Helping a Japanese student with her pronunciation

<b>Forum for ideas on how to teach pronunciation </b>

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Dritzen
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Helping a Japanese student with her pronunciation

Post by Dritzen » Sat Jul 12, 2003 2:32 am

I'm a 4th year linguistics student (applied ling with heavy emphasis on teaching English as a second language). I've got a Japanese friend who has been living in Canada for over 2 years and hasn't improved much as far as her pronunciation goes.

I'm looking for basic excersizes and things she can do to improve. I've sat down with her, going over sounds in English, showing her the tongue positions for vowels and such. I've also tried going over phrases that use similar sounds. "Bill bit the bat", etc.

Any suggestions? How do you teach pronunciation?

dduck
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Post by dduck » Sun Jul 27, 2003 5:51 pm

I hoped others would reply to this - 'cos I want to learn.

As a 4th-year linguistics student, you know MUCH more about this than me, and probably the average TEFL teacher who's only done a four-week course. (Is this the average?)

I'm a newbie at this, and have only recently started using poetry with my elementary class. I am a fan of childrens' poetry, because some of it's quite stupid/silly - this appeals to my sense of humor. Humor in a class can go a long way.

Poetry is also useful for sentence stress, which the students can have a lot of fun with. I believe it's part of our human nature to enjoy "chanting". Songs are also good. But the key point is practise. They student(s) have to have fun when they do it because you want them to leave the class and put in extra hours in their own time. So you have to select material that they really enjoy. Practice sentenses can be really dull, if this is the case they have little value.

Iain

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Lorikeet
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Post by Lorikeet » Mon Jul 28, 2003 5:26 pm

It's been interesting to read all the recent posts about pronunciation. I have to teach a pronunciation class this coming semester, and I'm still mulling over different approaches. I taught a similar class about ten years ago, and at that time I used minimal pairs in a variety of ways, lots of jazz chants (many focused on certain sounds), and an emphasis on American English style reductions liaisons, and stress (I'm teaching adult immigrants to the U.S.)

Teaching pronunciation is different than teaching other skills in my opinion. The students' success partly depends on their motivation and interest in the course. While I have had a few students improve dramatically and tell me in glowing words about how much they learned and what a difference my class made, the truth is that the majority are not really interested in putting in the time and effort that is required if one wants to improve one's pronunciation.

My personal view is that it is not important to be able to speak like a native speaker, but it is important to be understood. If students can at least understand the areas in which they have trouble, then if someone doesn't understand them, there is a chance they can self-correct and be understood.

I tell my students it's up to them if they want to improve their pronunciation. If they are interested in correcting some of their pronunciation errors, I suggest they concentrate on one sound at a time. I tell them they have to learn how to listen to themselves and self-correct. As the teacher, I can help them understand how to make sounds and why some sounds are confused with other sounds, but I tell them I can't follow them around all day. I also tell them one of my memories of college is walking across the campus in winter, looking around to see if anyone was near, and practicing saying "brauchen" over and over to get the German r (I finally got it :wink: .)

Anyway, I have a Master's in Linguistics (from eons ago) and I find the information I learned then has been very helpful in understanding the relationship between certain sounds in English, and why students from different language backgrounds make certain kinds of errors.

dduck
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Post by dduck » Mon Jul 28, 2003 7:53 pm

Lorikeet wrote:I also tell them one of my memories of college is walking across the campus in winter, looking around to see if anyone was near, and practicing saying "brauchen" over and over to get the German r (I finally got it :wink: .)
I get funny looks in Mexico all the time. :wink: When I'm watching Mexican TV I sometimes like to mimic the voice-over, exaggerating of the Mexican accent for effect :) It's probably useful for the students too!

Iain

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Post by EH » Mon Jul 28, 2003 10:48 pm

Hi Dritzen,

There's already a lot of good advice on this thread, but I wanted to add my two cents. One thing to keep in mind when working with pronunciation is that changing the sounds in one's speech is an incredibly complicated undertaking. Knowing that, how can we simplify it? Try starting from the smallest units, the individual speech sounds themselves, and then very gradually working up to syllables, words, phrases, sentences, and eventually spontaneous speech.

At the sound level, talk about tongue/articulator placement. Take turns producing similar sounds (/r/ vs. /l/, for example), and pointing to the letter that represents the sound the listener heard. Check to make sure what the speaker was trying to say really was that sound.

At the syllable level, add vowels to the sound (or add consonants to it, if it the target's a vowel sound). Syllables that are real/meaningful are usually most motivating (Lee, re:, rye, lie, etc.). Nonsense words are okay, too. Make up all kinds of different syllables. Remember that sounds will sound a little different depending on the other sounds around them, so make up lots of different contexts to try out the new sound in.

At the word level, add multisyllable words. Still take it word by word.

At the phrase level, practice 2-5 word combos. Also try carrier phrases (e.g. for /l/, "I like _____.")

At the sentence level, try longer phrases and complete sentences. You can then introduce tongue twisters, jazz chants, short drama skits, etc. Work on speed, accuracy, and 'naturalness.'

Finally, work on the sound in spontaneous conversation.

The point is to take it level by level, and not expect a beginning student to suddenly use the sound clearly in conversations after one session of work. So if a student is not at the spontaneous conversation level, don't correct them for incorrect sounds at that level. Just let those errors slide until the student is accurate enough to internalize that sort of correction.

How do you know when to move on to the next level? Measure the student's accuracy. If the student can produce the sound correctly at that level 8 out of 10 times, and can sustain that level of accuracy, then it's time to move up a level. You're the teacher, so you decide what 'accurate' means. Some teachers want students to imitate the teacher's accent perfectly. Others just want a sound that's mostly-kinda-sorta understandable. Ask your student's opinion, and then decide where on the spectrum your own standard will fall. (Keep in mind that 'standard' pronunciation is a hypothetical construct, that 'normal' is a range rather than a single point, and that no two people ever pronounce sounds in precisely the same way.)

If a student stays on one level for more than a few sessions, and seems to be getting frustrated, then either take it down a level or cycle onto a different sound for a while. Often, learning one new sound makes learning other new sounds easier, so when you go back to the original sound it may come more naturally.

You can also break up the routine a little by doing general sound awareness activities. Rhyming is excellent for this. Other ideas include counting syllables in words, counting words in sentences, identifying initial or final sounds of words, adding sounds to words (Say "lie." Now say it with an extra /f/ at the beginning --> "fly."), deleting sounds, switching the order of sounds, etc.

Hm. This ended up being longer than I intended it to be. Sorry about the long windedness. Hope this is helpful.

-EH

sethness1
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hints for Japanese students' pronunciation

Post by sethness1 » Wed Oct 29, 2003 4:19 pm

Japanese students learned words in highschool, on a word-by-word basis. Each word is pronounced the same as the dictionary version.

In real native North American speech, however, there are several differences from that bookish English. Here are some major differences:

1)
R should sound like U. <i>"Iki wo tomenaide."</i> It shouldn't sound like L or D.
The difference between R and U is, R is pronounced with your teeth clenched.
So, the words Fresh and Friend, RE should sound like the Japanese word UE (meaning UP).
In the word FROM, RO should sound like UO (the Japanese word for fish).

2)
<i> R no mae no boin ha, A ja nai nara, hatsuon shinai.</i> A vowel that appears before an R is not pronounced, unless the vowel is an A.
So, CAR sounds like CAR, but Narrator sounds like Narratrrrr and Personal Computer sounds like Prrrsonal Computrrrrr.

3)
T and Y become CH. So, "What you want" is pronounced "whatchya want".

4)
Final consonants are silent or become mere breath-stops. So, AROUND AND OF ABOUT WALKING become AROUN' AN' O' ABOU'. WALKIN'.

Could have, would have, should have = coulda woulda shoulda.

5) Initial vowels disappear. So, AROUND AND ABOUT become 'ROUN', 'N", 'BOU'.

6) In Japanese, all syllables are pronounced exactly as they're written. However, unimportant words are simply unsaid. In English, some words are simply unimportant, but are said anyway. If the word wouldn't be said in a Japanese sentence, then the word will be pronounced in a muffled way in English.

In a muffled word, the vowel becomes a brief SCHWA SOUND and T's become D's or disappear entirely.

Similarly, only the stressed syllable of a word is pronounced clearly. The other syllables disappear or are muffled.

So, "I'm a Canadian" is actually pronounced "@m @ [email protected]@[email protected]"
Twenty Thirty Forty sounds more like Twenny, Thirdy, Fordy.
I and MY become A and MA, unless they're of particular importance in the sentence.

7) Similar sounds connect. Therefore,
going to = gonna / Got to = gotta / That's a = thassa / What is a = whassa

8) YOU is shortened to y' yi' or ya :
Y'all = you all / y'comin' = are you coming ? / Didja = did you

9) O sounds are pronounced like a romaji A, and sometimes vice-versa:
Office Copier = Affis CApier
Walk = Wok
Not = nat
Hot = Hat

10) True A sounds are somewhere between a Romaji A and a Romaji E:
Apple / Hat / and

11) central syllables are sometimes unpronounced:
Interesting = intrestin'
Passionately = passh'netly

12) The first word of a sentence, if it's predictable, is unpronounced.
This is particularly true for "IS / Are / DO" in questions, and for pronouns.
"Do you have a girlfriend" = "(you) Have a girlfriend ?"
"Is she old ?" = "She old ?"
"Are you coming "" = "(You) comin' ?"
"I'm Canadian" = " 'M canadian."
"HOw about you ?" = "You ?"
-----------
These keys should be an interesting introduction to REAL native Canadian/American pronunciation. Let me know if it helps.

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Lorikeet
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Re: hints for Japanese students' pronunciation

Post by Lorikeet » Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:13 pm

sethness1 wrote:
2)
<i> R no mae no boin ha, A ja nai nara, hatsuon shinai.</i> A vowel that appears before an R is not pronounced, unless the vowel is an A.
So, CAR sounds like CAR, but Narrator sounds like Narratrrrr and Personal Computer sounds like Prrrsonal Computrrrrr.
I didn't quite understand Number 1, so I thought I'd start with Number 2. Part of the problem in explaining things is our inability to use IPA. I presume that "rrrr" represents the sound often written in dictionaries by schwa + r. It is true that there are many of these "rrrr" sounds spelled in different ways, for example: fur, heard, teacher, fir, doctor.

I understand what you mean when you say that "ar" as in "car" is pronounced differently. However, it isn't the only one. What about the vowel + r sound in these words?: fort, bear, beer, tour,
3)
T and Y become CH. So, "What you want" is pronounced "whatchya want".
I agree with the point that a final t sound and a beginning y sound make a ch sound. But I would use the following for examples:

Don't you want to go? (doncha wanna go?)
How about you? (Howbouchoo?)
Not yet. (notchet) (granted, it's a lot easier to write in IPA ;) [/quote]
4)
Final consonants are silent or become mere breath-stops. So, AROUND AND OF ABOUT WALKING become AROUN' AN' O' ABOU'. WALKIN'.

Could have, would have, should have = coulda woulda shoulda.

5) Initial vowels disappear. So, AROUND AND ABOUT become 'ROUN', 'N", 'BOU'.
There are so many varieties of English, I couldn't claim to know any of them except my own (maybe ;) ) but I don't understand "around and of about walking" and I disagree on how it would be pronounced, even if I thought it was English. I'd say that "around and of about walking" would be "aroundenovabout walking". I know there are dialects that change the final -ing to -in, but I don't think it's the most common variation. Coulda, woulda et al I agree with, but I think it's far too simplistic to say initial vowels disappear. I don't think I do that in my speech, but if and when it happens, it's probably only for unstressed vowels in certain words. You don't hear 'qual for "equal" for example.
6) In Japanese, all syllables are pronounced exactly as they're written. However, unimportant words are simply unsaid. In English, some words are simply unimportant, but are said anyway. If the word wouldn't be said in a Japanese sentence, then the word will be pronounced in a muffled way in English.

In a muffled word, the vowel becomes a brief SCHWA SOUND and T's become D's or disappear entirely.

Similarly, only the stressed syllable of a word is pronounced clearly. The other syllables disappear or are muffled.

So, "I'm a Canadian" is actually pronounced "@m @ [email protected]@[email protected]"
Twenty Thirty Forty sounds more like Twenny, Thirdy, Fordy.
I and MY become A and MA, unless they're of particular importance in the sentence.
I agree with you that the unstressed syllables are often reduced to a schwa, as are "unimportant" words. I guess I usually teach them as being "reduced" as opposed to "muffled" but the effect is the same. The American (Canadian?) English consonant sound in the middle of "butter" is used a lot. It can be used in thirty, forty, etc. and also across words like, but he, (h disappears), get her, got it, go to, etc. I have heard it called a tap and a flap, although I don't know what term is au courant.
7) Similar sounds connect. Therefore,
going to = gonna / Got to = gotta / That's a = thassa / What is a = whassa
I would say that final consonant sounds connect to the next vowel, as in

cup of coffee (cuppa coffee)
or the proverbial "He took off his hat." which I use as an example in class, because students always hear "coffee" and "office" (He tookoffis hat).

When two similar consonants connect, there is no break. "bad dog" is pronounced "baddog" for example, and not "badadog" with an extra syllable in the middle.
8) YOU is shortened to y' yi' or ya :
Y'all = you all / y'comin' = are you coming ? / Didja = did you
For me, this is also a reduction to a schwa. "Do you" is also pronounced "deye (those are schwas)"
9) O sounds are pronounced like a romaji A, and sometimes vice-versa:
Office Copier = Affis CApier
Walk = Wok
Not = nat
Hot = Hat
There are a lot of possibilities for the sounds found in "caught" and "cot". Some areas pronounce them differently (as I do in my speech) and some pronounce them the same. What I don't understand, is how you can pronounce the "office" as "affis" (I would say "office" like "caught") and not pronounce walk with the same vowel. It seems either you have the distinction or you don't.


Well, that's just some of what I was thinking about. Thanks for giving me a chance to think about it all some more!

Lorikeet

Pronunci
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I have designed a program to help people learn pronunciation

Post by Pronunci » Sun Jun 26, 2005 1:51 am

Hi,

First of all, I agree with you that learning pronunciation requires motivation which applies to 100% of every worthwhile things. After I improved my pronunciation, I realized that there is not a single pronunciation software actually helping me remember correct pronunciation of 4,000. I developed Pronunciation Patterns based on phonics to help others learn English pronunciation. It has 4,000 words grouped by patterns. Now you can have students listen and correct themselves. Moreover, they can learn phonics and patterns to help them remember the correct pronunciation of 4,000. Of course, they have to be motivated to learn. Many of my customers are motivated and found my program are very helpful. You can read their comments at www.PronunciationPatterns.com/guest_book.html.

You can also download a free copy of the demo which has many free stuff at www.PronunciationPatterns.com/download.html. It is free. Please give it a try and I like to hear your comments.



Thanks

Tara B
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Post by Tara B » Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:38 pm

1)
R should sound like U. <i>"Iki wo tomenaide."</i> It shouldn't sound like L or D.
The difference between R and U is, R is pronounced with your teeth clenched.
So, the words Fresh and Friend, RE should sound like the Japanese word UE (meaning UP).
In the word FROM, RO should sound like UO (the Japanese word for fish).
Thanks for the insight, sethness1! Who'd have thought?

I am learning a lot from you guys, and I have only one comment to add. That is, you may have to make a distinction between teaching beginners and advanced students pronunciation. With beginning students, I have found it helpful to focus on "clear speech", listening skills, building up the muscles, going from print to speech, actually being able to produce the sounds.

Minimal pair work is necessary but shouldn't be the whole of pronunciation instruction. I really liked "Realistically Speaking" by Price for this. She does a lot of speech-therapy type exercises that are good for beginners, especially adults. She also recommends working with a mirror. And songs, poems, anything that promotes fluencey would be appropriate for all levels, I would think.

When students are more advanced, that is the appropriate time to point out informal, conversational speech, things like the palatalization seth mentioned in #3 ( t + y = ch). These things are necessary, and for an advanced student not to use them definitely makes them seem foreign. But imagine a beginner, barely fluent, who starts using "couldja". I'm not sure that would help the natives understand him. . .

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Post by Lorikeet » Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:47 pm

Tara B wrote:
When students are more advanced, that is the appropriate time to point out informal, conversational speech, things like the palatalization seth mentioned in #3 ( t + y = ch). These things are necessary, and for an advanced student not to use them definitely makes them seem foreign. But imagine a beginner, barely fluent, who starts using "couldja". I'm not sure that would help the natives understand him. . .
On the contrary, I teach some of these things very early on. However, I am very careful to explain that there is no need for them to produce the sounds, but it is necessary to understand them when used by a native speaker. So I will ask them, "Didja go to the park yesterday?" and they have to understand "Did you" because otherwise I feel I'm doing them a disservice. I know it's technically not pronunciation, but in my mind listening and pronunciation skills are heavily entertwined. I start explaining how English links ending consonants with beginning vowels when I teach phone numbers at a very low level. (Sick-so for 6-0 and seven-no for 7-0 for example). In general, even if we practice linking in class, they still don't do it. However, they can understand native speakers better.

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Post by Tara B » Thu Jun 30, 2005 10:45 pm

Thanks for the advice, Lorikeet. You have a good point about the listening skills.

It's hard (for me) to make a decision about where to draw the line with beginners--how much to modify my own speech, for example. I am a big supporter of teaching them contractions from the beginning (I'm, you're, he's, she's. . .), since that is 95% of what they will hear in the real world, and since the oral language should develop ahead of the written language. What I like about it, though, is that there is a way in the written language to show what you are doing. You can write it down phonetically and still keep the meaning of the words clear.

With palatalization, examples like "couldja," "notchet," and "houboutchu?" there is no accepted way, in the written language, to indicate what we are doing phonetically and still preserve the meaning of the sentence. That is why I have decided for myself, that I wasn't going to try to tackle it with beginners. At least not overtly; I'm sure that even in my slowest classes I can't help using a lot of these pronunciations. But I guess I've decided that I'd try to leave the Pandora's box closed for awhile, and not try to explain it unless one of my students brought it up.

I don't have any claim to any special expertise on this; I know that from my writing sometimes I sound like a know-it-all. I'll very well may have a totally different opinion on this in another five years. So thanks again for your comment.

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Lorikeet
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Post by Lorikeet » Thu Jun 30, 2005 11:53 pm

Tara B wrote:
With palatalization, examples like "couldja," "notchet," and "houboutchu?" there is no accepted way, in the written language, to indicate what we are doing phonetically and still preserve the meaning of the sentence. That is why I have decided for myself, that I wasn't going to try to tackle it with beginners. At least not overtly;
I make a distinction between my "explanation speech" (as in giving an explanation, not making a speech ;) ) and my "normal speech." If I am explaining something to a class of beginners, I have been known (horrors!) to even use unnatural speech. (This...good. This....bad. etc.) However, I try sometimes to speak at normal speed, even if they don't understand--mostly when I'm talking to myself (heh) or when I'm doing "conversations" that are really readings in a conversation format.

I do, however, when it fits in, teach a lot of reductions and linking. I do this by putting markings on the sentence. For example, I make a liaison mark (a half circle) to connect ending consonants with the next vowel. I do the same thing for palatals, but put a "j" or "ch" under the half circle to indicate the sounds. I have a lot of other things I do as well, such as circling "going to" future and explaining we pronounce it "gonna" or circling "to the" and having them say it in the reduced form. I have very good luck doing this, but your mileage may vary.

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Post by globaltefl » Sat Aug 13, 2005 5:31 pm

I have found the following extremely helpful for the /r/ and /l/ problem:

1. Have the student say 00 as in boot. The lips must be and remain rounded. The tongue will automatically move back in the mouth.
2. Holding that position, have the student say /root/. The tongue will not be able to reach the alveolar ridge and will reflex into the /r/ sound.

Good luck!
Global TEFL

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