Archive for the ‘Pronunciation’ Category

Talk the Talk

Posted on August 17th, 2013by Melanie
In Pronunciation, Speech, Words | Leave a Comment »

Talk the talkThe art of a good conversation is knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it. That’s not always easy as people often mean one thing but say another, try to discuss subjects they´re not fully clued up about, blurt things out in a tactless manner, speak too quickly for others to understand or go off at tangents. All of these things can lead to confusion, disgruntled feelings and mixed messages, which makes having a good conversation in a foreign language even more challenging!

Trying to find the right words and expressions in your own language can be hard enough, but scratching around in a foreign vocabulary to make yourself understood in the way you intended to be is even harder. Confidence is the key; that mixed with a bit of patience and persistence. Be confident that you are speaking the right words in the right way and you´ll carry your conversation off without anyone realising that it involved a little guesswork or that you were unsure of yourself. Don´t worry about the thought of being ridiculed if you get something wrong; on the contrary, people will admire you more for trying. And don´t give up if you can´t think of how to say something straight away, just take some time until it becomes clear in your mind and you´ll find that, after that, the words will flow easily so that you can carry on with the conversation.

No matter what level of lingual ability you´re at, everyone has the same angst when learning and speaking a new language, so be persistent with your studies and be brave at your approach, and you´ll soon find that you´re enjoying a very good conversation!

Leave Learning Disabilities Behind and Become Fluent in a Foreign Language

Posted on May 12th, 2013by Melanie
In French, Pronunciation, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Learning difficultiesStudents with learning disabilities might be dismissed as being unable to learn foreign languages, but this is simply not the case. Many people with learning disabilities have trouble isolating the sounds of words and distinguishing between vowels. They may mispronounce words that have a similar sound. Learning a new language will emphasize these issues but it doesn´t mean that it will prohibit the learning of a second language. Studies have shown, in people suffering from dyslexia, that those with less phonemic awareness in their own language may find it harder to learn a foreign language whereas those with a better phonemic awareness will be able to converse in a foreign language more easily and may find the writing and grammar aspect harder. Or, conversely, the reading and writing component may not present any difficulties but it may be harder to speak it. By using a systematic approach to learning that involves a multisensory structure, students with learning disorders can overcome any inhibiting factors and have the ability to learn foreign languages. People with dyslexia can be particularly good conversationally, so more vocal orientated lessons in foreign languages are recommended.

As the need for a knowledge of foreign languages is on the rise, it´s no longer necessary for people with learning disorders to be made to miss out on these linguistic opportunities. As awareness of learning difficulties has increased and new teaching methods have evolved to cater for these needs, there´s nothing to stop students from learning the new language they desire. So, if you have a learning disability and have always felt that you´ve been held back by being told you can´t learn a new language, then think again! With courses that are specifically tailor-made to your needs, you can learn French in Leeds and show that you have what it takes to learn a foreign language.

Asian name pronunciation guide

Posted on September 15th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Pronunciation | Leave a Comment »

We live in a multi-cultural society, so in our everyday lives, it’s likely we’ll encounter someone with an unfamiliar name.

If you work in higher education, it’s likely that you’ll meet international students all day long. So you might become familiar with how to pronounce certain names… but what about others?

California State Polytechnic University in America has produced a handy website if you’re not sure about pronunciation of Asian names. It also links to resources for help with names from around the world. Each page is linked to a particular language and has helpful hints as well as phonetic pronunciations of particular common names. You can also search the site for something specific.

Have you tried the website? It seem that it hasn’t been updated for a while – what do you think?

Expressive dictionary

Posted on August 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Pronunciation, Words, Writing | Leave a Comment »

One of the things I love about the English language is that it’s so expressive. By changing your tone you can make words sound very different.

But how can you do this when you’re writing the words rather than speaking them? The Sound-Word Index is here to help!

Two Royal College of Art graduates came up with the idea, and the site is now a handy reference for those trying to interpret digital meaning. An example:

/!!!!!/ It can mean: Shock or really enthusiastic. For example: ‘I have a new boyfriend!!!!!’

You can submit your own words through the website.

Pronouncing street names in Denmark

Posted on July 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Pronunciation | Leave a Comment »

I’ve not yet had the chance to visit Denmark, but apparently their street names are notoriously difficult to pronounce.

A lovely installation in Copenhagen aims to help out tourists with this problem. WTPh? (What the Phonics) has added speakers to street signs, with a recording of the street name playing. When participants lift the speaker off the wall, the recording starts playing the street name – first broken down into syllables and then spoken in full. The names are spoken by a Danish person, so you can be sure they are correct!

Take a look at the project video to see how it works.

How far would you go to be perfect in your target language?

Posted on August 22nd, 2011by Michelle
In Korean, Pronunciation | Leave a Comment »

Most people feel that putting some effort into learning a new language is enough. The time spent attending class, doing homework, listening to podcasts and practicing speaking is sufficient for busy people with a lot of commitments.

Not so for one British teenager. Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones has undergone surgery on her tongue to achieve better Korean pronunciation. Apparently she had a condition called “ankyloglossia”, which made her “tongue-tied” and unable to produce certain sounds.

The condition, in which the frenulum(the bit that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is too short and/or too thick, sometimes resolves itself in early childhood, but this was not the case for Rhiannon. She has such a passion for Korean culture and language that her aim is to live there after graduation. She told the Daily Mail:

‘I’d been learning Korean for about two years, and my speaking level is now high, but I was really struggling with particular sounds.

‘It became apparent after a little while that I was having trouble with the Korean letter ‘L’, which is very frequent and comes from a slightly higher place in the mouth than the English ‘L’, and that my tongue was too short.

‘My pronunciation was very ‘foreign’, but now I can speak with a native Korean accent. The surgical procedure was my only option. It’s not like you can stretch your tongue otherwise. I just decided enough was enough.

‘For me it was an important thing, because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and if I can’t do it perfectly, it really irritates me.

‘Some might say it’s extreme, but you could apply the same argument to plastic surgery.

‘That makes people feel more confident looks-wise, and this made me feel more confident language-wise. For me, it was like having a tooth pulled.’ (Source: Daily Mail)

Would you go this far to achieve perfection in your target language?

Can a pencil improve your speaking skills?

Posted on April 15th, 2011by Michelle
In Hints and Tips, Pronunciation | Leave a Comment »

In my last Spanish class before the Easter break, my teacher made us do something rather odd. We were practicing saying new words and sentences aloud, and she was not happy with our pronunciation. So we were told to put our pens or pencils in our mouths.

Our teacher explained that having a pen in our mouths would make us focus on what we were saying and enable improved pronunciation. She seemed to think it was a well-established technique for improving speech, but I’ve done a quick search and can’t find any research to back this up.

Personally, I found this unhelpful as I was more focussed on the pen not falling out of my mouth than what I was saying! Has anyone else heard of this technique or had success using it?

English in 24 accents

Posted on October 6th, 2010by Michelle
In dialects, English, Pronunciation | Leave a Comment »

Language learners often aspire to native-like fluency in their target language. Some even hope to achieve an accent that makes them sound like a local.

Perhaps learners can take some tips from this British kid – who can speak English in 24 different accents, ranging from Cockney to German to Nigerian. Whilst he doesn’t quite hit the mark with all of them, it’s definitely an impressive achievement.


Posted on April 17th, 2010by Michelle
In Icelandic, Pronunciation, Words | 1 Comment »

VolcanoThe title of this post is not a bunch of random letters strung together. It is currently the source of many people’s woes (or extra holiday days, depending on how you look at it).

So it may be best to find out how to pronounce Eyjafjallajoekull, rather than just referring to it as “that volcano in Iceland” (or, perhaps more accurately “that glacier with the volcano erupting underneath…. in Iceland”). You may also impress your friends with the knowledge. Here’s the BBC’s guide:

Eyjafjallajökull (or Eyafallajökull) is pronounced AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl (-uh) , that is -ay as in day, -fy as in few, -oe as in French coeur, -uu as in boot, the -tl as in atlas. The (-uh) is “a” as in ago.

Nope, still can’t say it.

Also worth knowing: Eyjafjallajoekull is Icelandic for “Eyja-fjalla glacier” or “island-mountain glacier”.

Food pronunciation

Posted on March 12th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Pronunciation, Words | Leave a Comment »

PhoA fun article from the Chicago Tribune, listing the top ten mispronounced foodie words. Their list:

1. Bruschetta (broo-SKEH-tah)
2. Gnocchi (NYOH-kee)
3. Gyro (YEER-oh)
4. Huitlacoche (wheet-lah-KOH-chay)
5. Pouilly-Fuisse (poo-yee fwee-SAY)
6. Mole (MOH-lay)
7. Paczki (POONCH-key)
8. Phở (fuh)
9. Prosciutto (proh-SHOO-toe)
10. Sake (SAH-kay)

A number of years ago I worked for a cinema chain and the most common food mispronunciation I heard was ‘jalapeno’ – said as it is written rather than the correct ‘ha-la-pen-yo’. Personally, I’ve struggled with phở, the Vietnamese soup, which is said something like ‘fur/fuh’. And also ‘crepes’ – ‘creps’ rather than ‘craypes’.

This mispronunciation usually stems from unfamiliarity with the word. It’s better to mispronounce it and get to taste the food than be too scared of getting it wrong and miss out on the experience though!

What food names are you unsure of? Have you ever been corrected on your food pronunciation?