What are the most important goals for an accent neutralization program?
You might think the sounds of English are the most important goals to work on. But what many don’t realise is there are additional features of English that may be more helpful to focus on. These features include word stress and sentence stress, rhythm, intonation and linking words.
The wrong stress on a word may confuse your listener. Percent sounds like person with the stress on the wrong syllable.
Wrong sentence stress or wrong intonation can confuse your listener, and he may think you’re asking a question, or you’re not finished talking yet, if your intonation goes up instead of down.
Not linking sounds in words and between words. If you ask for a Die Et Coke, will they understand you want diet coke? Learn to link inside and between words. (diyet coke)
Sounds of English are important to learn (bag and beg are not the same), and other features of english are valuable to learn too.
Having another person listen and point out your errors is a good first step to pronouncing English clearly. A teacher who provides feedback and sets goals for learning is the next best step. Be sure to learn these other features of English along with learning sounds.
When we say these at the beginning of a word, we fully pronounce the stop sound with an explosion of air.
Think of the beginning sound for ten, beam or give.
But when a stop sound is at the end of a word, we reduce the sound. The explosion of air is very quiet or absent.
When saying a stop sound at the end of a word, like the d in “good morning“, be sure to make the d reduced, and don’t make an explosion of air. If you do, it will sound like “goodah morning”. (Do you hear that added Schwa sound?) Instead try to take the d off “good” and LINK it to “morning“. Make it sound more like “goo dmorning“. Then you’ll be using American English pronunciation.
Here’s help for Chinese speakers to get a more American English sound. When consonants “c” (k) and“t” are in the middle of a word (like “practice”), or between two words in a phrase, (like “take two”), hold out the vowel just before the “k” sound, then make a gentle, quiet “k” linked to the “t”.
DO NOT fully pronounce the ‘k’ sound or it will sound like pra KA tice (practice) or da KA tor (doctor).
Listen to the audio here.
Be sure to use your tablet or computer for additional help with Pronouncing English. The following resources (free or cheap) focus on the North American English pronunciation.
MacMillan The Pronunciation App (free) This features words using the sounds of English with IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). It has practice and quizzes for reading, writing and listening.
K12Phonemes (free) Learn the sounds of English with sounds and words, plus a nice video of a real person speaking.
Sounds of Speech ($3.00) This is from the Iowa Phonetics project. You’ll see and hear sounds of English with a video illustration of the mouth saying the sounds/words. The app is $2.99. You can access the program for free with your laptop by going to the University of Iowa Phonetics home (available on a computer or laptop only, not a tablet.)
Dragon Dictation (free) Set it to American English. and the Dragon Dication computer program will try to recognize and turn your spoken sentence into printed text. See how well you’re pronouncing English!
Here are free resources for listening. Audio is in beginner, intermdiate and advanced levels, many with audio transcripts.
Linking is very important and must be learned to improve your compensability and efficiency of spoken English. If you are speaking sentences without linking expected words and sounds together, it is probably very difficult to understand your English.
Let’s look at linking consonants to vowels. A common pattern in English is liking the ending D sound to the word “it”: (consonant-vowel link)
find it > fin dit
tried it > tri dit
spread it > sprea dit
wanted it > wan ti dit
needed it > nee di dit
added it > a di dit
You can hold out the vowel sound but then link the ending D to the “it”, kind of making it sound like you are saying “dit”. The linking connection should be smooth, without any breaks or pauses. it’s going to sound like a single word, and that’s ok! That’s expected, and English speakers understand you more quickly and easily.