One of the things that make language study so challenging is your own language background, and its “distance” from English in terms of grammar, pronunciation and use of vocabulary. For example, Korean, Japanese and Chinese students of English have to study a new alphabet just to get started, and English grammar is always tricky for students from this region.
English is a tough language to learn for many people from Asian countries, and Vietnam is no exception. Native speakers of Vietnamese also have particular areas of difficulty, and it is a good idea to be aware of what they are, why they occur, and how to overcome them.
Vietnamese students are fortunate in that their native language has a similar alphabet to English; instead, their biggest problem is pronunciation.
There is one difficulty in particular that I would like to mention here – consonant clusters or groups (for example, street, contracts).
There are many websites where you can practice your listening skills. How many websites do you know that allow you to practice your speaking skills online?
With English Central, you can use to do both these things at once. On English Central, you:
Watch a video – usually from a news or documentary program
Read as you listen, and build your vocabulary as you watch
Repeat the video you heard, record your voice, and get instant feedback on how you sound
To me, this is the part that makes English Central interesting. The site uses cutting edge computer technology to evaluate the accuracy of your pronunciation. It tells you how clearly you’re speaking, and if your pronunciation is not clear, the site lets you record yourself again, until you get it right.
The IPA is useful for language learners because it tells you exactly how a word ought to be pronounced. For example, when you look up the word “foreign” in the dictionary, the phonetic spelling will appear to you like this:
The phonetic spelling tells you exactly which vowel to use (/ɔ/) and it tells you where the stress should be (/ˈfɔr…). In other words, it tells you exactly how to pronounce the word.
So how good is your phonetic spelling? Do you think you’re pretty good? Why don’t you take the Phonetic Challenge and find out?
The Phonetic Challenge is one of the exercises on the Language Link Online web site, available to all Language Link Vietnam students. For those of you who are not students, we’ve presented it below.
Please note: you need a browser with Adobe Flash software to play this game. If you are using an iPad or a computer with no Flash, we’re sorry.
Students often ask me how they can lose their accent when speaking English. I have two things to say on the topic.
My first point is that you don’t want to entirely lose your accent. Accents protect you. When you’re in an English-speaking environment, an accent helps people know that you are not a native of their culture. If you make any mistakes, people are more likely to forgive you.
The second point is, of course, if your accent keeps people from understanding you, then you must try and reduce it as much as possible. Keeping in mind my first point – an accent is not always a bad thing – here are TEN TIPS that will help your pronunciation improve so that your accent does not interfere with understanding. Continue reading →
The IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet. Watch this video to learn about phonemes, and how the IPA can help you improve your English pronunciation. Make sure you have your speakers turned on so you can hear the audio!