Thursday, April 10, 2008

What is an accent?

An accent is carrying over of the first phonemic system and discourse rhythm into English. Now the goal is to understand the American English phonetic system and discourse features.

However it is more then just a mental exercises it is a physical one as well. Once you have been able to identify the differences you need to be able to incorporate the new system into your English speech. On the sound level you should be able to feel and hear the difference between the American pronunciation and your execution of the sound.

English has 52 sounds, luckily only about half of this number is going to accent any first language. Now how the sounds will affect the persons production and the sounds that will be affected is determined by their first phonemic system. To even an untrained ear, there are distinct differences between a person with a Russian accent and that of a Spanish accent. That difference reflects the phonemic system the speaker is carrying over into their spoken English.

Stay focused on only the sounds of English that are troublesome, don't learn the production of all 52 sounds if only 20 are impacting your speech. Get the information on what changes need to be made in order to approximate the English production of the sound. For instance the Russian speaker will produce /v/ as /w/, while Spanish speaker will produce /v/ a /b/, while many Asian speakers do not find the /v/ to be challenging at all. In the case of Russian speaker and Spanish speaker they will need differing ideas for the American production of /v/, and the Asian speaker should not be wasting time with this sound at all.

Of course on the conversational level, or the discourse features the same will apply. One quick tip is to imitate an American speaking in your native language. The rhythm you use will most likely be quite close to what American English speakers are actually doing. This is why when you walk past two people speaking, even if you can't make out the words, you may be able to guess what language they are using. It is their intonation, rhythm and word stress that gives them away!

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