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How to Improve Your English Pronunciation

Tu Pei
Beijing Foreign Studies University

Five Questions
1 2 3 4 5 What is good English pronunciation? Why is good pronunciation so important? What impede or enhance the acquisition of a reasonable pronunciation? What are the priorities for Chinese learners? What are the tips on good English pronunciation?

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What is good English pronunciation?

A lofty goal sound like native speakers A modest, realistic goal to develop a clear, understandable pronunciation with appropriate intonation and stress

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Why is good pronunciation so important? Intelligibility is the most sensible goal. Intelligibility is being understood by a listener in a given situation Poor, unintelligible speech will make your attempts at conversing frustrating and unpleasant both for yourself and for your listeners.

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What impede or enhance the acquisition of a reasonable pronunciation? 1. The learner’s native language 2. The learner’s age 3. The learner’s exposure 4. The learner’s innate phonetic ability 5. The learner’s attitude and motivation. 6. The learner’s speech habit.

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What are the priorities for Chinese learners? Priority aspects for Chinese learners weak forms

stress
rhythm intonation

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.1 Be aware of the major differences between Chinese and English pronunciations 5.2—5.8 Be aware of the special features of English that are most difficult for the Chinese learners

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.1 Chinese is a tone language while English is a highly stressed language. Apart from the vowel qualities and consonant qualities, stresses play a very important role in conveying the meaning of a sentence in English. Example: The girl gave the money to her father.

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.2 Word Stress Example: coming report remember letter myself explosion beautiful forget modernization

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.3 Sentence stress

In a normal English sentence certain words are stressed and certain words are unstressed. Normally stressed are content words. Normally unstressed are form words.

Examples:

1. Janet has gone to the Baker’s. 2. I saw your brother yesterday. 3. Would you like a glass of beer? 4. I must be going. My wife’s waiting for me at the corner of the street.

Rhythm Stress gives a natural rhythm to spoken English.

Rhythm
The rhythm of spoken English is determined by the occurrence of stressed syllables. Stressed syllables occur at more or less equal intervals in English. The other syllables in a sentence are reduced or blended to accommodate the regular beat of the stressed syllables.

1.As a general rule English tries to avoid having stresses too close together. 2. English stresses tend to recur at regular intervals.

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.4 Stress patterns Example:
1. Sing a song. 2. I’d love to. 3. I’ve heard of it. 4. I want to know. 5. She asked me to go. 6. I think it will be fine.

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.5 Stress timed language Example: Go Going Going back home home home

Going straight back home

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.6 Weak forms Example: A cup of tea A glass of water A block of flats The book that I want Bread and butter John’s at home. I can speak English. I’d like some potatoes. I’ve been to France. We were leaving the house.

Weak Forms
The weak form or forms of a word are used only in unstressed positions. The weak forms of the words are of much more frequent occurrence than their strong forms.

The average foreigner uses far too many strong forms; it is impossible to speak English fluently unless the phenomenon of weak forms is properly understood and their use acquired, preferably from the earliest stage.

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.7 Intonation Function 1: It indicates grammatical meaning, in much the same way as punctuation does in the written language. 1. He lives in London. 3. He lives in London. Where? 2. He lives in London. 4. He lives in London. Where? Function 2: It can also indicate the speaker’s attitude. 1. Really? 2. What’s your name?

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What are the tips on good English pronunciation? 5.8 Four basic tune movements Fall Rise Fall-rise Rise-fall Example: 1.His name is Peter. (a straightforward statement) 2.His name is Peter. (a polite question) 3.His name is Peter. (I don’t believe you.) 4.His name is Peter. (to convey certainty)

Speech-flow
Stress,rhythm and intonation should really be considered as a whole, for they are very closely connected elements of a single aspect of the language that we might call Speech-flow.

Speech-flow Broadly speaking, a reasonably correct speechflow is more important for intelligibility than correct sounds.

My last but best tip Practice, practice and practice Practice 1: Rain The rain is raining all around, It falls in field and tree. It rains on the umbrellas here, And on the ships at sea.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

My last but best tip Practice, practice and practice
Practice 2: Bed in Summer In winter I get up at night, And dress by yellow candle-light. In summer quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day. I have to go to bed and see, The birds still hopping on the tree, Or hear the grown-up people’s feet, Still going past me in the street. And does it not seem hard to you, When all the sky is clear and blue, And I should like so much to play, To have to go to bed by day? --Robert Louis Stevenson

My last but best tip Practice, practice and practice
Practice 2: Bed in Summer In winter I get up at night, And dress by yellow candle-light. In summer quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day. I have to go to bed and see, The birds still hopping on the tree, Or hear the grown-up people’s feet, Still going past me in the street. And does it not seem hard to you, When all the sky is clear and blue, And I should like so much to play, To have to go to bed by day? --Robert Louis Stevenson

Practice 3: Learning a foreign language was one of the most difficult yet most rewarding experiences of my life. Although at times, learning a language was frustrating, it was well worth the effect. My experience with a foreign language began in junior middle school, when I took my first English class. I had a kind and patient teacher who often praised all of the students. Because of this positive method, I eagerly answered all the questions I could, never worrying much about making mistakes. I was at the top of my class for two years.

Review

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What is good English pronunciation? Why is good pronunciation so important? What impede or enhance the acquisition of a reasonable pronunciation? What are the priorities for Chinese learners? What are the tips on good English pronunciation?

Thank you!