Thank you :)
- For Teachers
Hi everyone, I'm a newbie, and this is the first time to post. I'm Vietnamese and I arrived at Singapore 2 months ago, just finished the English Course. English is one of the national languages here, but the accents of the local people are really different from other English-speaking countries because the English here was afftected by the Chinese (there are many Chinese in Singapore). At first, I could not make out what they were trying to say. Now it's getting better, and I have some improvements. But I still have to deal with some other problems. I feel that my E is not good enough to follow the lesson together with the local students next year (well, term will start at Jan 2006). The final result of my E course was just 52%, enough to pass. It is not easy for me to pronouce the /ed/ fluency when speaking. I mean it's not natural. Can anyone give me some advises to improve my language learning? Thank you very much! :)
Thank you :)
I am french-canadian, but our high management is located in the USA and
we also work with an american as a Gen.-Mgr. We have a co-worker that went to teach english in the UK recently for a 6 months contract, when she came back and started to work with us again, our American boss was correcting her each time she has the "guts" to speak to her with this "charming" accent. So I am far of thinking that the Americans think that the UK or Australian accent is nice to hear.
I am from South America, I was taught English using RP as a model and, since I've always had a good ear for sounds, I managed to achieve a pretty reasonable native-like accent. I am now studying in the United States and I've found that because of this accent, some people perceive me as affected. Apparently they expect a South American to have an American accent of the Hispanic variety. In any case, I've modified it to be less obviously noticeable (pronouncing all your "r's" whenever they come up is a good start, flapping your "t's" is also a must).
I did my undergraduate studies in the United States, and English is not my mother tongue.When I came back to Malaysia to teach, I was very conscious of the difference between the British English and the American English because the school system uses the British English in terms of spelling...pronunciation wise, Malaysians have many varieties. I did not stay long enough in the States to "catch" the accent.Moreover, many lecturers told me to remember to speak to be understood, not to impress! It would have been problematic to use either one accent especially if one teaches in the rural areas where English is really a classroom language. With the globalisation factor in mind, I think we should speak to be understood internationally meaning that the syntax must adhere to the English syntax (regardless of which English) but one has to consider the ethnic background of the speaker. Having an accent is "charming" but language is used to communicate, not just to impress.
An interesting discussion. I am an Australian, and am in the USA (Washington DC) for a few months. My accent has been described by some Chinese friends as "refined", meaning closer to Received Pronunciation than Broad Australian. Perhaps it was my father's influence, as he was born in London and only came to Australia after marrying my mother (who is Australian). When I go to the UK, the people there pick me as Australian straight away though.
Here in the US I am commonly asked where in England I am from. I guess it's the Steve Irwin influence. Americans don't seem to be able to identify an Australian accent unless it's broad "Strine" (as spoken by Irwin or Paul Hogan). In terms of my accent preferences, I don't really care, so long us I can understand the speaker. If a person who has learned English as a second language (ESL) is speaking to me, all I care about is their ability to speak the words clearly (Also they need to speak loudly enough. Some ESL speakers seem very shy and therefore speak too softly to be heard). The other thing I like is consistency. If you're learning one type of English, try to stick with it. Mixing up spelling, vocabulary and pronunciation from British and American English makes the speaker's English sound poor in my opinion.
That last comment illustrates precisely a point I'd been trying to make in a different thread. If, to the ear of a native speaker, a blend of different standards of English (AE and RP for instance) sounds like "poor English", then all the more need for a clear model when teaching English. This fashionable idea that pronunciation does not matter as long as meaning is effectively conveyed might do a great disservice to students.
On a different note, I'm surprised nobody has raised any major objection regarding the terms "British English" or "American English". The former should presumably lump together Scottish accents and Cockney (clearly different even to untrained ears) and the latter would mean someone from Alabama sounds the same as someone from Chicago. RP (Received Pronunciation) as the non-localized, educated speech of the home counties could be what many have in mind when they say BrE. GA (General American) being the kind of "network English" heard from many people all over the United States could serve the same function in the US.
When people say BrE, they would be referring to a regionally neutral form of the language, RP in the old money.
One point about Dave's comment- sticking with it is in theory good, though many students would be studying in places where they have little control over this. A student outside an English-speaking country may have an American teacher one term, an Australian the next and round the year off with a whingeing Pom.
"Sticking" to one version is of course the best way. As a student in the Malaysian education system, it was British English but coming to study in the States, I had to do a little bit of relearning. Suddenly, I had to spell "standardization" instead of "standardisation"! And now, after more than 10 years, I have to relearn as am working on my master's degree in one of the local universities -which uses basically the British English. Somehow, with the teaching experience, it is not that difficult to adjust. May be because I was constantly telling my students that this is the American version every time they corrected me! Anyway, for both British and American accent, the sort of standard version one hears on Tv or movies would be acceptable, I guess. Because once you start using that Cockney accent or the Texan twang, I am lost! Well Dave, a friend did her bachelor degree in Australia, then she went to the States to her her master's...the Americans could tell that she was "from" Australia straight away...well, we claim that we speak "without" accent, but somehow, to be "accepted", we still "mimick" to a certain extend.
It's funny that Americans could tell your friend had studied in Australia by the accent when they can't seem to pick me as a (native) Australian speaker by mine! Maybe my accent is much closer than an English one from Dad's influence. My friends keep calling me a Pom (Australian slang for an English person) even though I was born and raised in Australia.
The previous comment about students having little control over the type of English they are taught is a good one, though with a bit of effort the student can learn remember the differences and stick with one form of the language. Word processors are a great help when writing - when writing for an American audience I just switch it to US English in the spell checker and write in my usual way, and it picks up all the words that I need to change!
When speaking or listening of course the spelling doesn't matter. Instead, it's little things like Americans not knowing what a fortnight is, or saying "off of" instead of "off" (eg. steam is coming off of it (US) vs. steam is coming off it (BrE)). Americans usually understand me of course. But if these little differences are mixed together by one speaker, it sounds strange (in my opinion). And if you are aiming to speak English well, surely you don't want to sound strange! So to me it's not a question of being understood, more a question of style and sounding "right". Whether that matters to you is up to you.