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  1. #1
    leiito is offline Newbie
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    Default Pronunciation; strong and weak forms

    When you speak English fluently, sounding like a native speakers is a natural aspiration, but this may be extremely difficult to achieve, especially if your native tongue is from a totally different family of languages (non Indo-European for instance).

    It's common knowledge that the Chinese (and most Asians in fact) usually do not distinguish between sounds r and l. The two just sound the same to them. If this is a problem you can imagine how hard the rest is.

    A few tricks that I've picked up over the years may be helpful:
    1) the difference between long and short vowels. For instance, the words bitch and beach have two very different "ee" sounds, but in many languages there is only one "ee" sound. if a bitch and a beach can be confusing, sheet and its "counterpart" can be even worse. Therefore, learn the difference between short and long vowels.

    2) the "dark l". In many languages (many Slavic ones for example) the "l" sound is always a "light" one, which in English sounds unnatural. Words like double, tell etc. are good ones to learn to use the proper, dark "l".

    3) Strong and weak forms of words. This is an extremely important element of pronunciation but to the best of my knowledge the difference is seldom taught in schools.

    If you take out a dictionary and check a word like "to", you will find that there are 2 forms of pronouncing it. One is the "standard" one, the "too" sound, but there is also a weak form, which sounds like t followed by the so.called semi-vowel e printed upside down.

    Same (the presence of strong and weak forms of pronunciation) goes for a whole lot of commonly used words. Take "have" for instance. You have a strong have and a weak have (again the semi-vowel + have is a peculiat case to begin with as it is often pronounced with more of an f at the end than a v sound) and knowing when to use one and when the other makes a huge difference in how authentic your English sounds.

    Now, this is something that native speakers don't even have to know and usually they don't, they've picked it up as they learned the language growing up.

    In my opinion, rather than trying to figure out the correct way to pronounce a word like youths, make a list of the most important words with a strong and weak form of pronunciation and work on using the right form. Your English will sound a lot more natural very quickly.

  2. #2
    Masood_S is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation; strong and weak forms

    Hello

    Strong and Weak forms of pronunciation is a fairly advanced topic. It is taught to ESL students (at least in the UK) to intermediate/higher learners.

    As you mentioned, one of the best ways to pronounce wods is to learn the phonetic alphabet (the inverted 'e' you refer to, called a schwa, is part of that alphabet).

    Even I didn't realise quite how many pronunciations of to there were!:

    Definition of to preposition (INFINITIVE) from Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus

    It's also useful to listen to spoken English whilst following it with a transcript, noticing strong and weak forms of words.

  3. #3
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation; strong and weak forms

    Quote Originally Posted by Masood_S View Post
    Strong and Weak forms of pronunciation is a fairly advanced topic. It is taught to ESL students (at least in the UK) to intermediate/higher learners.
    I, and most of the teachers I have worked with, use weak forms, and encourage students to use them, from day one of a language course.

    To do otherwise would be to teach unnatural spoken language.

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