Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eternal Struggle with Pronunciation.

Last night I stayed up late and practiced Aussie pronunciation.
I had been slack for some time and people around me started asking me ‘pardon? (means, What did you say?)’ again. - Oops. I gotta do something quickly.

So, last night I had my voice recorder activated and read out some articles on the local paper.
Being aware that my voice being recorded, I became extremely self-conscious.
I began to stutter, swear in between and repeated the same phrase several times.
It was a total headache. A total disaster.
It was obvious that my ‘əu’ sound and ‘l’ sound were getting weak. Also my ‘v’ sounded like ‘b’. It was the problem that frustrated me 5 months ago, and now it’s started to frustrate me again!

It was already past midnight and after half an hour of practice, my mouth began to twitch.

That’s why I hate practicing pronunciation!
You use different facial muscle when you speak English, which causes your lips and mouth to quiver a little if you’re not doing that practice (more like a facial exercise!) everyday.

‘eı’ is another tricky vowel sound. Imagine you say the word ‘
えいが’(film) in Japanese. You don’t really stretch your mouth to pronounce it do you? But with this ‘eı’, you have to voice '' and '' very clearly, as to the point that sounds almost exaggerated. then it sounds close enough – after practicing this vowel sound, I guarantee that your cheek muscle starts to ache!

Now, I’ll tell you something interesting. You know how people from English speaking countries can’t pronounce Japanese correctly? From what I think, half the problem is the way many of us Japanese use ‘
ローマ字’(roman characters) to teach them Japanese pronunciation. - Just another one of my clueless theories.

Asahi, the worldly-known Japanese beverage company, for example, is often pronounced like ‘æ-sei-hee’. It’s because 'a' is not '
'. I've heard the funny story of some learners of Japanese pronouncing ‘かわいいですね’(sb. is cute) that almost sounds like ‘こわいですね’(sb. is scary). :D

Let me see, if I were an English speaker (lol) how would I pronounce those two words?
Well, kawaii looks like Hawaii, so it should sound like ‘kuh-wah-ee-dæsni-’, which is close enough
 - hang on, the emphasis is in on 'wah' in Hawaii, isn't there? Well, then what will happen if I apply that to Kawaii?

Next is ‘kowai-desu-ne’. ‘Kow’ looks like ‘cow’ so, that would be ‘kau-æi-dæs-ni-’ or ‘kəu-wæi-dæsni-’? Latter sounds close enough to the Japanese word, though.

Anyway, such unfortunate errors happen to people who rely heavily on the spelling, which of course includes me.
I hear many people who speak English as a second language saying that English words sound different from the way they’re spelt.

Would there be any effective system to fix this particular problem?
All I can try at this moment is to talk to local people more and get use to their accent and wait for someone to come up with the better system. *Sigh*

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