1) Why let poor language skills affect your company’s bottom line?
2) An employee who is difficult to understand can cause great frustration for customers, colleagues, and co-workers. Poor pronunciation hinders job performance, creates stress, and reduces productivity.
3) When the focus is on how the employee speaks, as opposed to what is being said, communication breaks down. This can be very costly to our company!
1) VOICE MODULATION
Speakers of every single language in the world have a characteristic way of holding their vocal tract during speech. This has nothing to do with the individual sounds of the language or intonation but with the basic resting position the speech organs-your tongue, your lips, your jaw, your throat.
Even if your pronunciation of each sound is perfect- if you do not hold your speech organs the same way that native speakers do- you will sound foreign. This is due to the fact that the mouth cavity is like the body of a musical instrument-it’s where all the sounds of the language resonate just like the notes resonate inside a guitar or a saxophone. This is why a violin sounds like a violin and a piano sounds like a piano even when they are playing the exact same note.
Two instruments playing the exact same note sound very different because of the way sound resonates in the body of the instrument. When it comes to accent, your mouth cavity is like a musical instrument’s body! You must hold your mouth like an American to sound American!
This is incredibly important. If you hold your vocal tract the wrong way it creates the wrong vibrations and you will wind up sounding like a banjo or a flute when you are trying to sound like a guitar. In other words, your consonants and vowels will sound German or Spanish or Chinese even if they are otherwise being pronounced correctly
So what is the American way to hold your vocal tract? First and foremost you must be relaxed! There should be very little tension in your mouth, jaw, lips, and throat. The flat of your tongue should rest loosely at the bottom of your mouth with the tip of the tongue sitting behind the back teeth. Your lips should neither be rounded nor spread too wide, and they should be slightly parted. Again, unlike many languages, even unlike British English, the key here is to have RELAXED vocal organs. If you do not, you will simply not sound American no matter how good the rest of your accent is. So release the tension from your mouth and try to speak in a very casual laid back manner. Don’t worry about going overboard-it’s much better to be too relaxed than too tense when speaking American English.
Some Good News!
Even if you change nothing else in your accent, learning to relax your vocal organs and pronounce words from the head, not the chest, will make you sound far more American in no time. It’s easy if you just practice relaxing, and it will make a big difference in your accent FAST!
BONUS TIP! One unusual but effective way to improve your accent is to copy an American trying to speak your own language with a heavy American accent. This will train you to recognize what really makes an American sound American. Then, try to apply the same patterns when you actually speak English! It works!
2) WORD CONNECTIONS.
The next most important tip to remember in speaking English like an American has to do with word connections.
Teachers of English as a second language usually instruct their students to speak English much too precisely and to pronounce every word carefully the way it would be pronounced if it were said alone in isolation. But this is not at all how Americans sound when speaking! In fact, they run words together in their sentence all the time. And if you do not do this too, you will sound choppy and foreign even if you are pronouncing each individual word correctly. It’s not sloppy, it’s the way Americans talk. This is a very hard thing for most learners of English-and even most English teachers-to accept. They think they are speaking badly because they are speaking very casually and not pronouncing words the way they are written. But that is exactly what you must do to sound like an American and not like a robot!
The dog is cute and cuddly.
Now, read the sentence aloud.
How did it sound? Most likely you pronounced each word individually:
Even if you didn’t actually pause between them, this still sounds very unnatural to an American because you are not connecting the words but speaking each as it has been written. connect their words in speech. This is incredibly important in order to sound like a native speaker.
How exactly do they do this? Well, when a word that ends with a consonant (like the final g in dog), is immediately followed by a word that begins with a vowel (like the initial i in is) it is normal for that final consonant to be pronounced as if it actually began the following word rather than ended the previous one. So, Americans, don’t say:
DO GIS. Cleaver CU TAND funny
They also don’t say:
but instead say:
So the sentence should be read:
THE DO GIS CU TAND CUDDLY.
1) American: I’ll letchya know
2) Indian: I will let you know
Notice that the word cute does in fact end in the consonant t sound-the e is just there in spelling-so the t is indeed pronounced as part of AND.
REMEMBER! You are concerned with the actual sounds of a word not the spelling! As you have certainly discovered, English spelling is not always a good indicator of pronunciation!
The important point here is that if you do not use word connections such as this properly you will sounds like different. This is a very common problem for speakers of many languages.
Don’t do it like this!
Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with
Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor and a roof, which made one room; and this room contained a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes, a table, three or four chairs, and the beds. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em had a big bed in one corner, and Dorothy a little bed in another corner.
Do it like this Instead!
Now for the way spoken by an American. slowly so you can really understand the word connections:
Dorothy lived_in the midst_of the great Kansas prairies,
with_Uncle Henry, who was_a farmer_and_Aunt_Em, who was the farmer’s wife. Their house was_small, for the lumber to build_it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor_and_a roof, which made_one room; and this_room contained_a rusty looking cookstove, a cupboard for the dishes_a table, three or four chairs_and the beds. Uncle Henry and_Aunt_Em had_a big bed_in_one corner, and Dorothy a little bed_in_another corner.