it, if it helps? I have a microphone.

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