Overcoming the difficulties in understanding people with strong accent

Learning the ins and outs of the American English language is no easy task.  There are so many different rules; even native speakers often need to look up correct usage.  Languages such as Chinese and Hindi are considerably different from English.  The differences almost always lead to incorrect and confusing speech patterns.  Let’s look at common errors that Chinese learners of English frequently commit.

SEE ALSO: English Pronunciation Lesson for Chinese Speakers

varieties of pronunciation

The Chinese language does not specify gender preference.  Pronouns such as he and she, or his and her, do not exist.  Most Chinese speakers refer to people in the masculine form.  English has a clear distinction between male and female.  It sounds very odd to refer to a woman as “he.”

saundz american english learning software homeworkSingular and plural nouns cause confusion for the Chinese.  Nouns are all used in the singular, e.g., “he has four horse,” or “I am thirty year old.” To a native English speaker, these sound somewhat confusing.  For the Chinese learner, it’s a matter of committing to memory that people, places and things in quantity have an added “s” at the end of the word.

There are no verb conjugations to pair-up with the subject.  Statements such as “he want food,” sound primitive to an English speaker but are still comprehensible.  Another verb issue is the tenses.  English has roughly twelve tenses.  A Chinese speaker of English would say, “Yesterday I go”, or “Tomorrow I go.” To denote the past or future, they use a word to state a specific time, yesterday or today. Native speakers of English, though, use many tenses for the verb go.

hinglishIndian ESL learners misuse American English in particular ways as well.  While listening to an Indian speak English, you will notice how the pronunciation of ‘W‘ is switched to a ‘V‘ sound.  This leads to confusion, especially if you are trying to get the name of a specific location, e.g., “Vipavadi Rd.” sounds like “Wipawadi Rd.” There also seems to be an error in phonetic pronunciation concerning the sound for ‘Th.’ Somehow it is converted into a ‘da’ sound.  The word “math” sounds more like mad. Watching how native English speakers position their lips and tongue would be of great value in correcting these problems.

Many times you will hear the words close and open rather than the phrasal verbs turn on and turn off. Typically, an American would say, “turn off the TV” not “close the TV” or “open the fan.”

There are a variety of solutions to these pronunciation errors for both Chinese and Indians alike.  The main way is practice and more practice.  Rehearse every day in front of a mirror and pay close attention to syllables and how they should be formed.  Speak slowly; in time you will find the pace that is right for you.  Record your voice and then go back and improve upon pronunciation errors.  Listen to and watch movies and radio shows, particularly if a certain American dialect is desired.  Listening to a  news program from California would help you pronounce words in more of a West Coast dialect as opposed to listening to reports from all the many geographical regions of the United States.  Do not put on any sort of fake accent; native English speakers will quickly detect this.  Lastly, read a lot of books, magazines and newsprint to actually see how the word is written.  Again, practice is the key in learning American English.

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