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OBSERVE, LISTEN AND IMITATE*
Here are some techniques on how to continue improving your pronunciation
- Imitate English speakers you know and admire: concentrate on their gestures, facial expressions,
as well as specific intonation patterns.
- Practice in front of a mirror. Try to mimic both the mouth and facial movements of English speakers.
- Close your eyes and practice a new sound or stress pattern out loud.
- Read a couple of sentences out loud, then look up and repeat them
- If you're having trouble with a particular sound, work on it producing it step by step. For example, to produce
the sound /th/, first put the tip of your tongue touching or between both sets of teeth. Then gently blow out.
- If you're having trouble with a long word, try to produce it backwards. For example, to say the word superstition,
first say the last syllable (shn) several times, then add the previous syllable (stishn), and so on.
- Get help from others. Ask friends with good pronunciation, or a native speaker, to correct you.
- Try imitating speech, even if you don't understand every word. Listen to songs. Sing in your car as you are
driving (quietly or aloud). Sing in your kitchen when you're alone. Join a karaoke club. Look up the lyrics of songs and sing along.
- Record yourself. What do you sound like? Which part of your pronunciation would you like to change? Ask a friend
or a native speaker to give you some comments.
- Choose one aspect of your pronunciation you would like to focus on. For one week, pay a special attention to that aspect
and keep repeating what you're trying to learn.
Clear Speech, Well Said and other sources. Please share your own tips with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Common problems in English pronunciation, as related to native Czech speakers:
- Devoicing of word-final voiced consonants.
- Trouble distinguishing between /e/ and /æ/.
- With the two above combined, "bet," "bad," "bed," and "bat" may all sound like [bet].
- Frequent voicing of /s/ between vowels, and especially after /n/, /l/, and /r/, so that "insert" and "increasing" sound
more like "inzert" and "increazing" respectively.
- Prevalent mispronouncing of the 'u' in words such as "purple" or "Murphy". The 'u' in these words is mistakenly
believed to represent about the same sound as in "but", and may also be lengthened.
- The sound of /h/ (as in "heart") is murmured as it is in Czech.
- Frequent lack of aspiration in unvoiced consonants (p, k and t), making "park" and "bark" harder to
distinguish. When a /t/ is aspirated, it may sound more like the sound of /θ/ as in "think".
- Difficulty in distinguishing between /v/ and /w/ since the latter does not appear in the Czech phoneme inventory.
- The consonant /r/ pronounced as it would be in Czech. Further. This sound may also be pronounced where
it should be silent, as in "leader" or "morning".
- Prevalent misconception of "oo" representing a long vowel (thus rhyming words as "book", "hook" and "foot" with "loot"
instead of "put").
- The combination of the consonants /n/ and /g/ as in "singing" treated as two separate sounds; (the single /ŋ/ sound
only appears in Czech when the /n/ precedes a velar sound). This, coupled with word-final devoicing, makes -ing mispronounced
as "ink", making "thing" and "think" homophones. Alternatively, words such as "ringing" or "singing" may be pronounced as they are written.
- Some trouble with the dental fricatives /ð/ and /θ/, which may be rendered either as [d] and [t] or [z] respectively.
- Lengthening the final syllable in words such as "studies", "melodies" or "countries", so that the vowel
sound resembles a long /I: / sound.
Source: The Wikipedia: non-native pronunciations of English
Phonetic Resources online
University of Iowa: an excellent site dealing with individual sounds and words
Phonetic symbols with audio clips
Okanagan College, British Columbia: voicing of individual sounds
A selection of web resources as arranged by the University of Aberdeen. Audio clips, regional English accents, etc.
An overview of phonetics courses in the world. Online materials.
All about the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the International Phonetic Association (also IPA)
Sound Patterns of Spoken English, Blackwell Publishing. With excellent examples of individual words, but recorded
at a super-fast speed.
A PDF handout containing an intro to basic phonetic and phonological terminology
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