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  1. #1
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    American Pronunciation Help

    Greetings! I'm a non-native English speaker and was wondering if any native speakers would be willing to comment on my American pronunciation. The first link is to my reading of an article from Yahoo News and the second to my reading of individual sounds of special concern to me (e.g. -er, -ar, -or, -ull/-ool). I tried to sound natural while reading the passage without overpronunciation--my speech tends to be fast. My rendering of individual sounds is slightly overpronounced to give the listener a clearer idea of my distinctive pronunciation patterns. Which sounds and intonation patterns should I focus on improving? Thanks for your help. Alex

    Reading:
    http://h1.ripway.com/nosceteipsum/pronunciationaid1.wav
    Individual sounds:
    http://h1.ripway.com/nosceteipsum/pronunciationaid2.wav


    If the above links do not work, please try this,
    http://mediamax.streamload.com/nosce...nks/54FD814C1E
    Last edited by esperanto; 14-Aug-2006 at 03:24.

  2. #2
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    Arrow Re: American Pronunciation Help

    Hi esperanto, I`ll offer you my two cents on the first link.
    One thing that stands out, and it`s a BIG pet peeve of mine, is the pronunciation (or lack of it) of the lax "i". Many non-native speakers pronounce words such as "hit-heat" or "bit-beat" the same. It`s not quite as pronounced with you as with others, but it is there nontheless. Another "problem" I hear is pronouncing the vowel sound in "up" and "back" the same. If you`re looking for absolute perfection, you`ll simply have to listen as carefully as possible to native speakers, taking care to hear the differences in vowels. Your accent sounds alot like a Castilian Spanish one to me, and Spanish speakers always use a rhotic accent when speaking English (rhotic accents sound better to most Americans, since most Americans have one). So, I can`t really fault you too much on the second link. You said you were going for enunciation in the links to emphasize your problem areas, but remember NOT to enunciate so much when speaking English. Also, try not to talk so fast. You`ll sound more natural.

  3. #3
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    Re: American Pronunciation Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Hayseed View Post
    One thing that stands out, and it`s a BIG pet peeve of mine, is the pronunciation (or lack of it) of the lax "i". Many non-native speakers pronounce words such as "hit-heat" or "bit-beat" the same. It`s not quite as pronounced with you as with others, but it is there nontheless. Another "problem" I hear is pronouncing the vowel sound in "up" and "back" the same.... Your accent sounds alot like a Castilian Spanish one to me, and Spanish speakers always use a rhotic accent when speaking English.... Also, try not to talk so fast. You`ll sound more natural.
    Thanks for taking the time to listen to my links and offer comments on my pronunciation, Hayseed.

    I find your observation of my proclivity for rhotic articulation intriguing, given that, due to my exposure to British English in my initial learning process, I tended to omit pronouncing the 'r' after vowels, even after living in the US for many years, and have only recently--in the last year or so--worked on mastering American rhoticity. I am conscious of over-accentuating the 'r' in my second link, since I do so deliberately to see whether my enunciation is accurate/native. Is my rhoticity excessive/unnatural in the first link also when reading text?

    I'm also acutely aware of my smudging of [i] and [ee] and of overindulgent resort to a 'schwa' (i.e., turning full sounds into muffled, undifferentiated ones). Both patterns are due to my fast speech, I think, because I seem to have few problems with them in controlled settings, e.g. http://h1.ripway.com/nosceteipsum/pronunciationaid3.mp3. Does that sound okay?

    I wish to improve my pronunciation because very soon I plan to teach in an American university and don't want my students to be distracted by my accent, so that they can devote full attention to content.
    Last edited by esperanto; 10-Aug-2006 at 03:49.

  4. #4
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    Cool Re: American Pronunciation Help

    Hi again, esperanto.
    I listened to the new link, and it`s obvious to me that you can hear the subtle differences in English vowels, and reproduce them accurately.

    I listened to the first link again, and while it`s good, some improvment is still possible. Two words that stood out were "year" and "our". I`m not sure if it was intentional, but I`d consider them both "over-enunciated". "Year" sounded more like "yeh-ar", as if it had two syllables. Think of it as rhyming with "beer", and make it a shorter word. "Our" was about the same, sounding as if it also had two syllables, "aw-ar". To me, the "proper" American pronunciation would have it roughly rhyming with "flower", but slur it into one syllable. But, alot of Americans would pronounce it as "ar", making it sound exactly like "are".
    I still think your rhoticity is good, and sounds like that of a Spanish speaker. You do need work on the vowels which occur on either side of the "R`s" in many words, and the only way I can think of to explain it would be to think of the difference between the words "bird" and "beard". You`re using "beard" way too often, when you should be using "bird". Does that make sense to you? I apologize if I`ve confused you, but I feel you`re well on your way to the type of accent (lack of accent?) that you`d be happy with. Keep listening & practicing!

    I did want to ask you something. Is Esperanto really your native language? That`s what it says in your profile; I was not aware native Esperanto speakers existed! But then again, there`s plenty of things I haven`t figured out yet

  5. #5
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    Re: American Pronunciation Help

    Quote Originally Posted by Hayseed View Post
    Two words that stood out were "year" and "our". I`m not sure if it was intentional, but I`d consider them both "over-enunciated". ...You do need work on the vowels which occur on either side of the "R`s" in many words, and the only way I can think of to explain it would be to think of the difference between the words "bird" and "beard". You`re using "beard" way too often, when you should be using "bird".

    I did want to ask you something. Is Esperanto really your native language? That`s what it says in your profile; I was not aware native Esperanto speakers existed! But then again, there`s plenty of things I haven`t figured out yet
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments again, Hayseed. I understand your point about my excessive enunciation of the rhotic r: I think it is due to my excessive desire to adopt it to sound more like an American native speaker. :)

    No, I am not a native Esperanto speaker, just as neither am I a citizen of the World Republic of Letters. :)To my own surprise, however, I have discovered--prompted by your question--that there are indeed a number of native Esperanto speakers, be they rare and mostly bi- or multi-lingual children of overzealous linguists. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Esperanto_speakers

    My own native language is Russian.
    Last edited by esperanto; 10-Aug-2006 at 11:01.

  6. #6
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    Smile Re: American Pronunciation Help

    Quote Originally Posted by esperanto View Post
    My own native language is Russian.
    That`s interesting. Russian speakers usually have a very thick "back-of-the-throat" accent, and I cannot even describe what the "r" sounds like. One thing Russian speakers generally seem to do well with is talking at the proper speed, and with a rhythm that is more natural than most other non-native speakers. You may or may not be interested to know that speakers of High German also tend to have a more natural rhythm and use proper timing and so on when speaking English. I`m very surprised that, while your accent is good, you haven`t quite implemented the lax "i" to perfection yet; Russian speakers always seem to use this particular vowel correctly in English. I find it unusual that you speak so fast too.
    Going back to rhoticity, you do very well with it. The rhotic "r" is nearly always the last sound English-speaking children learn to pronounce properly (the two "th" sounds too). It seems the vast majority of non-native speakers don`t use a rhotic accent, and also use their own "r", which can (but not always, of course) make their accents unpleasant.

    I`d like to thank you for making such an effort to properly pronounce MY native language. Keep in mind that you may never fully reach native-speaker pronunciation, but that`s not such a bad thing, in my opinion. Your accent is quite mild, and not at all unpleasant. Good luck with your job!

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