Here's some help pronouncing these two business and love words.
|Speech Modification American Accent Training|
It's commonly advised "don't mix business with pleasure," which generally means it's not a good idea to date a co-worker. But there are a few words we use for business that also go along with the theme of love. For example, a proposal can be an offer of marriage or a business proposition presented for others to consider. Engagement can mean customers connecting and interacting with a product or website, or the period of time before a marriage takes place where the couple has agreed to marry.
Here's some help pronouncing these two business and love words.
In some cases, the same word can be a noun or a verb. We pronounce it differently depending on which way we are using it. A rule that applies to some of these words is that the stress falls on the first syllable when it is a noun, such as in the word produce: The produce is fresh at that store. The stress falls on the second syllable with the word is used as a verb: They produce microchips in Silicon Valley. Because the stress pattern is different, the vowel will also sometimes change. We use a vowel schwa (sounds like "uh" as in "cup") to mark an unstressed syllable. Listen to the example below:
Notice how in the first sentence, produce sounds like pro-dooce, but in the second sentence, it sounds like pruh-dooce. We call this vowel clarity - the stressed syllable retains its vowel, whereas the unstressed syllable is reduced to a schwa vowel. In addition, notice how the first syllable in the noun is much longer than in the verb. We use a longer vowel on a stressed syllable than an unstressed syllable. Try some of these phrases, making sure to use a long, clear vowel on the stressed syllable.
When in doubt, it's a good idea to check the pronunciation using an online dictionary.
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When working on speaking English correctly, we often focus on correctly pronouncing all of the sounds in words. Mispronounced sounds can make your speech difficult to understand. It's important to understand which sounds in your speech contribute to your accent. (To learn more, try a free screening or sign up for an assessment of your speech.) When you want to sound more natural when speaking English, however, it is helpful to know that in flowing speech, native speakers leave out or reduce some of the sounds. Pronouncing everything can make you sound unnatural. Just like linking, where sounds run together, reducing is a way that speech flows more easily. Here are some examples:
to becomes t': today = t'day, tomorrow = t'morrow, to go = t'go
We run the word "to" into the following word or syllable, dropping the vowel oo. Listen to the examples below.
the jumps on to the next word: the store = th'store, the matter = th'matter, the weather - th'weather
We shorten the word the and run it onto the following word when the word after "the" is stressed. We use vowel schwa on this word in most contexts, not vowel ee (the = thuh, not thee). You can hear this in the recording below.
are loses its vowel sound, or sounds more like er: what are = what'r, who are = who'er, those are = those'r
We reduce the word are and tack it on to the previous word in some cases. It sounds more like a short vowel er. Listen to the recording below.
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Correct: Let's eat// honey!
Incorrect: Let's eat honey!
Correct: I find inspiration in cooking// my family// and my dog.
Incorrect: I find inspiration// in cooking my family// and my dog.
Correct: Thank you for this opportunity. I really value your input. Can you suggest// anything else// I can do to prepare?
Incorrect: Thank you for// this opportunity I really value// your input can// you suggest anything// else I can// do to prepare?
Much of our focus when changing our speech is on pronunciation, or how we say the sounds in words. This is important for being understood, but it is not the only element of an accent. It might not even be the most important element when trying to make yourself understood in English. The musical patterns of our speech, or intonation, might just be more important than how we say the words. Intonation is complex and conveys meaning. There are some rules and distinct American patterns.
For an entertaining look at how much we use intonation to convey meaning, check out this video. If you can't understand quite what they are saying, it's probably because they aren't actually speaking English. But despite this, you can almost get the message.
Your native language background will affect your American English in terms of pronunciation, intonation, grammar and vocabulary. Whether you first spoke Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu, Bengali, Tamil, Punjabi or another language, what you heard and learned first shapes your phonological development (your sound system for listening and speaking). Indian English is a dialect of English and it might have been the first English you heard and spoke. The patterns of Indian English will also affect your American English pronunciation and intonation.
Here are some things you might expect if you are a speaker of Indian English:
Pronunciation: You may have difficulty with the w and v sounds. Your "th" sounds may sound like t or d. You may have trouble with the sounds at the ends of words, especially b, d, g, ng, and z. Your r sounds might be rolled at the beginnings of words and might sound like "uh" in the middle and at the ends of words. You might use pure vowels "ah, o, oo, ay and ee" and have trouble with American short vowels and diphthongs (gliding from one vowel to another).
Intonation: While you are likely able to understand American Intonation and how different patterns change the meaning of a sentence, you might speak with intonation that is difficult for the American listener to understand. This could include stressing the incorrect word in a sentence or syllable in a word.
Rate: You might feel that speaking quickly is a more American style, or that you will be perceived as more intelligent if you speak faster. In reality, speaking too quickly can lead to more pronunciation and intonation errors. More important than a fast rate is using appropriate suprasegmentals, such as linking, blending and liaisons between words.
Understanding what your accent is comprised of is the first step in making changes to increase how well you are understood when speaking American English. Take a free screening for information about your accent here.
Not only does signing your favorite American song help you make subtle changes in your American Accent (see this post for details), but you might do well with remembering new words by singing them. We all have pop songs, advertising jingles and tv theme songs from our childhood taking up valuable memory space in our brains, but perhaps we can harness our ability to remember words set to music to our own advantage. Researchers in Scotland set up an experiment which involved teaching groups of people words in Hungarian. Those who were taught using a method of signing the words had the best results when asked to remember them later. You can read more details here.
When you come across a new word you'd like to remember or a word for which you need to change your pronunciation, if you can find a song with the correct rhythm, you can sing the word to store it for later. For example, let's say you need to learn the stress pattern for the word technology. This word has the stress on the second syllable, technology. Take the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and change the words to "Now I sing technology, now I sing technology." Tying the correct word stress and pronunciation to a tune might help build pathways in your brain to correctly pronouncing this word in running speech. And it might also be fun.
In a recent study at Charles University in Prague, researchers examined how accents can affect listener perception. Among their findings was the fact that when intonation differs from standard, such as shorter or longer vowels on stressed words, listeners rate speakers as more "nervous-sounding." Even if you are confident during your presentation, interview, or conversation at work, your listeners might think you are nervous based on hearing your accent. Learning to use American intonation, specifically stress patterns and correct vowel length, will help you come across as the knowledgeable and confident speaker you are.
Read an interview with the researcher Jan Volín here.
Chances are, if you are not a native speaker of English, you have some words you are uncertain about pronouncing. You might even avoid using them, even though you know what they mean, because you don’t want to say them incorrectly. One excellent resource for checking your pronunciation is using online dictionaries. They have the advantage of recordings to play back, to hear a native speaker say the word. This is preferable to a digitized recording (computer generated), because the stress and intonation will be natural sounding and correct.
If you are also working on acquiring new vocabulary, you may like the simplified definitions and examples you will find in Merriam Webster’s Learner's Dictionary. When trying new words, record yourself and compare your pronunciation to what you hear on the website. You may notice differences in the recording that you cannot hear when you are speaking.
Did you know? Many native speakers of American English mispronounce the word "probably." You might have learned an incorrect pronunciation from people around you. Check out the correct pronunciation here.
TV and movies teach us a lot when learning a new language. But did you know, not only can listening to native speakers on TV and in films help your American Accent, but using subtitles in English can also boost your pronunciation? A recent study shows that by following along with written text in the language that is being spoken, your brain absorbs more of the patterning required for correct pronunciation. Finally, a fun and easy way to improve your accent while you relax and enjoy the show!
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Ever have an American tell you they “just can’t understand the Indian Accent”? You are not alone. Despite having excellent English language skills, many speakers of Indian English experience difficulty with American listeners, especially over the phone or when speaking with people with little or no foreign language experience.
Here are a few tips to make your speech more easily understood by Americans.
Watch the consonants “t” and “d.”
Indian speakers of English have what we call a “retroflex” pronunciation of these consonants, meaning they use a different part of their tongue in a different location in their mouth than American English speakers. Try using the tip of your tongue on the bumpy ridge behind your front teeth for a more American sounding “t.” Americans also aspirate the "t" at the beginning of a word, meaning they allow the air to escape. Indian English speakers often hold in the air, making the "t" sound more like American “d.”
Be careful not to interchange “w” and “v.”
Words with the “v” sound at the start of the word or syllable are frequently mis-pronounced as “w.” Practice common words such as very, even, over using your top teeth against your bottom lip to produce American “v.”
Words with “w” sometime sound more like a “v” in an Indian accent. Practice common words such as what, when, where, why, we, were, was, with by rounding your lips and not allowing them to touch your teeth to make the American “w.”
Stick out your tongue when saying “th.”
This may seem awkward at first, but “th” in American English is pronounced by putting the tongue between the teeth. Indian English speakers often make a sound which sounds more like a “d” or "t" to American listeners. The sound “th” is one of the most frequently produced sounds, as it is in extremely commonly used words such as the, this, then, with, other, that, they, through, them, these, there, three, thing. In fact, 20 of the 250 most frequently used words in English have “th,” making it a very noticeable error when mispronounced. Learn how to pronounce American TH here.
Learn American Intonation
American English uses a pattern of rising in pitch to the important word, and then falling off at the end of the phrase. A typical Indian accent will have more of a rising and falling within the phrase or even within the syllables of the word. This makes the speech sound odd and disconnected to the American listener. They may interpret the meaning of the words differently based on intonation. For example, a rising pitch on the last word or syllable of the sentence can make it sound like a question to an American listener. Listen to some examples and read more here.
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