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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    I'm totally confused

    Hello!
    I'm studying translation and interpretation in English and Russian at university in Belgium. Even though most English teachers in my country have a strong preference for British accent, I like American English more. At the beginning of my studies at university, they told me I was allowed to pick my favorite accent, as long as I pronounced correctly and didn't mix things up. Back then, my pronunciation was pretty bad and I wasn't really aware of the differences between British and American English. So, in order to speak English better, I started to study phonetics on my own. And I've been studying it intensively for more than one year now. I also try to practice English as much as possible and to listen to a lot of spoken English. I'm still really far from sounding like a native speaker, but I hope that someday my accent will be close to perfect. This year, my English teacher comes from the United States. She speaks with a General American accent and her pronunciation is really similar to what is indicated in the dictionary. However, even though she says she allows us to speak with an American accent, I feel like there are certain features of General American that she won't let us use even if they are indicated in the dictionary and used by many native speakers, including herself.

    For example, she allows us to pronounce the letter r all the time and to pronounce words like "can't" or "pass" the American way, but she won't allow us to use flap Ts. She also says that even if many Americans pronounce it that way, it's incorrect to pronounce "not" as /nɑːt/ rather than /nɒt/. Yet, it's written in the dictionary and of course, she also pronounces it that way.

    She also insists that there's a yod in words like "new" or "pneumonia". She absolutely wants us to pronounce /nju:/ and /njuːˈmoʊ.njə/ rather than /nu:/ and / /nuːˈmoʊ.njə/(and of course, she doesn't), even if all dictionaries say those words are not pronounced that way in American English.

    And to be honest, all of that makes me very confused. I don't get why she acts like that... She says she doesn't want us to mix up accents, but the accent she wants us to adopt is clearly a mixture between British and American English. I'm also quite frustrated, because I'd really like to improve my oral skills in American English during class, but I can't due to her nonsensical restrictions. Furthermore, she is extremely severe and I wouldn't dare contradict her. But, every time I have a lesson with her, I feel really stressed and I try to avoid to speak as much as possible, because I'm afraid of being judged for pronouncing in a way she deems incorrect, while she uses it herself. I really don't get why she wants us to pronounce in that specific way. Could someone explain it to me? And anyway, what should I do?
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 29-Nov-2019 at 22:13. Reason: Standardised font size across the post and added some line breaks

  2. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: I'm totally confused

    We obviously can't explain to you her reasons for what she allows or advises you to do. It doesn't make much sense to me, but it's possible that she does have good reasons.

    Ask her to justify herself. You don't have to contradict her.

  3. probus's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: I'm totally confused

    I'm a native speaker of AmE, and neither I nor anyone I know pronounces pneumonia as nyewmonia. We say noomonia. And I think you have said that your teacher does too.

    Sometimes we are unaware of our own pronunciation. Perhaps that is the case with your teacher. Or maybe she genuinely believes that nyewmonia is correct and that she is being lazy or slovenly when she pronounces it noomonia.

  4. Moderator
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    #4

    Re: I'm totally confused

    I've heard a few American radio announcers use the yod you describe, but it's rare to non-existent in casual speech. Nearly all Americans use the flap /t/; if not, they probably use a glottal stop.
    I am not a teacher.

  5. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #5

    Re: I'm totally confused

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    I'm a native speaker of AmE, and neither I nor anyone I know pronounces pneumonia as nyewmonia.
    We do in BrE, which adds to the confusion.

  6. Newbie
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    #6

    Re: I'm totally confused

    First of all, thank you for your replies!

    Ask her to justify herself. You don't have to contradict her.
    Yes, but the problem is that if I tell her what she considers to be wrong, is a valid pronunciation in the dictionary, it will be a way of contradicting her, and knowing her, I'm not sure she would be really happy. But I think I'm still going to ask for an explanation, because I need things to be clarified.
    Sometimes we are unaware of our own pronunciation. Perhaps that is the case with your teacher. Or maybe she genuinely believes that nyewmonia is correct and that she is being lazy or slovenly when she pronounces it noomonia.
    Actually, I think you're right. I'm under the same impression. I feel like she is unaware of her pronunciation and finds her own accent "lazy", for some reason.
    We do in BrE, which adds to the confusion.
    That's precisely why I think she encourages us to mix up accents, even though she says we must not do it.

  7. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: I'm totally confused

    Quote Originally Posted by Ice-Kagen View Post
    Yes, but the problem is that if I tell her what she considers to be wrong, is a valid pronunciation in the dictionary, it will be a way of contradicting her, and knowing her, I'm not sure she would be really happy. But I think I'm still going to ask for an explanation, because I need things to be clarified.
    She's a teacher, Ice-Kagen. Her job is to give you an explanation. There's no reason to be afraid.

  8. VIP Member
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    #8

    Re: I'm totally confused

    I'm curious where she's from in the US. She may be mistaking her own dialect for what is "standard" in the US.

  9. Newbie
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    #9

    Re: I'm totally confused

    I'm curious where she's from in the US. She may be mistaking her own dialect for what is "standard" in the US.
    She's from Colorado. I don't really know anything about the accent of Colorado, but I don't think she's mistaking her dialect for what is standard in the US. I think she speaks General American, or at least something very close to it. Her way of pronouncing is almost identical to what is indicated in the dictionary. But for some reason, she doesn't want us to pronounce like her. She always says new as /nu:/ rather than /nju:/ but won't let us pronounce that way. Same goes for using flap Ts or using an /a/ vowel in not, among others.

  10. probus's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: I'm totally confused

    Does she use the flap T herself between two vowel sounds? Words like matter and better will tell the tale. Almost all Americans use it. If she does, it's a case of "Do as I say, not as I do." It would seem then as if she wants you to learn a version of English that she has idealized for some reason. If you accept her advice you will wind up sounding stilted or foreign rather than like a native speaker of AmE. There's nothing wrong with that, but it may not be what you want.

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