Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Interrupting fluency

Most of my clients are professionals and work in positions such as business analysts, accountants, teachers, IT professionals or engineers. They all are very skilled and have been employed because of their professional knowledge. Their English has reached a high level of fluency even though pronunciation errors still occur.

Pronunciation training can change all this for a while. I always forewarn my clients that there will be a period when they feel they are getting worse before they get better. This is because they are becoming aware of their 'mistakes' and developing self correction strategies which of course interrupts fluency.

This is part of the process and will change in time. However it can be very frustrating. I also tell them that they are very skilled to be working at such a level bilingually but unfortunately pronunciation training often focuses on what they can't do rather than what they can do. It will often seem as they are still doing many things 'wrongly' when in fact they have made huge improvements in their clarity of speech.

As I said before, it is a continual and very gradual process and change will not happen overnight. My mantra still holds true - practice, practice and more practice. I also try and get my clients to 'be in the moment' for five minutes every day at work. This means that they should try and be completely aware of their pronunciation for five minutes every day as a means to assist the transition from classroom work to every day speech.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One-on-one or pronunciation class?

Does anyone really benefit from pronunciation training? My answer is yes or I wouldn't be trying to make a living with my consultancy.
people can benefit from pronunciation training if they:
  • take an intensive one-on-one course
  • practise
  • make an effort to apply the strategies at work

it does take time, usually longer than the 10 week course which after all is only 20 hours of tuition. However, all of my clients have received feedback taht their speech is clearer and that they have improved their English.
I also teach a pronunciation class at the University of NSW. This is a class for overseas trained professionals. Currently I have 15 in the class. They are all very keen and a number of them practise regularly. The problem here is that there is little individual attention. By the end of the course they know what their problems are but most of the work still needs to be done. Of course, this option is a much cheaper option and there are other benefits such as gaining a nationally recognised cetificate and the use of the university resources.
One of my students in this class is from Sri Lanka and English is virtually his first language but people find it very difficult to undertand his 'accent'. He would benefit from individual tuition as little can be done for him in a large class.A lot of the workfor this student would be trying to change the pronunciaton of vowel sounds which can be very difficult and takes a long time.
So yes something can be done about your pronunciation. All you need to do is contact Pronunciation Matters!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tailored pronunciation courses

Pronunciation Matters teaches pronunciation by using the language relevant to each student's work. For example I am currently working with an engineer from an environmental engineering company so we are using the language she needs everyday when negotiating with clients and getting information from them to develop her projects. She needs to use complex technical words and she often misplaces stress on words such as 'environmental'.
The type of exercises for each student are similar such as:

  • working on specific sounds
  • linking
  • rhythm and stress activities

Their problems may also be similar and the text types may be the same, for example:
  • gathering information by asking questions
  • giving descriptions
  • negotiating
  • giving advice
  • giving updates
  • solving problems

However the content is always unique.
So a pronunciation teacher can become knowledgeable on such things as:
quantum physics,giving tax advice,software development,electricity transmission, maths teaching,payroll information, marketing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Accent reduction

People ask me if I do 'accent reduction'. I tell them that accents are good and they contribute to an interesting world. They only become a problem when they interfere with meaning. I can help people with specific sound confusions such as v/w or th/s and help them to lengthen short vowels or make a vowel sound more round but I don't particularly like calling it accent reduction.

Many years ago I used to run specific classes for migrant women. it was a mixture of job seeking and confidence building. We used to visit an energetic, larger than life Senator in the NSW Parliament - an Italian woman called Franca Arena. Franca spoke and acted enthusiastically about everything she did. After a visit and a 'pep' talk by Franca, one of my students said to me that she was amazed to see such an important woman talking with such a heavy accent.

People can make their 'accent' clearer but it requires practise, practise and more practise. If you commit to a pronunciation course change will come provided you practise and record and self correct regularly.