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"Perfect Pronunciation"

  Tags: Greek | Pronunciation
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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 Message 89 of 131
07 December 2007 at 5:12pm | IP Logged 
Comparing your own pronunciation against a standard you aren't quite sure of is notoriously difficult. You have to learn it, but the question is how. Nobody would probably deny that this involves listening to as much native speeach as possible. I would however like to point to one major problem, namely the tendency in many text books to compare the sounds of one language to English or another irrelevant base language. When you have to come to grips with the sound system of a new language it may be practical to explain it like that at the very beginning of the study just to gain a foothold, but when you later have to refine your listening skills it is just about the worst thing you could do.

Instead you should listen to the sounds on their own terms: how open is this vowel, how many flaps are there in this R, is there a whiff of air in connection with this T and so forth. Paradoxically this does not really involve the meaning, - meaning is not really a product of single sounds, but of some standardized abstractions called phonemes. This means that the phoneme lists in textbooks by definition have to cut out a lot of that information about the sounds that you need to pronounce the language. So you have to learn those variations by listening.

I remember that we once had a discussion on the relationship between nasalised and non-nasalized wovels in French. The central problem here is that to my ears the two series are gravely out of synch (and have been so for at least 600 years). However the text books describe the situation as if 'a' corresponded to 'an', 'ai' to 'ain' etc. The details are not important, but this is just one case where I have to choose between trusting the text books or trusting my own ears - and then I trust my ears.

In spite of such exemples I like to get some indications of what to listen for from a decent book on the phonetics of 'my' languages, but books of course have the grave limitation that they normally don't have audio. Another problem is that they normally spend more time on attaching Latin labels to groups of phonemes than they do on the graphical illustration of how to move your mouth. And the treatment of intonation patterns is generally dismal - a red line over a written sentence would be better than any description in words, and the combination of a spoken version plus the written form PLUS a thin red line would just be perfect for me.

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Volte
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Switzerland
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 Message 90 of 131
07 December 2007 at 6:34pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
Comparing your own pronunciation against a standard you aren't quite sure of is notoriously difficult. You have to learn it, but the question is how. Nobody would probably deny that this involves listening to as much native speeach as possible. I would however like to point to one major problem, namely the tendency in many text books to compare the sounds of one language to English or another irrelevant base language. When you have to come to grips with the sound system of a new language it may be practical to explain it like that at the very beginning of the study just to gain a foothold, but when you later have to refine your listening skills it is just about the worst thing you could do.

Instead you should listen to the sounds on their own terms: how open is this vowel, how many flaps are there in this R, is there a whiff of air in connection with this T and so forth. Paradoxically this does not really involve the meaning, - meaning is not really a product of single sounds, but of some standardized abstractions called phonemes. This means that the phoneme lists in textbooks by definition have to cut out a lot of that information about the sounds that you need to pronounce the language. So you have to learn those variations by listening.

I remember that we once had a discussion on the relationship between nasalised and non-nasalized wovels in French. The central problem here is that to my ears the two series are gravely out of synch (and have been so for at least 600 years). However the text books describe the situation as if 'a' corresponded to 'an', 'ai' to 'ain' etc. The details are not important, but this is just one case where I have to choose between trusting the text books or trusting my own ears - and then I trust my ears.

In spite of such exemples I like to get some indications of what to listen for from a decent book on the phonetics of 'my' languages, but books of course have the grave limitation that they normally don't have audio. Another problem is that they normally spend more time on attaching Latin labels to groups of phonemes than they do on the graphical illustration of how to move your mouth. And the treatment of intonation patterns is generally dismal - a red line over a written sentence would be better than any description in words, and the combination of a spoken version plus the written form PLUS a thin red line would just be perfect for me.


I couldn't agree more with you. I'm trying to adapt my ear and way of thinking to take the two 'e' and 'o' sounds of Italian into account, after nearly a decade of artificially forcing them together based on what I read and was told and my mistaken belief that Italian was as phonetic as is frequently claimed. It's surprisingly difficult, as I've gotten so used to grouping them together: side-by-side, I can clearly hear the difference, but my mental concept of them is wrong, and I can't yet classify them correctly based on hearing them in non-contrasting situations.

I've also started trying to listen carefully to what's actually said, in various languages. I've been blown away at how far consonants are from what I'd expect from English, much less vowels and prosody. The usual explanations of Japanese phonetics, claiming that all/most of the consonants are like English, now strike me as blatantly untrue.

Assimil Italian has a couple of pages showing intonation patterns with a red line, for what it's worth. It's perhaps a pity that they don't do it throughout the book, and that there aren't more resources like this.

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maxb
Diglot
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Sweden
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 Message 91 of 131
08 December 2007 at 7:53am | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:

The primary reason I started this thread is to find out about methods that people have used to achieve this. Would you please post about yours?


A method I believe in, and which I have used to success is to learn a fairly long audio piece in the language by heart. What I did for mandarin was to take a 6 minute podcast spoken at rather quick pace and split it up into several small chunks. Each chunk maybe 2-5 seconds. Then I practiced 1-2 chunks per day,using the chorus method, for a period of 2 months, until I had the whole podcast memorized. What I have done since is to use a modified version of the "10000 sentences method" where I use audio flashcards. I use a recording of a sentence as the "question" in supermemo and in order to consider myself passed on a flashcard, I not only have to understand the sentence, I also have to be able to chorus the sentence along with the speaker.

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slucido
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 Message 92 of 131
08 December 2007 at 8:11am | IP Logged 
maxb wrote:
What I did for mandarin was to take a 6 minute podcast spoken at rather quick pace and split it up into several small chunks. Each chunk maybe 2-5 seconds. Then I practiced 1-2 chunks per day,using the chorus method, for a period of 2 months, until I had the whole podcast memorized. What I have done since is to use a modified version of the "10000 sentences method" where I use audio flashcards. I use a recording of a sentence as the "question" in supermemo and in order to consider myself passed on a flashcard, I not only have to understand the sentence, I also have to be able to chorus the sentence along with the speaker.


I have read several times this method. Working with a little chunk of the language and listen, relisten, chorus, repeat and repeat with them thousand of times for months.

It seems that work with some people, but I didn't tried it because I have a problem.It seems very boring and I am not sure about the generalization results.

Do you think that this native or near native pronunciation in this 6 minute L2 chunk will generalize to all your L2 speech? What's your experience?

Thank you





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jeff_lindqvist
Diglot
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 Message 93 of 131
08 December 2007 at 10:23am | IP Logged 
I haven't yet tried the chorus method myself. In an earlier thread there is some interesting information:

Quote:
He believes that the first month of language study should be devoted to pronounciation alone. He suggests selecting an A4-page of practice phrases and learning those perfectly. He believes that if these phrases are mastered to perfection you will have mastered most of what there is to learn when it comes to pronunciation in the language.


MaxB himself says (on page 2):
Quote:
According to Kjellin any page of text should provide enough examples of the prosody to let you master it.


Assuming that Kjellin knows what he's talking about, a six minute dialog could possibly cover even more material than an A4 filled with sentences (I read an A4 aloud in much shorter time than six minutes).
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maxb
Diglot
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 Message 94 of 131
08 December 2007 at 11:26am | IP Logged 
slucido wrote:


I have read several times this method. Working with a little chunk of the language and listen, relisten, chorus, repeat and repeat with them thousand of times for months.

It seems that work with some people, but I didn't tried it because I have a problem.It seems very boring and I am not sure about the generalization results.

Do you think that this native or near native pronunciation in this 6 minute L2 chunk will generalize to all your L2 speech? What's your experience?

Thank you


I think it depends on the language. For a language with few possible intonation patterns it will probably work. However with tonal language like Mandarin and Cantonese it may take some more audio material to get the accent down.
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Zhuangzi
Nonaglot
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 Message 95 of 131
08 December 2007 at 11:35am | IP Logged 
jeff,

I would not do this. it is too boring. I think it is just as good to listen to new and interesting material, repetitively yes, but eventually moving on to new stuff.

I also do not favour trying too hard to get the pronunciation right at the beginning. I prefer to let the language penetrate, to listen a lot during the "silent period" where comprehension, vocabulary and familiarity with the language are the goals. At some later point you can start on pronunciation. There is no rush.
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sunny
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United States
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 Message 96 of 131
08 December 2007 at 12:06pm | IP Logged 
I wonder why most language learners do not study music in the language they are concentrating on. You seem to be all focussed on bookwork, but listening to natives singing songs, whether popular or folk songs, seems to be the very best way to learn the sounds in any language.



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