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  1. #1
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    Default Improving learners' accents

    My advanced students are all terribly concerned about their French accents and want to know how to improve them. I sent them to Amy Walker's videos on youtube (I'm new here so I can't post links yet but search for How to Learn Any Accent - Amy Walker) and I recommended trying to copy voices of newscasters or TV characters but beyond that I don't know what to say. Any advice?

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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    Many native-speakers of English feel hesitant about correcting students' accents, for some reason. If we do enough remedial work at an early stage, it helps prevent situations such as the one you are in.

    When students are at an advanced stage, it is often too late to help them a great deal, but do what you can in the classroom. You may feel that grammar and lexis are more important than pronunciation, but remember that errors in stress and pronunciation can impede understanding as much as those in grammar.

    Those who are easily shocked should not read on.

    A young lady who says, "Can you helps to me, please; I wants to know how is I get to the railway station" is unlikely to be misunderstood. However, if she says that all she want from life is ˡpiːnIs/ when she should have said /ˡhŠpines/, she will be misunderstood, and cause some embarrassment to herself.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    hahaha... I'm tempted to set a student up for that one!

    In the meantime, I found a book in the school's library which has a lot of good exercises: How Now, Brown Cow? by Mimi Ponsonby. We're going to do a little work on sentence stress and linking between words tonight and we'll see if there's still interest beyond that.

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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_Ben View Post
    In the meantime, I found a book in the school's library which has a lot of good exercises: How Now, Brown Cow? by Mimi Ponsonby. We're going to do a little work on sentence stress and linking between words tonight and we'll see if there's still interest beyond that.
    Good luck (that's sincere, not sarcastic). I think that you are more than halfway on the path towards improving your students' accent/stress/intonation. You have realised that work in these areas is part of a language teacher's job,

    ps. I have just re-read what I wrote above, and realised that it could sound patronising. I did not intend that.

  5. #5
    teacherjoe is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    I think those are good ideas. I've used Amy Walker's video a lot with various students.

    Here's a weird idea, however, that I learned in a psychology class. To have a "perfect" accent, you only have to copy a speaker of that language who is speaking YOUR language with an accent. For example, I actually did learn French pronunciation by imitating (in an exaggerated way) the accent of French people speaking English. I found that when speaking English with a French accent I used different facial muscles, and I then started using those muscles as my French improved.

    The reason this is supposed to work is that an accent represents the phonemes of the speaker's native language. I'm not sure this is always the case however. It only seems true if someone has a 'stereotypical' accent.

    I sometimes try to get my current students to speak Chinese with my exaggerated American accent and it seems to help. I'm not sure if they will end up speaking like an American or not, but it certainly breaks them of their usual pronunciation habits.

    This message is getting long so here's one word to sum up another idea I use for teaching pronunciation: songs!

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    teacherjoe is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    I think those are good ideas. I've used Amy Walker's video a lot with various students.

    Here's a weird idea, however, that I learned in a psychology class. To have a "perfect" accent, you only have to copy a speaker of that language who is speaking YOUR language with an accent. For example, I actually did learn French pronunciation by imitating (in an exaggerated way) the accent of French people speaking English. I found that when speaking English with a French accent I used different facial muscles, and I then started using those muscles as my French improved.

    The reason this is supposed to work is that an accent represents the phonemes of the speaker's native language. I'm not sure this is always the case however. It only seems true if someone has a 'stereotypical' accent.

    I sometimes try to get my current students to speak Chinese with my exaggerated American accent and it seems to help. I'm not sure if they will end up speaking like an American or not, but it certainly breaks them of their usual pronunciation habits.

    This message is getting long so here's one word to sum up another idea I use for teaching pronunciation: songs!

  7. #7
    kelley.yanes is offline Newbie
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    Cool Re: Improving learners' accents

    Hi Everyone, I'm new. I'm a native English speaker with some experience trying ONLY to hope students modify their accented (but grammatically correct for the most part) English. I've noticed that irregular/atyipical stress is one of the big contributors to perceived poor accent. Stress as in timing, phrasing and emphasis.The other really big one is distorted vowels.

    I agree with the suggestion of having the students read kids books, such as Dr. Suess, if you and they will tolerate it. Also, what has worked well for me is making lists of contrastive pairs, of English words containing the sound they mispronounce, and another English word containing a closely related phoneme. For example: "bear" vs "bar". First you have to make sure the student really can distinguish between the two sounds. A Russian speaker of mine could not differentiate some of our vowel phonemes. Then have the student read the list slowly to you and be really strict about what you accept as correct. If they can get a few sounds down, and memorized, they can begin to generalize.

    I also agree with the other poster, that if you as a teacher try to mispronunce the sound in the way your student does, you can figure out what he/she is doing wrong and show them the contrast as you "fix" it in your own production.

    Hope this helps!

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    stacyhappy is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    i love this forum! i teach online at TutorABC and have this same problem! The students are so shy! Maybe teaching online is not the same as face toface, but i love it because i get to stay home and make my own schedule:) Also the students are so respectful!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    Quote Originally Posted by stacyhappy View Post
    i love this forum!
    Glad you enjoy the forum. Many of us share your enthusiasm.

    We try in this forum to present correct models of English to learners. 'i' is fine in chatrooms and private texts and emails, but please capitalise it here.

  10. #10
    HerTz is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Improving learners' accents

    Teaching them the IPA for sure.

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