Accent Reduction Online

Accent Reduction online by Judy Tobe
 

How do you pronounce it?

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Dictionary.com is a great website if you are unsure how to pronounce a word in English. It allows you to hear how a word is prounounced and also provides the phonetic spelling. Especially great if you are unsure as to what syllable should be stressed!

Here is a recent blog posting from the dictionary.com website.

Didja ever think that there are ways of speaking that feel perfectly comfortable that would seem wrong if you wrote them down? Sorta like the way this sentence is written. Lemme tell you 'bout this very phenomenon, relaxed pronunciation.

Pronunciation is defined as "the conventional patterns of treatment of the sound and stress patterns of a syllable or word." Relaxed pronunciation, also called word slurring or condensed pronunciation, happens when those syllables are phonetically melded together to create a shortened form of a word or phrase.

Yes, this is similar to a contraction. The difference is, contractions such as "could've" and "should've" are considered part of informal written and spoken language; relaxed pronunciation such as "coulda" and "shoulda," while part of informal speech, has no standard written form.

Common trends of relaxed pronunciation include replacing "you" with "ya" or  "ja" as in "d'ya" (did you) and "wouldja" (would you). Another common practice is to substitute "of," "to", and "have" with a schwa, a mid-central vowel sound that occurs from an unstressed syllable, as in "kinda," "outta," and "sorta."

The writer William Burroughs famously called language "a virus." One way to understand his pronouncement is that, as people use a language, it evolves. Some uses of English that are considered correct today were once frowned upon. Who knows what usage will be acceptable in 100 years? Do you think relaxed pronunciation is ever an acceptable form of speech? Should "didja" and its informal ilk be welcome into mainstream use? Share your opinion, below.

Smiles Have Accents

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I recently read an interesting article by Jennifer Margulis. She wrote, when reading facial expressions, different cultures home in on different parts of the face. In the United States, we focus on mouths; the Japanese, by contrast, search for feeling in the eyes. These emoticons say it all:

                   HAPPY                       SAD

U.S.               :)                               :(

JAPAN         (^_^)                    (;_;) 

 

Does non-verbal communication have an accent? What are your thoughts?

Accent Reduction for Indian Speakers

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Non-native English speakers from India may have one or more of the following pronunciation problems that affect communication:

A. the /I/ as in sit is often pronounced as the /i/ sound as in seat. Listen to the difference in these word pairs:

Click below to listen:

    blog I.mp3
    1. seat/sit
    2. teens/tins
    3. sleek/slick
    4. sleep/slip
    5. weeps/whips
    6. neat/kni
    t7. seed/Syd
    8. each/itch
    9.peel/pill
    10. deal/dill
    B.  difficulty with /v/ and /w/
    Click below to listen
    blog v,w.mp3 
    1.wine/vine
    2. whale/veil
    3. we're/veer
    4. wary/very
    5.worse/verse
    6. west/vest
    7. while/vile
      C.  Difficulty pronouncing the voiced and voiceless th sounds
      D.  Inappropriate syllable stress
      NEW!!! Attend a pronunciation workshop for Indian speakers January 15, 2011  click here

    One of the most effective ways of improving English pronunciation is using syllable stress accurately.

    In English only one syllable, in words with two or more syllables, is stressed. The stressed syllable is pronounced with a higher pitch, louder volume and a longer vowel. In contrast, the vowels in the other unstressed syllables are reduced - said more softly, in a lower pitch and pronounced less precisely.

    If a word is stressed incorrectly the speaker can be very difficult to understand.

    When unsure of which syllable to stress in a particular word using an online dictionary, such a dictionary.com, can be helpful. Not only will the stressed syllable be indicated, you can also hear the correct pronunciation of the word.

    Intonation in Questions

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    There are different intonation patterns for questions in English that speakers must use if they want to sound like a native speaker and, more importantly, to avoid listener's misunderstanding.

    1. Yes/no questions - if the expected answer to a question is "yes" or "no" use rising intonation on the final syllable:

    a. Did you finish the project?

    b. Do you think he will be there?

    c. Was the assignment difficult?

    d. Is there anything I can help you do?

    e. Will you be ready to leave at 3 o'clock?

     

    2. When asking questions beginning with - who, what, where, why, when or how, intonation should jump up on the stressed syllable and then fall:

    a. Who is going to the meeting with you?

    b. What is the name of the organization?

    c. Where are you having pain?

    d. When will you get the results?

    e. Why does he always say that?

    f. How should I contact him?

    LISTEN: Question Intonation.mp3


     


    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (www.eeoc.gov) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. The EEOC includes accent bias in its definition of employment discrimination on the basis of national origin. An employment decision based on a foreign accent violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unless it "materially interferes" with that person's ability to perform the duties of the job.

    Because linguistic characteristics are a component of national origin, employers should carefully scrutinize employment decisions that are based on an accent to ensure that they do not violate Title VII.

    An employment decision based on a foreign accent does not violate Title VII if an individual's accent materially interferes with the ability to perform job duties. This assessment depends on the specific duties of the person in question and the extent to which the individual's accent affects his or her ability to perform job duties. Employers must distinguish between a merely discernible foreign accent and one that interferes with communication skills necessary to perform the job.

    Do you feel that you have ever been discriminated against because of your accent?  

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    Beware - Your Accent May Be Affecting Your Credibility

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    In a recent survey, communication skills were cited as the single most important decisive factor in choosing employees. The survey, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Business School (www.katz.pitt.edu), points out that communication skills, including written and oral presentations, as well as an ability to work with others, are the main factors contributing to job success.

    In this article, one can clearly see how the accent of a non-native English speaking physician can affect his credibility and pose significant risks to his patients.  http://tinyurl.com/affectingcredibity


    A unique tool for practicing English pronunciation is Voice of America - Special English section.

    Go to: http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/usa/.

    This website provides current world news and developments in science. What is brilliant about this site is that it is presented both in print and read by reporters at a slightly slower rate than usual. The benefit to you, the non-native English speaker, is that it allows you to listen to the story and practice American English pronunciation, word stress and intonation. You may notice correct English stress patterns, intonation and vowel and consonant production that you might miss when listening to English at a faster rate. Also, if you are unsure of a meaning of a word, you can double-click on that word and a dictionary pops up - so it will help your vocabulary as well.

    To best use this site:

    1. Choose an article of interest

    2. Listen to the article noticing consonant and vowel pronunciation, stress and intonation

    3. Play the audio again pausing after each sentance and repeat the sentence aloud. Try to sound as much like the speaker as you can. Keep doing this until you feel comfortable with your speech pattern.

    4. Next, play the audio and at the same time read together with the speaker

     Give this a try and please let me know what you think.

     

     

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    American English Pronunciation: Linking

    When I start to work with clients their first inclination is to pronounce every word distinctly and clearly which makes them sound very robotic.  They soon learn that English speakers link words together, which results in speech that flows and is not choppy.


    There are several rules regarding linking:
    1.       The consonant + consonant rule:
     
    When a word ends with a consonant and the next word begins with the same sound, pronounce that sound only one time.

    Listen:  


    Jack went to the seminar.  --> Jack wento the seminar.
    He has poor time management skills. --> He has poor timanagement skill.
    We like cookies. -> We likookies.
    Does Bob still live in Florida? --> Does Bob stillivin Florida?
    She saw both therapists for her injury. --> She saw botherapists for herinjury.
     
     
     
    2.       The consonant  + vowel rule:

    When a word ends with a consonant and the next word begins with a vowel, link the consonant to the vowel

    Listen:  



    1.       I'm available to do your workshop. --> I'mavailable to do your workshop.
    2.       Both offices are in Boston. --> Bothofficesarein Boston.
    3.       Can it be completed on time? --> Canit be completedon time?
    4.       Call a doctor. --> Calla doctor.
    5.       Save it for dessert. Savit for dessert.

     
    3.       The vowel + vowel rule:


    When one word ends in an /i/, /aI/, /eI/  and the following word begins with a vowel  insert a /y/ sound. When one word ends in a /aʊ/, /oʊ/ or /u/ and the following word begins with a vowel insert a /w/ sound.

    Listen:  



    /i/
    We always go there. --> Weyalways go there.
     
    /aI/
    That was my idea. --> That was myyidea.
     
    /eI/
    Can I pay online? --> Can I payyonline?
     
    /aʊ/
    How are you? --Howware you?
     
    /oʊ/
    She didn't know anything about it. --> She didn't knowwanythingaboutit.
     
    /u/
     
    Sam is going to Alaska. --> Samis going towAlaska.

    "Schwa" - The Most Common Sound in Spoken English

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    Listen:   

     

    One of the most important sounds you can have for a good American accent is the schwa sound. English speakers pronounce the vowel sound in most reduced syllyables with the schwa sound. The IPA symbol for schwa is an upside down e - /ə/. It sounds like a shorter, weaker version of the sound 'uh'.

    Here is an example - see how many schwa sounds there are in the following sentence:

    Thə studənt lost his pencəl when əttending thə semənar.

     

    Listen to the following words with the schwa sound and repeat them:

    1. əbout

    2.  ərrive

    3.  cəmbine

    4.  performənce

    5,  əcassion

    6. engəneer

    7. welcəme

    8. listən

    9. practəce

     

    I promise, if you begin to use this sound, it will really improve your accent!

     


     

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