Monday, February 27, 2012

Intelligible pronunciation for dummies

To understand why some relatively intelligible interlanguage pronunciation can be so resistant to change, spend a week training to be a ventriloquist. What you learn quickly, is that with practice--a visually striking dummy, basic distraction techniques and a little extra aspiration--you can get away with some amazing substitutions, such as:
Clipart: Clker
a. Instead of 'b', blow out a strong blast of air, aiming at 'v'.
b. For 'f', substitute a strongly aspirated 'h'.
c. For 'm', leave lips open but inhale sharply.
d. Avoid works with 'p'--or drop the first letter if it is a 'p'.
e. For 'w', wiggle the tongue and articulate the word at the back of the throat.
f. 'Y' is the ventriloquist's shibboleth. Once you have that one, you are in the club. Do it, too, with a violent blast of air, rather than much tongue movement.
g. For 'th', most anything works, depending on the accent you are affecting.
i. Vowels are a piece of cake, as long as you don't need to sound too intelligent.
Our students, of course, aren't dummies--but they sometimes do need to be persuaded to improve for no apparent reason . . . like . . .  "watch my lips and repeat after me!" 

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