Pronunciation Audio Course

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1 Pronunciation Audio Course PART 4: The Most Challenging Consonant Sounds -TRANSCRIPT- Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd.

2 Pronunciation Audio Course Part 4 The Most Challenging Consonant Sounds Introduction Hello, and welcome to the English Pronunciation Lab, a fun and safe place for you to learn, grow and discover more confidence in your spoken English. This is Heather Hansen, and today we are going to tackle some tricky sounds once and for all. This is Part 4 of the Pronunciation Audio Course. There are a handful of English sounds that tend to give just about all of my clients some problems. Depending on the part of the world you re from, you might have an easier or harder time with these sounds. Or they might be challenging for different reasons. Let s take a look at some of them and see how we can produce them more clearly. TH Why don t we start off with the universal English sound the world loves to hate: the T-H. Now, I know, it s an awful sound. The world would probably be better off without it! But since it s here to stay, how can we pronounce it correctly? First I d like you to pay attention to how you re currently pronouncing the sound. If you re in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and so on) you are most likely pronouncing the voiced th as d and the unvoiced one as t. The same goes for English speakers in South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, and moving a bit north to Hong Kong). Although, in Hong Kong, Cantonese speakers may have a tendency to turn the unvoiced th into s or f. Also in South East Asia, pay attention to t-h Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd. 22

3 at the ends of words. It s likely that you re turning them into f or v. Check that your top teeth aren t touching your bottom lip. For Europeans, most of you are changing the unvoiced th to s and the voiced th to z. This includes speakers of Germanic languages: Changes in the t h have zero effect on people understanding you internationally. Thank goodness! German, Dutch, the Scandinavian languages, and so on, Eastern Europeans, the French, and also Italians. In the Middle East, the t-h sounds are present in classical Arabic, but in practice in places like Qatar and Dubai for example, we ll often hear the change to d and t. So what does this mean? For most of the world, we re pronouncing words with the voiced t-h like those, that, the and there as doze, dat, duh and dare. In Europe we ll hear these words pronounced as zose, zat, zuh and zare. Words with the unvoiced t-h like thank, think, thought and three are being pronounced tank, tink, taught and tree or sank, sink, sought or sree. Now, I have something to tell you that should make you pretty happy. These changes in the t-h generally have zero effect on people understanding you internationally. Linguistic research shows that everyone is able to distinguish these changes in the t-h and mispronunciation does not cause problems in communication. Thank goodness!! In fact, even in many areas of the UK and Ireland, the t- h is pronounced with a d or t quality! So no need to fear! Still, I wanted to include the t-h in this discussion because it is, by far, the sound I am most frequently asked about, and one that I ve found most of my clients are very worried about. It s also important to note that even though it doesn t affect understanding, it may still very well be an irritant to your listener. I ll leave it up to you to Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd. 23

4 decide how much effort you want to put into changing your pronunciation of the terrible t-h. If you do want to work on your pronunciation of this sound, then what you ll need to do is, first of all, get your mirror, and then practice saying words with t-h. I want you to watch for your tongue. Can you see it? You should see the very tip coming out between your teeth. If you can t see your tongue, you are most likely placing the tip on the ridge of the roof of your mouth just behind your top teeth. If this is the case, you re making a d or t sound. Alternatively, for the Europeans, if you can t see your tongue, you re probably making an s or z sound. To make the t-h, stick the tip of your tongue between your teeth. You ll feel the sides of your tongue running along the bottom of the sides of your top teeth. If you bite down (not too hard) as you re making the t-h sound, you should bite on the entire edge of your tongue, front and sides. I hope that this is making some sense. If you join me for the online English Pronunciation Course, I ll be showing you all of this in a video which might be a bit easier! But this is hopefully a good start! Make a list of minimal pairs like we did in the last segment of this course when we talked about voiced and unvoiced sounds, and then just keep practicing! V & W The next pair of sounds I d like to mention are v and w. These two sounds do cause a lot of confusion internationally, especially for Indian English speakers and most Europeans and Eastern Europeans. Romance language speakers, you re in luck. This one doesn t tend to be a problem for you. Luckily though for everyone else, there s an easy fix. I have yet to meet someone who can t make the two sounds correctly. What it comes down to is focusing on your speech and making sure you are using the right sound at the right time. Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd. 24

5 Take out your mirror again. Now, make the v sound [produces sound]. Your top teeth should be on the top of your bottom lip and you should be using your voice to make the [v sound] sound. Remember from Part 3 that without voice, the v will become an f. Now make the w sound [produces sound]. Your teeth should be nowhere near you lips. In fact, your lips should be coming out and forming what I like to call a round kissy face [kissing noises, w sounds]. It s the same movement. So, as you can see, these sounds are produced in two very different ways. Now that you can see the difference, pay attention to these two sounds in your speech. Try these sentences: I wanted to wait for the waiter, but we were late and went our way instead. We were invited to a very fun water park, where we wasted the day away wandering around and playing in the water. (Notice that there are some tricky things in that one invite and very fun, with the v/f distinction.) Every very weary person was invited to visit the well to get some water. (Lots of tough ones in this example too.) Make sure you re practicing these in front of the mirror so you can see if you re making the kissy w face or if your teeth are on your lip making a v sound. R & L Alright. So far so good. Now, a discussion of tough English sounds just wouldn t be complete without mentioning r and l. This pair is especially tough for English speakers in Asia, but speakers in other parts of the world might also have trouble, especially with the English r. Then, of course, there are the different ways that r is used (or not used) in American versus British English. We won t go into all of this now, but I ll give you a lot more information about that in the online course. Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd. 25

6 What I d like to do now, is just explain to you how to produce these two sounds. And my explanation might be very different than the one you were taught in school. At least, that s what I ve found with many of my clients. R There are two general problems when people make the r sound. The first is confusion with l, which as I said is quite common for Asian speakers. The other problem could be that you are pronouncing r with a trill. That s that [tries to produce sound] sound. Sorry, I m a bit embarrassed. I can t even make the sound. We don t have it in English. In America we call it rolling our tongue, and it s what my Spanish teacher unsuccessfully tried to get me to do back in primary school. In California, Mexican Spanish is quite common, so we had a lady (one of the parents, actually) come in a couple times a week to sing songs with us and things like that. I really don t remember much at this point. But anyway, I don t want to refer to this trilled r as a rolled r, because I know that many of you in Asia have been taught that in English we do roll our rs. What your teachers meant when they said this was that we roll the tip of our tongue up and back in our mouths when we make the r sound. What we don t do however is make a trill. So I just want to get our terminology straight before we get into this. In fact, trill is the more linguistically appropriate term anyway. So, making the r... What you want to do is take the tip of your tongue and roll it up and back in your mouth. Now, don t roll it all the way back in your mouth so you re practically sticking it down your throat. This is the problem a lot of my clients have here in Asia. You ve over-exaggerated what your primary school teachers were telling you to do. Sadly, they were probably over-exaggerating as well! Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd. 26

7 The front half of your tongue should feel like it s about vertical in your mouth. Not a whole lot more. The sides of the back half of your tongue will be pressed against the inner sides of the back portion of your top teeth. Now, use your voice to make the sound [produces sound]. If you re making a trill, as many of my Indian clients have had trouble with and also some clients from Indonesia, just in case you find yourself in one of these groups, make sure the tip of your tongue is not making contact with the roof of your mouth. Usually when I say this, my clients are able to immediately fix the trill. Give it a try. Don t let the tip of your tongue make contact with the roof of your mouth [produces sound]. I hope that that description helps, and you re on your way to producing a clearer r sound! L Now, for the l. Place the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth in the space where they meet the roof of your mouth. The sides of your tongue shouldn t be touching anything and the air should be flowing over them. The front of your tongue, just behind the tip, is higher in your mouth. This is the positioning for a word beginning with an l sound or used in any position before a vowel sound: like, lane, lost, leave, allow. L endings can be especially tricky and, in Asia, can almost end up sounding a little bit like a w. To fix this, try to over-exaggerate a little bit and stick the tip of your tongue out between your teeth. The sides of your tongue still shouldn t be touching anything and you ll notice that the front of your tongue is lower in your mouth than when you produce the other l. fill, full, all, smile, drill, call, cell Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd. 27

8 Practice these words while watching yourself in your mirror. I hope this segment of the audio course has helped you with some of the most challenging English consonant sounds. Keep practicing and remember to try using challenging words in sentences too when you practice. Remember not to overdo it. When you get to that point that your brain and tongue are no longer communicating, take a break and come back to it later. I ll speak to you again next week in Part 5 of this Pronunciation Audio Course. In the meantime, let me know how your practice is going by leaving me comments on the blog at the English Pronunciation Lab, You ll also be able to find some more articles there and additional exercises. Happy speaking! Copyright 2011 Hansen Communication Lab, Pte. Ltd. 28

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