Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tongue Twisters To Help Your English Pronunciation

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Author: Mary Gillespie

Article to help English Speaking and English Pronunciation by Pronounce Pro American English Pronunciation Writing Staff.

Do you need a break from all the hard work you’ve been putting into learning English? Try these tongue twisters to give your tongue and pronunciation a workout. Don’t worry if you have trouble with these sentences: you’re supposed to. Even native English speakers find the pronunciation of tongue twisters a challenge. So don’t take these language games too seriously. If you find yourself laughing, that great! You might not even notice how much good pronunciation practice you are getting!

Here are just a few tongue twisters to start worth, but there are many more. You can even make up your own. Choose a sound you want to practice, and make up sentences using as many words as you can with that sound. Then challenge yourself and your friends to repeat the sentence 5 times without a mistake!

Good Luck!

Main Sound Practiced
Sentence for Pronunciation Practice
/s/ and /sh/
She sells seashells by the seashore.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
/s/ and /th/

(This one is really hard!)
Six thick thistle sticks.
/b/ plus vowel sounds
Betty Botter bought some butter,
"But," she said, "this butter's bitter.
/n/ and /oi/

(This one is great for practicing blending your words together in the sentence.)
A noisy noise annoys an oyster.

Intonation Within American English Pronunciation

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Author: Mary Gillespie

Article to help English Speaking and English Pronunciation by Pronounce Pro American English Pronunciation Writing Staff

American English intonation can be difficult to master, and yet it is an important part of pronunciation. It is the music of the language, and conveys a great deal of meaning to listeners. Similar to a melody in music, intonation is the rhythm of your English speaking.

Intonation: noun the manner of singing, playing, or speaking tones especially: the rise and fall in pitch of the voice in pronunciation.

It can feel very strange to adopt the intonation patterns of another language. People often feel self-conscious making their voice rise and fall in ways that are very different from the pronunciation of their own language. Here is a strategy that many people, both native speakers and learners of English, find useful for intonation practice.

First, you need a short text that you find interesting and meaningful. Try to choose a poem or paragraph from a story instead of a newspaper article. Literature and stories usually communicate more feelings than factual writing like magazine and newspaper articles.

Read the paragraph to yourself until you are comfortable with it. Make sure you understand the meaning of the words and images. Check the pronunciation of unfamiliar words in your dictionary. When you are very comfortable with the meaning of your paragraph, stand up and read it out loud.

The first time you read it out loud, it will probably feel a bit awkward, and you may not speak as smoothly as you would like. Make a note of any words or sentences that you find difficult, and practice the pronunciation of these sections out loud on their own.

Try reading your paragraph again, but this time, move one of your arms to help you convey the rhythm of the language. When you feel your voice should rise or get louder, move your arm up. When you feel your voice should get softer, move your arm down.

Now, try reading the paragraph in different ways. Imagine you are angry, and read it out loud. How do your voice and body change? Is your pronunciation different?

Try reading your paragraph as if you were happy, excited or sad. Notice how the change in your emotion changes the intonation and meaning of your speaking, which will affect the pronunciation of your speaking.

Now, finally, try reading the paragraph in a way that expresses the meaning that you think the writer wants the listener to understand. Try to get across the meaning that you find in your paragraph.

Of course reading aloud is very different from speaking to people in real-life situations, but an activity like this can help you become more aware of how intonation in English pronunciation works. It gives you a chance to practice without having to worry about grammar or vocabulary, and will help you develop greater confidence when you are speaking English.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Assimilation Within American English Pronunciation

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Author: Ryan Denzer King

Article to help English Speaking and English Pronunciation by PronouncePro American English Pronunciation Writing Staff.

Many languages utilize some type of assimilation – a change in a certain sound based on the sounds that come before or after it. One example of this is the difference in plural -s in "cats" versus "dogs". Pronounce each word while touching your throat. You should be able to feel that your vocal cords do not vibrate for the final -s in "cats", but they do vibrate for the final -s in "dogs", turning it into a z sound. This type of assimilation is widespread throughout the world’s languages. However, American English pronunciation also fails to assimilate sounds in some places where other languages do.

Another type of assimilation occurs when a consonant occurs before a u or o sound. (NB: sometimes the letters u and o represent other sounds, for instance the "uh" sound in "but" or the "ah" sound in "father".) These vowels are pronounced with the lips rounded. In many languages, consonants before these vowels will also be pronounced with the lips rounded. However, in American English pronunciation this is not the case. Set up your lips and tongue to pronounce the word "do". You should notice that your lips are not rounded or pursed. If they are, relax them. One way to practice this pronunciation is to insert another vowel between the d sound and the oo sound in "do". The extra vowel should sound something like the u in "but" or the a in "about". Once you are able to pronounce the d without the lip rounding, get rid of the extra vowel. Working with this advice will help improve your pronunciation.

English Pronunciation: Intonation for Questions

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Author: Mary Gillespie

Article to help English Speaking and English Pronunciation by PronouncePro American English Pronunciation Writing Staff.

Have a look at these two sentences, and read them out loud to yourself:

1) He goes to school.

2) He goes to school?

Looking at the sentences, you can see clearly by the punctuation that one is a statement and the other is a question. How do we convey that difference when we are speaking?

If you are an experienced speaker of English, you will have noticed something important about what happens to your pronunciation when you wanted to make the question. In both sentences, there was stress on the main words (goes and school). This means that these words were spoken with more emphasis, and the other words (he and to) were not emphasized. The main words were spoken slightly more loudly and longer, and were spoken at a slightly higher pitch than the non-stressed words.

In the question, the same words were stressed, but an additional layer of information was added. Experienced English speakers would have raised the pitch of their voices at the end of the question considerably higher than for the statement. That raised pitch indicates to the listener that a question is being asked.

In fact, turning a statement into a question by raising pitch conveys even more information. The raised pitch tells the listener that the speaker is surprised or even amazed. (What? He goes to school? I can't believe it).

Here are intonations patterns for questions that are important to recognize within American English pronunciation:

1- Rising intonation at the end of a yes/no question:

Do you live in New York?

Are you married?

2- Falling intonation at the end of a wh- question:

Where do you live?

What is your marital status?

Changes in these typical patterns convey extra information. If a speaker's voice falls when asking a yes/no question, the listener may easily interpret it to mean the speaker is annoyed or frustrated. If a speaker's voice rises at the end of a wh- question, the speaker is indicating to the listener that he or she is surprised by the information, or that the information needs to be repeated because it wasn't heard clearly.

Intonation patterns can be confusing for language learners, and it can be difficult to master them. It is important to be aware of them, though, and recognize how they can convey meaning in English. Improving your intonation patterns is a guaranteed way to improve your English pronunciation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tapped t’s in American English Pronunciation

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Author: Ryan Denzer King

Article to help English Speaking and English Pronunciation by PronouncePro American English Pronunciation Writing Staff.

One of the features that distinguish American English pronunciation from some other types of English pronunciation is the use of the so-called “tapped” t or d. This English sound is called an alveolar tap (also alveolar flap) by linguists, and corresponds to an r sound in many languages, such as the non-trilled r in Spanish and Italian, or the standard r sound in Arabic or Finnish. The general rule in American English pronunciation for whether a t or d is tapped says that these sounds should be tapped when they come after a stressed syllable, such as in ‘butter’ or ‘lady’. In both of the words, the first syllable is stressed, and so the t or d becomes tapped. Note that because both of these sounds become the same when tapped, it is not always possible to tell whether something is a t or a d if you don’t already know the word. Thus, in standard American English pronunciation, ‘ladder’ and ‘latter’ sound exactly the same, even though in very careful speech one has a d and one has a t; in everyday speech both of these words have a tapped t in the middle.

In a word like ‘table’, on the other hand, the t is not tapped because it is in the stressed syllable. This general rule within pronunciation, that t’s and d’s are tapped after a stressed syllable, usually only applies if they come before and after a vowel, as in ‘ladder’, ‘latter’, ‘butter’, and ‘lady’. In a word like ‘antler’ or ‘bandage’ they are not tapped, because they are not between two vowels.



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