Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

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Dtmont
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Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby Dtmont » Wed Feb 13, 2019 4:57 pm

I am looking for books that focus on improving your pronunciation towards whatever language you are learning. There are a lot focusing on Korean and Chinese, I was wondering if there are any other good ones focusing on other languages?
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jonm
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby jonm » Wed Feb 13, 2019 8:53 pm

Hi Dtmont, I highly recommend A Practical Introduction to Phonetics by J.C. Catford. It's a classic. Here's an excerpt from the preface that gives a sense of the approach:

Readers are introduced to the phonetic classification of the sounds of speech by means of a series of simple introspective experiments carried out inside their own vocal tracts, their own throats and mouths. By actually making sounds (very often silently) and attending to the muscular sensations that accompany their production one can discover how they are produced and learn how to describe and classify them.

At first sight 'making sounds silently' may appear contradictory, but, as Abercrombie (1967) has aptly pointed out, speech is 'audible gesture' and the principal aim of this book is to enable the reader to discover and to analyse the gestural aspect of speech (upon which most phonetic classification is based) and to bring it under conscious control.

Phonetics is a subject I enjoy and find fascinating, but I would also hold this book up as an example of how to introduce someone to almost any subject—namely, through direct experience. I would have loved to have a book like this for each of the subjects I tuned out in school but probably would have enjoyed if they'd been presented in this way.

And I'll say that I've found a grounding in phonetics to be enormously helpful in learning the pronunciation of any given language. It gives you a familiarity with the different parts of the vocal tract and all the different ways you can configure them, and it allows you to pinpoint exactly what's going on in the production of a given sound.

The book doesn't have audio, but there are some good interactive IPA charts online here and here (the second requires Flash).

That first IPA chart is part of the accompanying material for A Course in Phonetics by Peter Ladefoged and Keith Johnson, which is another excellent introduction to phonetics. It's very readable, and I'd say it covers more ground than the Catford book. Catford focuses on the articulation of sounds, whereas Ladefoged and Johnson also look at things like acoustics and perception, considering pronunciation from the point of view of the hearer as well as the speaker.

Either book would be a great choice, but I might start with the Catford book just because it's organized around a progression of try-this-yourself experiments that I think are very revelatory (and fun). Also, Catford has a great chapter on sequences and co-articulation, the way that adjacent "audible gestures" affect one another. When it comes to vowels, Catford focuses on a particular approach which involves mastering what are called cardinal vowels and using them as reference points for other vowels. Ladefoged and Johnson cover that approach but also look at vowels from a few other angles that might be helpful.

The Ladefoged and Johnson book is a textbook, and recent editions are expensive, though you might be able to find it in the library. For either book, older editions would still be good.

Anyway, that would be my recommendation. Hope that helps, and good luck!
Last edited by jonm on Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:17 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Kubelek
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby Kubelek » Wed Feb 13, 2019 9:26 pm

American Accent-Training (Barron's)
I used an older edition about 10 years ago, but I remember there wasn't too much theory, just lots of exercises and minimal pairs. Accessible style without too much jargon. Good section on non-verbal communication, for example how to enunciate 'uh oh' in various ways to mean different things (oh I see, nope!, oops...)
Another example (paraphrasing): 'pool' and 'pull' aren't the same, the former sounds like 3 syllables with a couple of shwas thrown in that you've probably never paid attention to in the past.
I used it after a year in the US and I still learned a lot.

For French there's 500 Exercices de Phonetique (Hachette)
Can't really comment, looked good browsing it but never got around to actually working through it. Coworkers adjusted to my accent instead...
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zatris
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby zatris » Thu Feb 14, 2019 4:55 pm

I second the Catford book recommendation. It's a fantastic work, and very fun to boost (not something one would expect of a book on phonetics). Just avoid reading it in public!
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romeo.alpha
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby romeo.alpha » Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:08 pm

For Japanese, I've already got good results from the Introductory chapter that is offered as a free download for Japanese: The Spoken Language. The accompanying audio is offered for free by Yale. I plan on buying it at some point.

For French, there's nothing better than the FSI French Phonology Programmed Introduction. Since that site sometimes ends up offline, the same course is also hosted here.

For languages in general, Accent Addition: Prosody and Perception Facilitate
Second Language Learning
and Quality Practise Pronunciation With Audacity by Olle Kjellin are fantastic articles. No accompanying audio though.
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sirgregory
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby sirgregory » Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:52 pm

In general, this seems to be an under-served need. There doesn't seem to be a lot of demand for this, unfortunately.

Barron's has a product called "Pronounce it Perfectly in French." I believe it was a broader series but only French seems to still be in print.

With FSI, even for languages without a specific phonology course, the "basic" courses usually have very helpful "notes on pronunciation" sections with audio. It seems to be one of the few courses with such dedicated attention to pronunciation. Unfortunately the sound quality is not great.

I've read some of Gabriel Wyner's book Forever Fluent and pronunciation is pretty strongly emphasized in the book. He says it is critical to dedicate time to pronunciation right from the start. He also discusses IPA at length and recommends that people learn it. He also seems to be rolling out (or has rolled out) his own pronunciation products. I believe they are web/app based.

Wikipedia also has phonology articles for most languages. For example,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_German_phonology
Last edited by sirgregory on Sat Jun 22, 2019 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Skynet
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby Skynet » Sat Jun 22, 2019 7:37 pm

I used the following CLE courses for French:
1. Phonetique en dialogues (deb)
2. Phonetique progressive du francais (int)
I certainly do not have a native accent, but I am understood 90-95% of the time without being asked to repeat myself.

I know FSI French Phonology has been mentioned, but do not underestimate its usefulness.
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AnthonyLauder
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby AnthonyLauder » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:32 am

For French, there are several pronunciation courses. The most comprehensive one I bought (and used) is D'Accord - La Prononciation du Francais Internationale: Acquisition et Perfectionnement by Sylvia Carduner and M. Peter Hagiwara.

I recommend it highly. The only down side is that it was painfully expensive (more than $100 if I remember correctly), but it does cover a lot, and it did come with audio.
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Random Review
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby Random Review » Thu Jun 27, 2019 4:31 pm

sirgregory wrote:In general, this seems to be an under-served need. There doesn't seem to be a lot of demand for this, unfortunately.


Maybe not. I haven't responded in this thread, not because I'm not interested (quite the contrary); but rather because I'm not aware of anything apart from the ones already mentioned. I don't know how typical I am, though.
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sirgregory
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Re: Books written specifically towards improving pronunciation (in any language) preferably with audio?

Postby sirgregory » Fri Jun 28, 2019 6:25 pm

Random Review wrote:
sirgregory wrote:In general, this seems to be an under-served need. There doesn't seem to be a lot of demand for this, unfortunately.


Maybe not. I haven't responded in this thread, not because I'm not interested (quite the contrary); but rather because I'm not aware of anything apart from the ones already mentioned. I don't know how typical I am, though.


Oh, I'm sure there is interest here on the forum. What I meant to say is that publishers don't seem to have detected sufficient mass market demand to offer many products dedicated solely to pronunciation. Hence, the relative dearth of these products. Countless dictionaries, grammars, vocabulary builders, phrase books, apps, software programs, etc. but for pronunciation usually all you get is a couple of pages at the beginning of a book. It's just not a standard offering, for whatever reason.
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