Guys, How you going?
Today I want to share with you the biggest tool you have to learn the very tiny differences between sounds. This is probably the most important teaching tool I figured out in my years of coaching accent. There are some sounds in English that are so similar that you really can’t hear the difference at first. That is, if they are not in your native language already. Some examples of those sounds are /sh/ vs /s/ or /i/ vs /i:/. like /she/ and /see/ or /this/ and /these/.
So, typically I’ll be talking to one of my students and I say ok, show me the difference between /sh/ and /s/. Now typically this one really applies to Vietnamese speakers, who really struggle with the hissing sounds in English. So, I’ll ask them to show me the difference and it basically all sounds the same. Even if they can HEAR the difference when I make the sounds, they still can’t work out how to make the sounds themselves. Now remember this technique is going to apply to all sounds that are similar. For example the voiced /th/ vs the unvoiced /th/.
So there are two ways to know you have the right sound.
1. You can hear it.
2. You can FEEL it.
So what I want to talk about today is really feeling the differences.
When you start on your journey of accent reduction and pronunciation you usually are very insensitive to your tongue. You usually have no idea if your tongue is up or down. I’ve even had clients who thought there tongue was not moving at all when I can clearly see it! So FEELING the sounds involves getting really sensitive to your tongue and mouth.
So let’s go back to the example of /S/ vs /SH/. There are three steps to this technique.
1. Articulate a word that contains the sounds. /She/ /see/. Take your time with them and feel and hear the sounds. Extend the first sounds as those are the ones we really care about in this case. The reason for this first step is because often you can do the sounds, but when we take them out of context we get confused. So use a word that you are used to saying and people have no problem understanding you.
2. Now isolate the sounds and pause between them. /s/ /sh/. Make them really long. Get someone to listen to you to make sure you have it right. And even go back to step one if you are confused and can’t remember which is which.
3. Ok, now here is the most important step. Slide between the sounds without any pauses. This will allow you to really feel your tongue moving. Pay close attention to how your tongue is moving. The tongue is incredible, and can move VERY slightly in my ways. So pay close attention. Can you feel what’s happening? Can you describe what’s hapenning?
Honestly I don’t even care if my student describes something different than I would describe. The important thing is you can feel the difference.
To your success my friends!