What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby reineke » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:47 pm

zenmonkey wrote:Pronunciation is 80% listening, 60% practice, and 40% dissatisfaction. And yes, that adds up to 200% because it’s extra effort.



That's 180%
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby sporedandroid » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:30 pm

zenmonkey wrote:Pronunciation is 80% listening, 60% practice, and 40% dissatisfaction. And yes, that adds up to 200% because it’s extra effort.

Like all things language related it depends on where you are coming from, your language background, your “talent” and your goals and attitudes. To improve accent it’s likely one will need specific effort to identify issues and clarify.

My mom always had difficulties with shit and sheet. It’s common for Spanish speakers learning English. We had a joke at home “mom, what do you put on beds?” Having identified an issue, she could have fixed this by spending a few hours of practice. But it was something she was concerned with, she never worked on accent beyond basic comprehension.

For French a lot of material exists and I worked on massive listening to radio broadcasts, poem recordings and just people talking. I constantly tried to re-vocalize what I heard and repeated words like deuil, seuil, rouille, etc. Lots of lyrical and classic songs - some from famous Belgians :) ... but really the material is there from Brel to Apollinaire to Fauve. It’s hours of listening and correcting, especially useful to have someone to help out with specific issues when you can’t hear minor items. It’s working on rhythm and meter of the language.

For German, I’m now trying to break out of the influence of other languages - my cadence here and pronunciation is sufficiently bad that I recognize I need to work on it. I’m struggling to figure out new tools - I’m trying out minimal pairs ...

I think my pronunciation issues are largely practice or a clumsy mouth. I’ve always been told I have a good ear for music. I’ll still work on my ear for foreign languages, but I know it won’t guarantee I’ll have a good accent. Like in Hebrew I have no problem differentiating kh vs. r, but since I struggle with those sounds I struggle to produce the difference I hear.
To me it seems like Hebrew is hard to exaggerate compared to Chinese or Turkish. The only way people exaggerate Hebrew is making a bunch of guttural sounds with a bad French accent. Maybe I just have more exposure to Hebrew. When I first heard it I found it annoying and weird, but since I find it an interesting language I persisted. I made it sound less annoying by finding music in Hebrew I enjoy. Now I find it mostly normal sounding with a few annoying speakers once in a while.

One thing I like about trying to pronounce Chinese or Turkish words is that I immediately notice a huge change in my voice even if my pronunciation is awful. Chorusing makes it even easier to change my voice. With Hebrew it doesn’t seem like my voice really changes. I have noticed a lot of improvement in my ability to chorus Hebrew. On some well practiced clips I can barely even hear my voice. I think I need to start just repeating after people as well. So I can get more used to my own voice and be able to have a good pronunciation without chorusing. I think repeating is better for phonemes I find very alien while chorusing is better for prosody and more subtle phonemes. So for Hebrew I’ll probably do drills like this one https://www.teachmehebrew.com/hebrew-r- ... ounds.html to practice my guttural sounds in isolation along with some YouTube tutorials with some Israelis showing a bit of exaggerated body language.

I find exaggerated body language helps a lot. But during chorusing I can practice sounds like the Hebrew O sound or pick up on other subtleties. One example is the M sound. It seems to sound and feel different. At least after the I sound. I didn’t actually notice that until I was chorusing and I noticed that pronouncing the M sound felt different. Now I hear the different M sound in other contexts as well. It may sound silly to other people, but it’s just something interesting I noticed during regular chorusing.

My voice has always been off in both English and Spanish. I think I sound like a British or Australian person trying to do an American accent. Just watch any Emma Watson movies where she does an American accent. That’s how I talk. So improving my vocal dexterity will also improve how I sound in English. My mom who’s a native Spanish speaker struggles with the words cup and cap. That’s lead to some annoying miscommunications.
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby zenmonkey » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:36 pm

reineke wrote:
zenmonkey wrote:Pronunciation is 80% listening, 60% practice, and 40% dissatisfaction. And yes, that adds up to 200% because it’s extra effort.



That's 180%


Lies.
20% is lost on this forum. The math holds. :)
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby sporedandroid » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:39 pm

When chorusing does anyone ever get really into a particular word or phrase? When I was chorusing Turkish for the first time I really struggled to talk on rhythm. I really got into saying the word görusmek. It was just a fun word to say. The next time I practiced Turkish I noticed I was way closer to the correct rhythm on all the phrases.
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby reineke » Tue Jan 15, 2019 6:19 pm

Pronunciation Is Everywhere

The knowledge system that humans use to process language in their everyday lives is complex. It contains several subdomains, such
as knowledge of syntax, vocabulary, phonology, morphology, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics. While these areas are often considered separately for the purpose of linguistic and theoretical investigation, they are all interwoven in the complex task of processing language, including behaviors such as recognizing words, understanding utterances, formulating appropriate answers, talking to a stranger on the phone, finding a way to say something difficult to somebody, or writing a response to an email. It is important to first establish that in this knowledge system, every domain is intertwined, and the influence of phonology goes beyond the behaviors related to speaking or to listening....


Pronunciation (and listening) practice also enhances writing. It can reduce spelling mistakes that are due to inaccurate pronunciation (and vice versa, reduce pronunciation errors based on spelling, see Prator, 1971);

...research on the bilingual mental lexicon (Broersma & Cutler, 2011; Darcy, Daidone, & Kojima, 2013), which suggests that L2 learners often have inaccurate long-term memories (or phonolexical representations) for the words in their L2. While they may clearly know the words in terms of their meaning and usage patterns, the phonological form may be encoded with a lack of precision: That is, learners’ phonolexical representations of words may be lacking some detail, or be fuzzy...

Here, typical methods that provide the repetition necessary for automaticity to develop (drills, minimal pair repetition, discrimination) fail to promote generalization because of the highly decontextualized nature of the repeated materials (Segalowitz & Hulstijn, 2005). In other words, explicit focus on form in pronunciation instruction is useful (Gordon & Darcy, 2016), but it is not sufficient on its own, as suggested by the three example frameworks mentioned previously. Integration with meaning or with the broader context of the activity also matters. As Park (2000) found, form-focused instruction helped, but learners receiving both form and meaning-focused instruction demonstrated more improvement than the form-focused group. Pronunciation instruction thus needs to guide learners toward deploying a simultaneous focus on both form (or accuracy) and meaning (or communicative context) at once.

As mentioned previously, research has shown that the way learners memorize the form of L2 words differs from that of native speakers. Fuzzy or imprecise word representations might lead to problems in both word recognition (Broersma & Cutler, 2008; Cutler, 2005) and production (Simonchyk, 2017). Even though research showing specifically how pronunciation instruction can enhance phonological representations in memory is not yet available, a few directions for listening practice are nevertheless promising.

These include:

1. Contextualized and repeated links to vocabulary items
(rather than practicing perception of a difficult contrast using
nonsense syllables only, or two unknown words, for instance);

2. Variability (e.g., by presenting a variety of voices, contexts,
speech rates, utterance lengths); and

3. Multimodal input (e.g., by using audio and written, or audio
and video input modalities).

Specific examples on how to adapt listening practice in these three ways are detailed below. To be effective, practice on perception needs to go beyond isolated “listen and repeat” (Yoshida, 2016), but it does not necessarily require spending hours having students do discrimination tasks. Therefore, perception work should be contextualized by establishing links to the meaning of vocabulary items, and ideally it should provide ample opportunity for repetition and reactivation by presenting items multiple times. Kimppa (2017) presents evidence that repetition is an effective way to enhance the quality of word representations in memory. This kind of work will naturally tie in with teaching listening (Cauldwell, 2013), but it can also be integrated with vocabulary teaching, depending on learners’ proficiency...

Insecurity about the effectiveness of teaching pronunciation also depends on the goals of instruction. If the goal is for all learners to achieve a nativelike accent in all situations all of the time, then it is unlikely that even very intensive pronunciation instruction is going to truly work. But if the goal is more attainable, then pronunciation instruction becomes more effective. "

http://www.catesoljournal.org/wp-conten ... _darcy.pdf
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby JadeJ » Sat Jun 12, 2021 6:56 am

I'm an accent trainer, and in my experience perhaps only 2 percent of people have a very good ear for picking up the accent without studying it. These people are excellent mimics. Also, the absorbing accent from the air method is inefficient because it takes years and most people never achieve near-native pronunciation.

Another issue when it comes to accent is that most people overestimate their pronunciation level (there have been studies done on it). This means people aren't good at judging for themselves how 'good' their accent is, and more than this, they can't observe their own mistakes.

Polyglots who are learning lots of different languages may need to follow a different process, but for students going deep with one language, then the best way to improve pronunciation is to do 10 minutes focused speech/pronunciation practice per day. Students can have amazing accent breakthroughs within 2-3 months.
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby Le Baron » Sat Jun 12, 2021 9:55 am

Working on pronunciation to be well understood is different than the holy grail of 'native-like accent'. In the latter most people most of the the time will be disappointed. There are also two problems, one of them mentioned directly above: that people usually can't judge their own accent (and barely have a full appreciation of their own voice speaking their native language anyway). Second is that there is a tendency for people to either flatter you, if they like you, and exaggerate how good your accent is (see you tube and people going googly-eyed over mediocre accents), or to unnecessarily trash it if they want to bring you down.

Recording yourself is perhaps the best method, but it's a painful one at first. Some people are better mimics than others, but everyone can choose a few examples they can purposely follow and aim to imitate. when I lived in north Belgium I watched the Flemish news (recorded it actually from TV and radio! :lol: ) and tried to shadow it. Using interviews rather than the common newsreader delivery. Recording people talking on the radio and TV and then going over it and recording my version of bits of it for comparison. I did a similar thing for German.

It yields some results over time and has stuck, because only on Wednesday just gone someone again asked me if I was from Belgium and said 'you can try to hide it, but it's obvious'. If the conversation had been longer they'd have likely heard other anomalies to make them doubt that first impression, but it shows that such practise can create a passable representation. Since the person was unsure if I was from the north or south of Belgium, you have to wonder how perceptive he was anyway. This is the thing though, most people aren't and will only be able to instinctively hear 'some accent anomaly' without being able to pinpoint it. I think it's best to aim for being well understood, than aiming for some sort of generic 'native' accent (which one will you choose anyway?); though shadowing will obviously impart some particular accent. If you live in a place where the TL is used a lot of it will filter into your usage by itself, but from what I've observed over time the majority never develop perfectly convincing accents. If people understand what we say without furrowing their brows while we're talking, we're doing okay.
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby Jinx » Sat Jun 12, 2021 3:21 pm

I suppose that for some people, one method I used would work well – becoming obsessed with music in your target language, listening to it all the time, and singing along (without looking up lyrics or pronunciation rules or anything), for about five years before actually starting to study the language at all.

For obvious reasons, I doubt many people are going to take this advice :D

I did it for German, and when I started studying the language officially at age 20, after five years of listening to my favorite German bands nonstop, my accent was miles ahead of my actual linguistic knowledge. I had a very rude awakening the first time I went to Germany: despite being barely a B1 level at best, I was consistently mistaken for a native at the beginning of conversations, and then repeatedly had to go through the embarrassing and discouraging experience of apologizing and struggling to explain that I hadn't understood anything they'd just said to me, and watch their eyes shutter as they lost interest in communicating with me.

I learned my painful lesson, and since then, I have intentionally allowed my accent to lapse, while simultaneously improving my actual knowledge of the German language. And I don't even try to attempt native-level accents in any of the other languages I've studied since. I'd much rather be seen as an educated foreigner than a stupid and tongue-tied native. (I suspect that I do sometimes still get mistaken for a native in brief interactions, such as in shops, but those conversations are generally so "scripted" that it's not a problem.)

When learning how to make the sounds of a language, I consider there to be three levels:
1. pronunciation
2. accent
3. prosody

Step 1 is vital. You won't get anywhere without it. I begin my studies of every new language with pronunciation.

Step 2 is often not necessary, but I consider it good "foreign language etiquette" to work on your accent. For the sake of the natives' ears, I aim for almost the highest level possible – but not high enough that I am forced to repeat the unpleasant "mistaken for a native speaker" experience that I described above.

And as for Step 3, I never bother actively studying it. If a language is important enough in my life, it will happen on its own. (For me, that is; for many people it won't.) I do find it fun to analyze – for instance, the commonly heard low-high-middle tone pattern in French for each item on a spoken list – but it would feel like "putting the cart before the horse" to try to imitate that in my own speaking when I know I'm barely at intermediate level in terms of actual linguistic knowledge.

(For reference: I am a musician and singer, if that makes a difference, although not classically trained.)

Regarding the concept of "mocking people" in order to get a better accent, I absolutely agree, and regularly recommend it to beginner learners. Although I usually say "doing an impression", which sounds a little nicer, haha. "Think of your favorite native speaker of your target language, and do an impression of them for me!" It's surprising how rapidly this exercise can improve a student's accent.

And one final amusing anecdote: despite having been told that I have quite a passable accent (at least not "ear-bleed-inducing", they say) in most foreign languages I try to speak – even some I've never studied – I have never had a completely native accent in my native language, American English. My fellow Americans have always asked me where I'm from (some of their guesses: the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Greece, Dominican Republic). It's the letter "R" that is my undoing. I can pronounce it more convincingly in German, French, Italian, Spanish, and even Chinese than I can in English. :(
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby leosmith » Sun Jun 13, 2021 1:25 am

JadeJ wrote:I'm an accent trainer, and in my experience perhaps only 2 percent of people have a very good ear for picking up the accent without studying it.

What do you mean by a "very good ear"? Are you training accents of clients with no previous exposure to the language? Because if you are not, there is a good chance that they already have fossilized errors, and I don't think you could tell how good their natural ability is in that case.
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Re: What techniques do you use to improve TL pronunciation / accent?

Postby Deinonysus » Sun Jun 13, 2021 2:21 am

I do happen to have a pretty good ear (I have a musical background) and I've always been good at doing impressions, so I normally start out with a pretty good accent. But what is really important is that I never stop trying to improve it, even after years. Any time I learn about some new pronunciation distinction or nuance that I didn't know about before, I keep practicing it over and over until I get it to sound right.

One very helpful thing was to learn the IPA. But IPA symbols are only an approximation, so you need to keep your ears open and listen for times when the IPA representation is a bit inaccurate. For example, the symbol for the voiced palatal stop /ɟ/ is used to describe sounds in Spanish (as the "ll" in ellos) and Hungarian (as in the "gy" in magyar), but to my ears it sounds affricated and a little further forward, maybe something a bit closer to /dʑ/ as in the japanese word "jin". So that's the sound I've started to associate with the symbol /ɟ/. So that's how I had been pronouncing the sound "dy" in Xhosa, but I had a Xhosa lesson and that was the one sound that my teacher corrected me on, because that one actually is supposed to sound like /ɟ/!

Another thing that has helped me a lot is to try to get consonants at the right pitch. For the sibilants, my general observation is that the order of lowest pitch to highest pitch is /ʂ/ /ʃ/ /ɕ/ /s/. Getting the pitch right is not a guarantee that you are pronouncing a consonant right, but it can be a great help. You don't need to have perfect pitch (I don't), you just need to be able to match what you hear. Pitch has also been a very important guide when trying to get the clicks right in Xhosa, and volume is another. If you don't get the tongue position just right on the q click (a cork popping or door knocking sound; if you're into Drag Race, or like me your significant other is, it's the Alyssa Edwards tongue pop), you get significantly reduced volume, but when a native speaker does it, it can sound impressively loud and with a satisfying full tone.
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