Study conversational English in this interview with NBC Broadcaster Kate Snow. See how even professionals use reductions and contractions all the time, and learn some new vocabulary.
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>> I am a national correspondent for NBC News based in New York City.
>> Oh. I am also based in New York City. Now, I don’t know if you know this, but another term for the standard American accent is ‘broadcaster English’. So people all over the world are looking to those who deliver news in America as a standard for how they might want to speak American English.
>> Which is a little scary. We’re not always perfect.
>> That’s true. That’s fair. Um, but I’m curious, where are you from? Did you have to change anything about how you grew up speaking English as you went into this field?
>> That’s a great question. I actually find this subject fascinating because there are so many accents in America. I grew up in upstate New York.
>> So, not New York City, but way north, going towards Canada. Um, and, I had an upstate New York accent, which,
>> luckily, is not a very harsh accent. It’s sort of midwestern. It sort of sounds like Ohio,
>> Illinois English.
>> Um, but there are, there are little things that I
>> know now because I’ve had to work past them.
>> So people have been pointing out, this isn’t quite right, we need you to change this, or how have you figured out things that need to be…
>> Yeah, early on. Early on, when I started doing television, which is 20 years ago,
I pretty quickly discovered that, for example, you’re not supposed to say ‘mountain’, that’s how I grew up saying
mountain, like a peak,
>> I would say ‘mountain’,
>> ‘mountain’. Or, on your shirt is a button.
>> That’s a very, sort of a glottal stop or something.
>> So on camera, they’re saying, make it a real T sound
>> So, I’ve had to teach myself.I’ve had a lot of people ask me over the years about the pronunciation of words with a T-schwa-N, like ‘mountain’, ‘button’, ‘sentence’. It’s true when we’re speaking on TV or into a microphone that we tend to make more True T pronunciations. I actually tell my students it’s ok to make a Stop T here, but be careful about the next vowel. In some regions in the United States, people will say ‘mountain’, ‘button’, with more of an EH as in BED vowel. We want that to be a schwa. ‘Mountain’, ‘button’. Though certainly, in some more formal situations, more people will make a True T: mountain, button, sentence.
>> And even now, at NBC news, I’ll sometimes be in our tracking booth with a microphone recording my voice, and I’ll have to pause and say, ‘mountain’, mountain.
>> So you still have to think about it sometimes.
>> Yeah, I do, I do.
>> Well, that brings me to my next question, which is, when you have a transcript that you’re preparing, how much time do you spend with it, do you have anything special that you do as you’re working with the text?
>> Um, well, I write all my own pieces for NBC News. So, for Nightly News, the TODAY show, Dateline. Um, I often will, if I’m collaborating with a producer, I often will write many drafts.
Many drafts. Did you notice how she dropped the T? We do this a lot when the T comes between two consonants. This is easier to pronounce. Drafts, drafts.
>> Many drafts [3x], and make changes. And if somebody, look for Dateline, for example, they might write the first draft.
First draft. Here it was singular. The T wasn’t between two consonants, it was simply part of an ending consonant cluster. So, the T was clearly pronounced. Draft. Let’s compare ‘drafts’ with ‘draft’.
>> Drafts. Draft. [3x]
>> I will go through and sort of make it my language.
And take out words that I know are difficult for me. Paraph-, phrase things in different ways, maybe, if I know I might stumble on a certain pronunciation.
>> So, speaking of, what are some of those words that are difficult?
>> Any word that’s not English. I guess you’re asking about English, >> Right. >> but foreign pronunciations can be especially difficult.
>> So if you see a foreign word, place or name, what do you do if you don’t know how to pronounce it?
>> I write it phonetically
>> in my script, in the copy that I’m going to read. I write out syllables,
>> with the emphasis in capital letters.
>> And do you call an expert to get that name or place? Or?
>> It depends. We might call an expert. We sometimes, at NBC News, will call, if it’s a town name, we’ll call the village hall, and ask them:
>> “How do you say the name of your city?”
>> Um, if it’s foreign, if it’s overseas, um, we have a desk in London, that often knows how to pronounce, you know, Ahmadinejad or something
>> like that.
>> Cool. Well, do you have any favorite words in American English?
>> I have a lot of favorite words that are not necessarily TV words, though.
>> Like, um, persnickety.
>> Oh, that’s a great word.
>> I probably would never say >> that word on TV
>> because it’s sort of odd, but
>> But you’ve said it here, and now everyone’s going to look it up and increase their vocabulary.
>> There you go!
>> So, thank you for that.
>> You’re welcome.
Persnickety means fussy, particular, picky. An example sentence: it’s hard to cook for him because he’s such a persnickety eater. It’s a four-syllable word with stress on the second syllable. da-DA-da-da. Per-sni-cke-ty. Persnickety. The T there will sound like a D because it comes between two vowels and starts an unstressed syllable. Persnickety.
>> Well, Kate, thank you so much for your time.
>> I really appreciate it, I know my audience appreciates it.
Follow Ms. Snow on Twitter and check out her segments on TV or online for a great example of American English pronunciation.
>> Guys, that’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.
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