What makes PRONOUNCING AMERICAN ENGLISH unique?
- Most self-study accent reduction programs are too comprehensive. PRONOUNCING AMERICAN ENGLISH understands that you may not need to practice all of the sounds of English. It is designed to focus only on the sounds that are typically mispronounced by speakers of your primary language. This means that your practice time is streamlined and relevant.
- PRONOUNCING AMERICAN ENGLISH provides the necessary help and training required to establish adequate pronunciation skills. In most cases, the emphasis is on learning the vocabulary and grammatical forms, often with reading and speaking being taught at the same time. The result is that most people learn the vocabulary and grammar of English but still remain poorly prepared to speak and be understood in their newly acquired language.
- PRONOUNCING AMERICAN ENGLISH begins where conventional English programs end. This program, based on over 20 years of linguistic research and teaching, has been designed specifically to aid people with foreign accents to improve their spoken English. While the program is intended primarily for individuals who already have a basic command of English, the materials can be incorporated into almost any level ESL course to provide specialized pronunciation practice.
- PRONOUNCING AMERICAN ENGLISH is a practical teaching program developed to help you quickly improve your spoken English and minimize your accent. It is designed to teach you which areas of your speech are important to change and some ways to make these changes. The program includes an online manual along with a complete set of practice lessons tailored especially for your native language background.
- PRONOUNCING AMERICAN ENGLISH has been constructed for use as a self-study program by individuals who desire to improve their English speaking skills. However, it can also be used as a stand-alone program by speech pathologists, English teachers, and other language specialists working with foreign students on English pronunciation.
This online program is divided into three primary parts:
Lessons – The core program of speech exercises selected specifically for speakers of your native language.
Phonetic Reference – A listing of the phonetic symbols for all of the sounds of English, along with recordings of sample words illustrating the sounds represented by the symbols.
Instructions – A pop-up window displaying program chapters and helpful pronunciation tips to accompany each exercise.
There are 23 lessons that form the primary “core” of the Pronouncing American English program. The particular lessons selected follows a systematic order designed to take advantage of the Principle of Linguistic Generalization.
How often should you practice?
As with all skill development, tennis, piano, golf, or speaking, the more you practice, the greater the progress. A very reasonable goal for this program would be a minimum 1/2 hr per day, covering 2 lessons per week, with the option of moving faster if you find some of the lessons are very easy. That would make the course about 10 weeks long, keeping in mind that repetition is an important factor in creating new habit patterns.
The fundamental premise underlying the value of your practice is based upon two facts:
- The act of normal speaking requires a connection between “what the mouth does and what the ear hears.” In other words, the ears are the “steering wheel” of speaking.” Lose your hearing, lose your speech!
- The mechanical act of speaking is “habit governed behavior.” It is not possible to be aware of the hundreds of physiological/mechanical movements of the mouth required to produce even a single sentence. Thus, changing the way we speak (reducing your accent) requires changing the habits underlying the way one speaks.
How are habits acquired or changed? Like all skill acquisitions, there is only one way. Practice, but not just any practice. The practice must be appropriate to the skill being learned.
STEP 1: Since the ear guides the mouth, it is essential that your practice facilitate your ability to learn to “hear” those features that characterize English speech. Most likely you are now hearing English with your native language speaking ears. Most of the practice for this program involves:
a) listening to the various practice materials (words, phrases, sentences, etc.),
b) then recording your attempt to repeat exactly what you hear, and
c) comparing your recording with that of the native speakers’ production in the practice exercise.
The maximum benefit of this 3-step model (listen, repeat, compare) occurs only when you avoid reading the printed scripts while you are attempting to match what you hear. Reading the scripts during practice is an unnecessary “crutch” that will only serve to detract from developing your listening skills. Moreover, English is, perhaps, the most unphonetic of all languages, with approximately half of the words pronounced differently than the way they look. Since many speaking errors of foreign individuals arise from inappropriate associations between spelling and pronunciation, it is best to avoid reading when practicing the exercises. This is easily accomplished by simply clicking on the “hide” button to cover up the text while you are practicing.
STEP 2: The practice exercises in this program are customized to target the primary areas of accented speech specific to your native language. As you practice, you will begin training your ears to better “steer your mouth to stay on the road to English.” Each time you practice, you will be adding another tiny increment to this habit building process. As you continue practicing, your new speaking habits will become stronger and stronger and gradually become more and more automatic/habituated, without your conscious awareness.
As with all skill development, tennis, piano, golf, or speaking, the more you practice, the greater the progress. A very reasonable goal for this program would be one hour per day for 3 to 4 months, in which case you could expect about a 50% to 60% reduction of your accent. It may be easier to practice a couple of times a day for about 30 minute sessions, rather than concentrating your practice into one long session. This will allow more flexibility in scheduling your practice times.
Regardless of when you decide to practice, however, it is essential to establish a realistic and regular practice routine from the very beginning. For example, telling yourself you are going to practice every day is a good intention, Setting aside a specific time, i.e., 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM each day is a commitment.
The way you practice is also just as important as the amount of time you practice, so you should study this section very closely and continue to refer to it, until you have perfected your practice techniques. Each of the three types of practice exercises serve different purposes and, thus, require different methods of practice, which we shall take up in detail.