Now that you have a set of strategies and, hopefully, an interactive software program, or  “English Talk Shop”,  you can attain better English clarity. Here are some English accent targets.

In the following segments, we will address the primary consonants, vowels and other pronunciation code systems that differ from the North American English [NAE] “Accent”.

Sound Components You Need to Know:

All English consonants and vowels have behavioral components that make up how each sound is made in a very rapid tiny muscle movement sequences.

Consonants have three components. Place: Manner and Voicing

Place:  Where is the sound made in the mouth? For Consonants, there are seven (7) possible places.

Manner: How is it made?

  • [a] With Friction (Fricative):
  • [b] With friction + stopped. (Affricate):
  • [c] With a plosive feature? (Plosive);
  • [d] As a gliding sound / (Glide):
  • [e] Or as a liquid free flowing sound? (Liquid)

Voicing: Ask yourself – For each consonant in English – Is the larynx (voice box) turned on when the sound is said or is it off ?

Vowels of English are made using the voice moving across different select tense or relaxed movements of the tongue and openness of the mouth and jaw.  Other English vowels are blended combination of two single vowels – called diphthongs.

Differences:  With Consonants, we often see that most substitutions are because of voicing and / or place.

Vowel differences between languages are usually in response to:

  • Not having the sound within the that individuals mother 1st language sound system or
  • Difficulty forming the sound around consonants that are not usual sound combinations within the first language.

Yet with differing versions/dialects of many languages, it can be all components that are involved in the substitutions or omissions.

When tired or stressed, muscle groups tend to revert to old learned sequenced sound patterns of movements of the first language.  Even though the vocabulary may be English.

LANGUAGE SOUND SYSTEM DIFFERENCES:

Mandarin: Mainland Standard: Although Mandarin has approximately four “dialects” / versions, it is mutually understood across most of China.

The NAE / English sounds that differ:

NOTE- Spellings are often different.

Phonemes in NAE – English that are not found in Mandarin include the following vowels and consonants:

Vowels:

* /ae/ sound as in “ back” – Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /ai:/ diphthong – long “I” sound as in “lime” — Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /ei:/ diphthong – long “A” sound as in “ grey;” — Common substitution may be an /eh/

* /i:/ long “E” sound as in “green” — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /eh/ sound as in “Red” — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /ow/ diphthong – sound as in “Yellow”  — Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /oo/ sound as in “Wood” — Common substitution may be an /uh/

* /ow/ diphthong – sound as in “Brown” — Common substitution may be an /uh/

* /u:/ long “U” sound as in “ “Blue” — Common substitution may be an /ah/

Consonants: There be either final consonant deletions or these substitutions;

* /v/ sound as in “various; river, love”  — Common substitution may be an /f/ or /w/

* /z/ sound as in “ zoo; easy; knees” – Common substitution may be an /s/

* /sh/ sound as in “sheet; social; quiche” — Common substitution may be an /s/

* /zh/ sound as in “ vision; beige” — Common substitution may be an /s/ or /z/

* /ch/ sound as in “ chair; nature; watch” — Common substitutions may be an /ts/:

  • (/ts/  & /dz/ are common sounds in Mandarin)

* /J/ sound as in “jeans; logic; package” — Common substitution may be an /dz/

* /th/ voiceless – sound as in “ thick; healthy; with” — Common substitution may be a /s/ or /f/

* /th/ voiced – sound as in “these; either, smooth” — Common substitution may be a /d/ or /z/

Listen to each word on a pronunciation website such as www.dictionary.com.  You can see the spelling, the simplified pronunciation, the IPA spelling as well as Hear the pronunciation of the sound in the word.   Record your effort – Have Mentor listen – Then record correctly 9 out of 10 times.

It takes practice to override old learning. 

Resolve to do what it takes.   Practice and desire make magic happen.

Realize that it takes lots of practice to gain a new skill.  Resolve to do what it takes. This story and video from Fast Company demonstrate the practice across time that each skill takes.

The Steps:

  1. Find a Mentor:  It’s best to a native North American English speaker as a mentor to help when there are questions.  Toastmasters International clubs are good places to find and use mentors.
  2. Decrease your speaking rate to 100-110 Words Per Minute (WPM).  Why? Two reasons:
  • It’s a muscle process.  The procedural memory for making speech sounds is automatic.  In the new learning process, your muscles will revert to your first language sound system if you are not consciously slowing down to give your brain time to set up the new sounds.
  • It shows respect for your listeners.  It gives them time to edit and understand what you are saying.
    • Measuring Speaking Speed:
      • Find a paragraph from an article that is ~ 100 words long.  Use the Word Count option of your word processor program to determine this.
      • Audiotape yourself speaking this paragraph.
      • To Count the WPM.  1.  Divide the # Words ÷ # Seconds.  2.  Multiply this # times 60.  This will equal the WPM.   EXAMPLE:  100 words ÷ 40 seconds = 2.5 words per second: THEN Multiply by 60 = 150 WPM
      • Repeat this to until you get to your target.  Do this 2-3+ times.
        Only use professional software that has robust listening discrimination components:  The best interactive software that I have found after searching the last twenty years is American Speechsounds through “English Talk Shop”.

I have tried so many software programs and can only recommend English Talk Shop as a premier program. It starts with mastering one’s listening discrimination skill and continues up to common response found in the working world. Contact me for a discount code on each program.

We will discuss more steps in the upcoming articles.

Remember: 1. Find a native English speaking Mentor. You cannot do this alone. 2. Measure your speaking rate and S-L-O-W down.  Your listeners really do want to understand you. You owe it to yourself and them.  3. Invest, yes, Invest in only software that has full systems listening components.

Contact me at p.thesier@accentmgtgroup.com for a discount code for the American Speechsounds from www.EnglishTalkShop.com

Recently, I gave a presentation and a workshop to a large group of International MBA students at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Three second-year MBA students assisted me.  Two of them were from China.

Each had a story of  “code-switching” of accents and grammar when they were doing their internships. They noted that when they spoke Mandarin with another student from China before going to a meeting where they spoke English, they found that their American colleagues less understood their English.

After listening to a meeting recording, they understood.  They were “code-switching”: In effect, using some Mandarin sound system, rhythm and grammar rules when they were speaking English.

The confused listener did not understand and stopped listening to the speaker.

Does this happen to you?

A Sports Analogy

All of us watch or play an athletic sport, correct?  And in each one of these sports, the players use the muscles in their legs, arms and hands in similar yet also different moves, timing and strength, dependent upon the desired target movement. Those muscles are the same muscles for each sport, yet moved differently.

As one moves the muscles the same way consistently, the muscles develop adaptation and facilitation to produce the similar sequence with out conscious thought.  This is called procedural memory.

Coaches highly discourage playing different sports during a season so that the athlete does not “confuse” the muscle -procedural memory. Confusing the muscle memory makes them less effective players on the field.

The same holds true for speaking.  Sound systems are practiced repeatedly within our mother tongue or with peers who sound as we do.  Yet when we change to a different language the “accent – procedural memory” of our first language over-rides and code – switching ensues.  Now the listener is confused. The accent that the listener is accustomed to is the one that they grew up with.  When we “code-switch” or use sounds systems/accent of our 1st language with a 2nd language, the listener cannot understand the sounds, rhythm or words to understand the message.

Our listeners try, yet have difficulty understanding and stop listening.  We lose our listener.  And maybe the sale or a promotion………………

Knowing the Different “CODES” 

Sound System or Codes

Sound systems in speaking are produced by muscles in the mouth and throat using with specific movements of the lips, tongue, voice and breath to generate the target sound or movements in coordination with following movements. The timing of the each of these muscles and muscle groups yields changes in sounds, voicing and voicing timing, pitch tones, air-flow, linking, place of the articulators, resonance and rhythm.  Then there are accepted subtle body language behaviors that also contribute to communication.

Talking is another “sport” where we move the same muscles, approximately 72 muscles, and muscle groups around for the same desired results – Winning the game of “Effective communication” in the language we are using or ”playing”.

As said before, languages of the world share some sounds, yet not all.  In the following articles, you’ll see which sounds North American English (NAE) does not share with other languages.

Although there are many, other differences that we will also discuss include:

  • Clusters or consonant blends,
  • Word endings
  • Sound linking between words
  • Rhythm
  • Stress patterns and tones

NEXT TIME:  The strategies for the the sound system and accent “code” of North American English (NAE)