jeudi 10 mars 2011

Language hurdle number 3 of 6: I know the vocabulary, but they can’t understand me!

Again another target you can work on with your teacher at a language school is those pronunciation problems you notice cropping up in your daily life outside the school. Teachers usually have an array of solutions to help you pronounce the language more accurately, and will be trained to take into consideration your own mother tongue and how that may have an effect on the problems you are encountering.

English-speakers generally get the short straw when it comes to language pronunciation, particularly because we are quite lazy with our vowels - most of which generally melt into one 'uh' sound (which is called a schwa for all those linguistics enthusiasts out there... just me?). We also get a bit lax with using our lips as we let a lot of our consonants fall to the back of our mouths.

However, a good Spanish teacher will be able to point out that the elusive trilled 'r' that you are trying to create, is not too far off what we use when we say words like 'gotta' instead of a fully enuciated, Queen's English 'got to' (notice how the 't' goes to a completely different place in the mouth). Suddenly those consonants are not looking so tricky!

My favourite word in French (when I can pronounce it) is 'régulièrement' - double r's combined with lots of vowels, crazy stuff! It's a veritable tongue-twister packed into just one word! Sometimes a good tip is to find a particularly difficult word and to keep practicing it until it becomes relatively quick and natural, it's a good way to get your mouth accustomed to a language's particular ways of pronunciation.

I had a quick google search to see if I could find any particular sites that were good for aiding pronunciation, but nothing really jumped out at me - I think this really underlines the fact that pronunciation is one skill that you have to go to the country for. You need to surround yourself with the vowels sounds, patterns of speech and short-cuts in words, and only really interaction with a native speaker can help you target your particular difficulties.

Are there any particular language quirks that are getting your tongue in a twist? Have you found any good pronunciation tips or tools to help you straighten them out? What's your favourite tongue twister?