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  1. #1
    Caedmon is offline Newbie
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    Default Comment on my pronunciation please

    I have been working on improving my English pronunciation and would be very grateful if some of you would listen to a two-minute clip of my speech and lend me your comments. The clip is 5MB in size and I've uploaded it here: mepronouncing.wav. The text is from Richard III.

    I would like to hear both your general impressions and any detailed remarks you may have, such as "this or that vowel has the wrong quality" or "too much aspiration" or "too little aspiration" - things that I suppose will strike a native speaker fairly immediately when he hears me speak. Here are some particular concerns I've been having, for instance:

    - The distinction between voiced and voiceless sibilants (eyes-ice, ridge-rich) does not exist in my native language. I noticed that I had been hyperarticulating these in English, and sounding somewhat pedantic as a result.

    - The secondary stress in compounds is still unclear to me.

    - I sometimes tend to flap my r's between vowels instinctively, and sometimes not.

    - I understand that the two diphthongs in "fair" and "poor" are on the verge of disappearing and being replaced with long monophthongs. When I pronounce these sounds myself, I feel as if I'm gliding over to a subtle schwa at the very end of them but I don't know if it comes across at all and, in case it does, if it sounds archaic or foreign or silly.

    I am particularly interested in learning precisely what traits in my speech give me away as a second-language speaker, whether there is anything in my speech that would impede communication, and finally (mostly out of curiosity) whether you can guess my native language from my accent. (I have elementary training in grammar and phonetics, so please feel free to use technical terms if you wish.)
    Last edited by Caedmon; 18-Oct-2008 at 17:45.

  2. #2
    jlinger is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Comment on my pronunciation please

    I confess to not having listened to the clip at all, but I would caution you against using a classic text, such as Shakespeare's Richard III (if it is that version you are reading).

    The pronounciation of Shakespeare, even today, is, at best, stilted. It has a certain rhythm and style, that, while recognized for its excellence, is not at all common in everyday speech today.

    Any judgement we were to make on your interpretation of this text will be coloured / biased by what we expect Richard III to sound like.

    I would suggest instead your reading something from Harry Potter, for example.

  3. #3
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Comment on my pronunciation please

    Quote Originally Posted by Caedmon View Post
    I have been working on improving my English pronunciation and would be very grateful if some of you would listen to a two-minute clip of my speech and lend me your comments. The clip is 5MB in size and I've uploaded it here: mepronouncing.wav. The text is from Richard III.

    I would like to hear both your general impressions and any detailed remarks you may have, such as "this or that vowel has the wrong quality" or "too much aspiration" or "too little aspiration" - things that I suppose will strike a native speaker fairly immediately when he hears me speak. Here are some particular concerns I've been having, for instance:
    I'm impressed. Excellent phrasing of Shakespeare. Do I detect some Irish?
    I'll listen to it closer later, but my first impression is that it is very well articulated.
    R.

  4. #4
    Caedmon is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Comment on my pronunciation please

    Jlinger:

    I chose Shakespeare mostly because I believed his complex syntax might provide many opportunities for me to betray any defects in my pronunciation, but on second thought I agree with you that something modern would have been more appropriate.

    Raymott:

    Thank you for listening. If there's anything Irish in my speech, it's not by a deliberate choice on my behalf, but there's such an abundance of possible influences in film, radio and television that I may have picked it up unconsciously. When I first started studying English in school, it was more or less taken for granted that we would all try to emulate our teacher's RP accent. Later when I began to become more aware of my pronunciation, I decided to keep RP as my model accent, not because I ever intend to apply to the BBC, but because there was no particular reason for me to prefer any other accent. However, I have been trying to keep some of my vowels (the ones in "dark" and "here", in particular) more neutral than they are in native RP, simply because I would feel awkward if I didn't.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Comment on my pronunciation please

    I can confirm a real basis for Jlinger's apprehension, having listened to the clip. It is difficult to know how much your pronunciation is being determined by the 'lyrical flow' of Shakespearean writing. Also, the stress on individual words (an important aspect of conveying meaning in a conversation) is being determined by how you think Shakespearean text should be read.
    How about imagining you are telling us in ordinary conversation about some incident which has happened to you, and post that? There is a world of difference between reading, "Now is the winter of our discontent made..." in a monotone; and something like,
    "Now...NOW he tells us he's discontent. All summer it''s 'everything's fine, the war is going well', and suddenly, come winter, the tune on his lute changes to .."

    The one word that stood out was 'adversaries' where you pronounced 'sar' too strongly: something like AD va-sar-ies. After 'AD', the other syllables tend to be swallowed.

    Otherwise...otherwise...AWESOME!

    Look forward to your next post!
    Last edited by David L.; 19-Oct-2008 at 08:42.

  6. #6
    naomimalan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Comment on my pronunciation please

    Quote Originally Posted by Caedmon View Post
    I have been working on improving my English pronunciation and would be very grateful if some of you would listen to a two-minute clip of my speech and lend me your comments. The clip is 5MB in size and I've uploaded it here: mepronouncing.wav. The text is from Richard III.

    I would like to hear both your general impressions and any detailed remarks you may have, such as "this or that vowel has the wrong quality" or "too much aspiration" or "too little aspiration" - things that I suppose will strike a native speaker fairly immediately when he hears me speak. Here are some particular concerns I've been having, for instance:

    - The distinction between voiced and voiceless sibilants (eyes-ice, ridge-rich) does not exist in my native language. I noticed that I had been hyperarticulating these in English, and sounding somewhat pedantic as a result.

    - The secondary stress in compounds is still unclear to me.

    - I sometimes tend to flap my r's between vowels instinctively, and sometimes not.

    - I understand that the two diphthongs in "fair" and "poor" are on the verge of disappearing and being replaced with long monophthongs. When I pronounce these sounds myself, I feel as if I'm gliding over to a subtle schwa at the very end of them but I don't know if it comes across at all and, in case it does, if it sounds archaic or foreign or silly.

    I am particularly interested in learning precisely what traits in my speech give me away as a second-language speaker, whether there is anything in my speech that would impede communication, and finally (mostly out of curiosity) whether you can guess my native language from my accent. (I have elementary training in grammar and phonetics, so please feel free to use technical terms if you wish.)
    Congratulations! Absolutely astounding! And you have such a beautiful voice into the bargain. You could go on the stage with that talent.


    You must have spent a lot of time in England during your formative years.

    Names come to mind – Kazuo Ishuguro, Joseph Conrad, Nabokov (although he probably had an American accent and yours is definitely Br.E: RP), Samuel Becket (even though the other way round but, as you know, as an Irishman he wrote equally well in English and French)….

    I know the Japanese and the Poles, as Slavs, are very industrious students of language so bearing in mind your predecessors (Kazuo Ishuguro for the Japanese), Joseph Conrad (for the Poles) I’d take a wild guess and say one or the other. I’d have to eliminate Japanese because I know nothing about the language. Russian being a Slavonic language – which I know a bit about – has a stress system very similar to that of the English language. So could you be Polish?

    You invite us to suggest what traits in your speech give you away as being a second-language speaker. I wouldn’t have dared challenge you unless you had asked for it but anyway, I did detect four little deviations (I have checked with the Daniel Jones Pronouncing Dictionary,CUP, 14th edition:

    -For the ‘at’ in ‘bark at me’, you gave/æt/ but, as you know, coming as it does in mid-sentence it should take the weak form: /ət/
    -You pronounced 'dissembling' /dɪ'sembəlɪŋ/ but in fact it's/dɪ'semblɪŋ/
    -You pronounced 'ambling' /'æmbəlɪŋ/ but in fact it's /'æmblɪŋ/
    -Finally, I notice you gave ‘looking-glass’ secondary stress on glass but Jones gives it none, which is in accordance with my analysis in (1) below

    but absolutely nothing that would impede communication.


    So, you ask about the secondary stress in compounds. In my experience, it works as follow:

    1 No secondary stress if the second noun is monosyllabic, eg coffee break, wine flask, egg whisk, finger-nail. HOWEVER, if the first noun refers to an element of what is referred to in the second noun, then the secondary stress is on the first noun and the primary on the second, eg ,gold wire , ,stone wall (sorry I can’t get secondary stress signs to work on my computer so I’m using a comma.

    2 If the second word (or third or fourth too for that matter) in the compound is polysyllabic, then the syllable that normally takes the word stress will be given secondary stress eg Mass-pro,duction, fire es,cape, word-,processor.

    Congratulations again – a marvellous feat. When are we going to read a book of yours written directly in English or see you on stage?
    Last edited by naomimalan; 19-Oct-2008 at 17:24. Reason: problem with layout

  7. #7
    Caedmon is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Comment on my pronunciation please

    My thanks to both David L. and Naomimalan for listening and commenting. I believe many non-native English speakers can be relucant about reducing the vowels in words such as "ordinary", "temporary" and "adversary", or in phrases such as "bark at me". In certain languages, reduced vowels are mostly a feature of informal speech, so perhaps we're afraid that we'll sound casual if we use them in English, where in fact they are part of the standard pronunciation. I will be sure to keep this in mind, and I'll also practise pronouncing words such as "ambling" and "rippling" (and I suppose "hardening" and "buttoning" as well) with two syllables rather than three.

    My native language is not Polish, but Swedish. We typically sound like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OhLBhUPoz4

    My ambition really hasn't been to become the next Joseph Conrad or to go on the stage, but I suppose I would ultimately like native speakers to react to my accent as if it were just some dialect of English with which they happen to be unfamiliar.

  8. #8
    naomimalan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Comment on my pronunciation please

    Quote Originally Posted by Caedmon View Post
    My thanks to both David L. and Naomimalan for listening and commenting. I believe many non-native English speakers can be relucant about reducing the vowels in words such as "ordinary", "temporary" and "adversary", or in phrases such as "bark at me". In certain languages, reduced vowels are mostly a feature of informal speech, so perhaps we're afraid that we'll sound casual if we use them in English, where in fact they are part of the standard pronunciation. I will be sure to keep this in mind, and I'll also practise pronouncing words such as "ambling" and "rippling" (and I suppose "hardening" and "buttoning" as well) with two syllables rather than three.

    My native language is not Polish, but Swedish. We typically sound like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OhLBhUPoz4

    My ambition really hasn't been to become the next Joseph Conrad or to go on the stage, but I suppose I would ultimately like native speakers to react to my accent as if it were just some dialect of English with which they happen to be unfamiliar.
    Thank you for your reply. I listened to a couple of the Swedes (the woodchopper in the forest/the man talking about chess) and was really impressed. I would have thought they were both native speakers except that the man talking about chess gave himself away with a mistake relating to vocabulary. He said "If someone's really well at the game", instead, of course, of "....good at the game."
    It seems as though Swedes are particularly good at mastering English. I'd be really interested to know
    -at what age school children start learning English
    -how many hours a week they have
    -by the time they leave school, approximately how long they have spent in an English-speaking country
    -whether their teachers are native speakers or not

    You might like to talk about it on a recording and let us listen for more slight deviations. This would be in accordance with what David L suggested higher up.

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