Watch as I analyze the speech of a non-native speaker from China. See the different mispronunciations and get a feel for how to correct them.
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A student from China has sent me a video of her speaking English. She did a great job, but I would like to point out a few things. The first: the ‘aw’ as in ‘law’ [?] vowel sound. This occurred twice in her passage, on the word ‘all’ and the word ‘long’. Nowhere in this passage was the ‘ah’ as in ‘father’ [a] sound, but I have a feeling it would have a similar issue. And that is, the jaw does not drop enough on this sound. Here is a still of both she and I saying the word ‘long’, which has the ‘aw’ as in ‘law’ vowel sound. You can see that her jaw is not dropped enough as her teeth are barely apart.
When she says, ‘I know you can help me,’ I don’t hear the N in the word ‘can’. This sound can’t be dropped. In fact, when the word is unaccented, the word is mostly this nn sound: cnn, cnn. I know you can help me. Another thing that I have noticed, that I have noticed in many other students, is a tendency to skip over unaccented syllables in certain words. For example, ‘pronunciation’ is 5 syllables, and I heard ‘pronunc-ation’, 4 syllables. I did not hear hear the ‘ci’ before ‘ation’. Pronunciation. Also, in the word ‘university’. I heard, univers-ty. Straight from the ss to a tt sound. We have to have an ‘ih’ vowel sound there.
These photos come from using a software that does vocal analysis. It is free software that comes from a university in the Netherlands; I will put a link to it on my website. [here: Praat] The top voice is her voice and the bottom is mine. This is of the word ‘university’. The part that is highlighted in purple is the S-I-T sound. You can see that her voice slides straight from the S into the T without a vowel. The ‘ih’ vowel is what I have circled in my voice below. It is short, and it is unaccented, but the vowel must be there.
This photo shows part of the word ‘pronunciation’. The part highlighted in purple shows the amount of time given to the syllable ‘ci’, just before ‘ation’, the accented part of the word. Pronunciation. You can see that she gives such a short amount of time. That means that the ear might not pick it up, as my ear did not and doesn’t hear it as a sound or as a syllable. Pronunciation. Again, it is unaccented, but the vowel sound must be there.
And finally, the dark L. This sound occurred several times in the passage, for example, in my name, Rachel, the word ‘all’, and the word ‘help’. As I’ve said before, the dark L consists of two sounds: a vowel-like sound uuh, and then the ll when the tongue as moved into the actual L position sound. The uuh before the ll is actually the defining sound for the dark L. So it’s important not to leave it out. Help. I will put a link on my website to a more in-depth explanation that I did on this sound.
I’m going to play now a clip in slow motion of her saying the word ‘help’ followed by me saying the word ‘help’. And, I want you to notice how quickly her mouth goes from the ‘eh’ position to the pp, P position, closed down. And then in the clip following, of me saying the word, you can see how my mouth transitions through the dark L and into the P sound.
So, in conclusion: the ‘aw’ as in ‘law’ sound, the jaw has to drop more. The N sound cannot be left off the word ‘can’. Make sure that you pronounce vowel sounds in unaccented syllables, and make sure you make the uhh sound before the ll sound in a dark L.