Learning a new language? Here’s how to perfect your pronunciation.
You may ask a local, in perfect Parisian accents, when the train is due. Or you might order. scialatelli As if you have spent your whole life vacationing on Amalfi Coast. Knowing the words is only one thing. It is possible to sound like a native speaker. Completely different.
Pronunciation can be difficult if you are learning a language not rooted in your mother tongue. It can even hinder your learning process.
Cindy Blanco, managing editor for learning content at Duolingo, says that “we learners hold ourselves to these really hard goals that aren’t always very realistic.” “People are so self-conscious about how they sound when they speak a foreign language that they don’t practice, learn new vocabulary or try new grammar.
Some general recommendations
Learners face different challenges when learning different languages. Learning a new language can be easier or harder depending on the mother tongue. An English speaker might find it easier to learn German while an Italian speaker may find it more difficult. To make learning the language easier for you, regardless of what it is, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
Keep your eyes on that goal
Each language has its own music. Many learners consider it the ultimate goal to be able speak the language with the same intonation and cadence as a native speaker. It’s not, though.
Blanco says, “From a learning perspective you don’t have to sound like someone who has lived in Paris all your life to be able to speak French and understand the language, and have a great experience communicating.”
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It is perfectly normal to want to be able to pronounce every word correctly and have people ask if you have spent a lot of money abroad. However, communication is the real goal of learning a second or a third language. This is often not related to pronunciation.
Choose your battles
When it comes down to communicating, pronunciation is only relevant if a sound changes its meaning.
Consider the words “this”, “these” and “these”. For Spanish speakers, these words can be tricky because of the “these”“I” sound in “this” It doesn’t exist in their mother tongue. They pronounce it as “these.” However, this is not always the case. You can order tacos in Mexico by using the American “oU” vowelAlthough you may sound strange, no one will bring you a plate full of spaghetti or a bagel. The same applies to the French “R”It sounds wonderful, but it can be difficult to pronounce.
Ask yourself if the sound you are having trouble with changes the meaning of the words. If the answer is yes, you will find a better place to focus your attention.
This tip does not make any unusual sounds. But it still has two meaningsTalk slower and take your time to improve.
Most people believe that language learning is best done quickly and with the same level of proficiency in your native language. This is what people mean when they say “speaking natively.” However, learning a new language can be hard on your brain.
Blanco explains that communication occurs in two layers. First, you think about a concept or desire. Then your brain converts that into words that you can communicate to others using sounds.
“When we learn a new language, we don’t automatically map the words to the concepts. We map them to our language. So we create an extra layer,” Blanco explains.
You first think of a concept and then think of the words that would express it in your mother tongue. Then you consciously search for the equivalent in the language you are learning. This is just the conceptual level. Once you have the words, your brain must tell your muscles to overcome decades of wear and move in strange and unorthodox ways to produce the sounds. It’s a lot.
Slowing down in one spot will allow you to better manage your internal process of thinking and speaking a new language. However, slowing down across the board will allow your brain to adjust to the new situation.
“The goal of learning is practice. You should be able to map the new language directly to the concept. Blanco says that thinking in the language is what people mean. “You want to skip the translation in you head.” Blanco agrees.
Your brain can be thought of as a muscle, and a new language is a form of physical activity. It might be helpful to think about your brain as a muscle. It might be difficult to learn how to swim after running all your life. You might find yourself unable to use muscles you didn’t know you had. You can still improve your skills with practice and time.
Listen as much as possible
Blanco explained that listening to a language can also help with pronunciation. This is because the movements of your mouth to produce the sounds is connected to the information your brain has about the sounds.
She explains that perception and production are part of linguistics.
Listening is easy, thanks to the internet. You can browse a lot of non-English content on streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. YouTube has a lot of videos that you can watch, as well music and podcasts that you can listen to on any platform. Don’t worry if you are having trouble finding the right course for you.
“It’s normal to not understand everything or much at first. Blanco says that practice will help you understand more.
You will eventually be able to identify words, phrases, then sentences. You can even listen to the lyrics while you read them if you feel it will help. Spotify’s lyrics feature, for instance, can be very useful. To find it, tap the Microphone icon On the desktop app, in the bottom left corner. On the mobile app, swipe up on the player screen. The transcripts of podcasts are often posted by the publishers. These links are usually found in the episode description. However, a quick internet search will often suffice.
How to pronounce a foreign language better
Learning challenges are language-specific so we chose to focus on the most commonly learned languages in the US. Report 2022 by DuolingoSpanish, English (for Spanish-speaking students), French, Japanese, German.
Tips for Pronouncing Spanish
Although you may not have noticed it, the sounds or phonemes of Spanish are vastly different to those of English. It is true that English has 42 vowel sounds and 22 consonants, while Spanish has only 24 (five vowels, 19 consonants). This is like using all the crayons in the box to draw a picture, then being told to use half of them. You can also use completely new colors. Some Spanish phonemes are not available in English because they don’t exist..
Blanco suggests that English speakers consider vowels as shorter and sharper when it comes to vowels. For example, take the Spanish “O” It sounds like you have heard only half of the above English “oU” phonemeThe sound of ‘O’ and ‘U’ sounds like a combination of two Spanish phonemes.
English speakers will be able to recognize the Mount Everest of Spanish pronunciation. The rolling or trilled “R”.. Blanco suggests that you can skip this step if you feel frustrated by not being able reproduce the sound. Communication will not be affected by your inability to trill your Rs. Although you may sound like an American speaking Spanish in your native tongue, locals will still understand what you are saying.
If you are going to stress about Rs, you should focus your energy on mastering the single “R” sound in Spanish. This is the one you’ll hear in words like “para”, “arena” and “arena.” Blanco explains that it exists in English under a different letter.
Blanco says, “We don’t think it’s an ‘R”–we think that it’s a double T’ or double D,’ like in ladder’ and’matter.”
This is a case where it’s a good idea to turn off the subtitles and skip the transcripts while listening to Spanish content. It will allow you to concentrate on the sounds and not be distracted by the words.
Tips for Spanish speakers who need to pronounce English
It is amazing how many new sounds Spanish speakers must learn to correctly pronounce English. To use the crayon analogy again, a Spanish speaker learning English can be likened to a master of black and white art who suddenly needs to paint in technicolor. There will be bumps along the way.
Good English pronunciation requires that you move your mouth and face muscles in a way that may seem exaggerated. Even if it feels exaggerated, you are still doing the right thing. Jim Carrey impersonationYou’re not, you’re just moving your head in an unfamiliar manner. Another problem is that English vowels are difficult to master, unlike the rolling Rs in Spanish. These sounds can change the meanings of words, such as “bit” or “beat”.
Blanco says, “You can cheat by using what’s available but making it longer or shorter.” So “bit” is a shorter vowel sound that “beat”.
Spanish speakers have a difficult time understanding consonants. The “Th” sound, which is “thespian” or “thistle”) is a consonant that doesn’t exist. This is where looking at the mouths and mouths of English speakers can be very helpful: Paying attention to how people place their tongues between their teeth will help your brain visualize your own mouth movements much better.
Tips for Pronouncing French
You might think French has more phonemes than English. However, you would be wrong (36 vs. approximately 42). French speakers have to learn 10 new phonemes, which is what makes it so difficult.
Blanco explains that the biggest challenges are Round vowels. These sounds require you to round your lips. This can feel very unnatural for Spanish and English speakers, as these sounds are not found in these languages.
You can improve your ability to speak French by watching the mouths of native speakers and trying to imitate them. Blanco suggests streaming a French program and paying attention to how people speak. A mirror can be handy so you can try to imitate the sounds or movements. This can be done without a reference. You want to be able compare the correct form with what you are doing and make any necessary adjustments.
Like Spanish speakers learning English, English speakers who learn French will feel more strained, which can lead them to feel self-conscious. You don’t have to do this. You’re probably not moving too much, but you are just moving in a different way than usual. It will become natural if you keep at it.
Tips for Pronouncing Japanese
It is very similar to Spanish, believe it or not. At least, as far as sounds go. Both Japanese and Spanish have five vowels and approximately the same number of consonants (14 and 19, respectively). English speakers will face the same difficulties learning Japanese as Spanish.
But there’s a catch:More. Spanish is a category 1 language according to the difficulty scale. Japanese is a category 8.. This discrepancy can be attributed to stress patterns, long vowels and double or geminated consonants.
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Blanco explains that Japanese has a different stress pattern to English. While Americans tend to stress one syllable at a time, native Japanese speakers tend stress more throughout the sentence, making words sound a bit flatter. Geminated consonants Also available in ItalianTo create new phonemes, you can add longer vowel sounds to the basic phonemes. As if that wasn’t enough, Japanese rhythm is completely different to English. This forces learners to re-learn how they speak and even how they breathe.
Blanco suggests that listening to a lot and thinking about rhythm and intonation can be helpful. This can help a Japanese listener understand what you are saying.
Tips for Pronouncing German
This lingo is shared with English, which is a good thing for German learners. You may find it easier to pronounce these sounds, even though there are some new sounds that you will need to learn (some borrowed from French). Goethe’s Mother tongue.
Blanco suggests that you pay attention to the native speakers’ voices and listen to them. You can also forgo transcripts. German sounds are different from English, but they are represented by different letters. This can lead to written words that are more confusing than helpful.
Like in French, the German letter “R” can be confusing for English speakers. However, it will rarely change the meaning of words. Blanco says that if you are having trouble with it, it is better to save it for another day.
No matter what language you are learning, it is important to remember that native speakers don’t sound the same way. Accents are fine. Your brain and body have spent many years, if not decades, perfecting communication in a single language. It can be difficult to repeat the process, especially if you don’t speak the same language as your mother tongue.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.