Image: Associated Press
Congratulations to the scientists and engineers whose 10-month mission to Mars has successfully put a probe in orbit around the red planet. The success of the mission is a tribute to the hard work of many in India, and an inspiration to young people there to pursue science. It is also likely to lead to increased global interest in what India has to offer for space travel and transport, as they demonstrated an ability to reach this achievement with a lower budget than has been seen before. As India, the US and other countries work together to reach the frontiers of space exploration, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively will continue to be paramount. Listen to India’s Prime Minister talk about the accomplishment (in English) here.
Accented speech always contains vowel errors. Vowels can be tricky to correct, because they do not have obvious placement targets for your mouth. We also have to overcome the mapping in our brains. We actually hear a different vowel than is being spoken when we listen to a foreign language. This is because our brain likes to sort the vowel sounds into our own familiar sound system. When learning American English, it is helpful to create word sets and re-organize how we hear vowels. A good place to start is to listen to the vowels by themselves. You can find recordings of words and isolated vowel sounds online. Check out this handy chart with recorded vowel sounds created at the University of Kansas.
Ever wonder how people sound in different parts of the United States? PBS’s extensive website, “Do You Speak American?” has a wealth of information about regional variation in American English. Not only do we use different words in different parts of the country, but our accents are different. You can listen to recordings from different cities across the US here. How does your city sound compared to the others?
Image credit: Robert Delaney
Why is American English so different from British English? Besides the use different vocabulary, there are specific sound differences in the accent. While there are many different accents in both countries, if we compare what is considered “standard American” with British RP (Received Pronunciation, or the British English you hear on the BBC), one of the major differences is in the pronunciation of the consonant “r.” British English leaves out the “r” sound in the middle and ends of words (“bird” sounds more like “buhd”) while the American English word includes the “r”. For a little more about the difference and when it may have started, read Matt Soniak’s article on MentalFloss.
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