Study conversational English in this interview with NBC Broadcaster Julia Boorstin. See how even professionals use reductions and contractions all the time, and learn some new vocabulary.
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J: Well, I grew up in Los Angeles and growing up my Mom was from Seattle, she was an English teacher before I was born and my Dad was from Chicago, and both of them were determined that I was not going to sound like an L.A. Valley girl.
J: So my whole life they were obsessed with this idea that I enunciate and I pronounce things properly and fully and I not use the word ‘like’.
R: That’s a habit that a lot of people have. So how did they get you to break this habit?
J: Well, my Mom decided that the best way to enforce this would be to have my little brother to count all the times I said the word ‘like.’ So when I was thirteen years old, we’d be driving around and my eight year old brother would be counting twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and it was really annoying, and it really did the job.
J: It really got me to stop saying the word ‘like.’ The other thing that was a pet peeve of my parents was the upward intonation and when people talk like this ….
R: Typical in California.
J: Very typical of Southern California. People talk like this, and they say this is what I’m going to do. And it makes everything sound like you’re asking a question. It makes you sound really uncertain.
R: Right, so the voice goes up in pitch at the end. And it makes it sound like you’re asking a yes/no question.
J: Even if you’re not asking a question, you always sound unsure of yourself.
R: Right, it’s a good point.
J: So my parents really encouraged me to not adopt that habit and I’m really glad they did. Because it has helped me.
R: Intonation matters. Notice how Ms. Boorstin says, when every sentence goes up in pitch at the end, it makes you sound unsure of yourself. Because it makes you sound like you are asking something, rather than making a statement. So for example the phrase, I’m going to the store. Going up in pitch makes it sound like you’re asking permission. I’m going to the store. But, I’m going to the store. Going down in pitch sounds like a statement. Generally the only phrases that should go up in pitch are yes/no questions. Check out these videos on intonation and questions.
So when you’re preparing a text to read on camera do you have any tips or tricks? What do you do? How much time do you take with the text?
J: Well, you like to take lot of time if it’s possible, every once in a while you have to just grab a script and go with it.
J: But I like to take a little bit of time to read through it at least once, usually twice and read through with a pen and I try to circle the words that are most important in each sentence. And just really try to think about, what’s the idea I’m communicating here. And every once in a while you’ll find yourself emphasizing a random word that’s not really what the sentence is about.
J: So, to just figure out what the key thing is.
R: That’s a great tip. Look for the key, circle it and then go to it when you’re speaking. Fantastic!
J: And I find it really helpful. And I also like to read things out loud. And you can hear something, you’re like, oh that doesn’t really make sense if I say it that way, what if I put the stress on the name of the person who I’m talking about, maybe that would work better.
R: Awesome, thank you for that tip. I love it.
Great tips here, guys. If you’re preparing a text for presentation, circle the most important words and practice stressing them, practice reading out loud.
R: So what do you do when you’re preparing a text, if you come across a word that you’re not sure how to pronounce.
J: Sometimes especially with foreign names, it’s really hard, don’t know how to say it.
R: Right, you have no context.
J: So I really think it’s important just to call someone, I usually call the CNBC News desk, we have lots of very smart people who speak many languages and it’s just the best way to get a quick answer. And you could look something up online and you’ll see the phonetic explanation of how to pronounce a name. But it’s just different, you just have to hear it in your ear so I always try to go for that solution.
and for my non-native speakers out there as you know a lot of online dictionaries have a little icon of a speaker that you can press to hear a native speaker saying the word, so if the phonetics don’t make sense to you, that’s a great option for actually hearing it, so that you can then repeat it back.
J: I didn’t realize that, I’ll need to check that out.
So are there any words that are particularly hard for you to pronounce in American English?
J: I don’t think that I have any funny words. But my husband thinks that I pronounce the word ‘experiment’ funny, and he thinks I always say, ‘experiment’
J: instead of experiment.
R: Right, so you’re sort of mixing Spearmint gum
R: with experiment.
J: Well, think about it. Experimenting is so exciting and refreshing it’s…
R: It is.
J: ……..sort of like spearmint …..
R: It is like Spearmint.
J: I’m very, very conscious of that
The word ‘experiment,’ has the EH as in BED vowel in the stressed syllable. Experiment, da-DA-da-da, experiment. Ex-pe-ri-ment.
Ms. Boorstin admits that sometimes she puts in the EE as in SHE vowel instead. This is not an official acceptable pronunciation, but I’m sure she’s not the only one I’ve heard change the vowel this way.
R: Alright, well thank you Julia so much for joining me here.
Follow Ms. Boorstin on Twitter and check out her segments on TV or online, for a great example of American English pronunciation.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.