A lot of people ask me if it’s possible to
sound like a native speaker if you weren’t born in the US. They want to know how long
it will take. That, of course, depends entirely upon the individual. Really focused pronunciation
practice can yield great results. In this video, I’m going to go over two different
ways to study English to perfect your pronunciation. All you need is the audio or video of a native
speaker speaking. First, we’re going to do a Ben Franklin exercise.
This is when you write down everything you can about what you hear: whether or not you
hear words being linked, or if you hear something being reduced, for example.
Now, we’ll do this together to help you get an idea of how to listen to and analyze what
you hear. “A lot of people ask me if it’s possible to sound like a native speaker–
A lot of people ask me.” So the first thing I notice is that this T is a flap T, it sounds
like a D, “a lot of,” that’s because it’s coming between two vowel sounds. I also notice
that I hear these three words as one unit: “a lot of, a lot of,” with the stress happening
on the middle word. “A lot of, a lot of people ask me–” I also notice that this word ends
in a consonant, this word begins with a vowel, there’s no punctuation in-between, “a lot
of people ask,” and I do hear that L as really linking to the beginning vowel sound: “people
ask.” Another thing you’ll want to note as you listen is any sounds that you know are
difficult for you. For example, many of my students have problems integrating the AA
sound into their speech. They know how to do it, but they just don’t use it in speech.
So I would definitely, if was one of them, mark this AA vowel, so that I’ll be sure to
note it, and then will hopefully begin to integrate AA into my speech when I see this
word ‘ask.’ “A lot of people ask me.” Let’s keep going.
“A lot of people ask me if it’s possible to sound like a native speaker– if it’s possible
to sound, if it’s possible to sound–” So, I notice the stress here: possible, first
syllable is stressed, “to sound,” I notice that has stress too. “–if it’s possible
to sound–” The word ‘to’ is definitely reduced to the schwa, so I may mark that so I don’t
forget to reduce it. “Possible to sound.” “If it’s, if it’s.” Here’s another case where
one word ends in a consonant sound, the next word begins with a vowel sound, “if it’s,
if it’s,” and I do definitely hear those connecting together. “If it’s possible to sound.”
“A lot of people ask me if it’s possible to sound like a native speaker– like a native
speaker–” I notice my voice goes up at the end here, “speaker.” That’s because the sentence
isn’t over, the next word is “if.” I also notice the stress is big, small, big, small,
big, small. “Like a native speaker.” DA da DA da DA da. “Like a native speaker.” Also,
again here we have ending consonant sound/beginning vowel sound: like a, like a. I hear the K
linking to the schwa. “Like a. Like a native speaker.” Native — I hear this T as a D because
again, it’s a T coming between two vowel sounds: will be a flap T, sounds like a D. “Like a
native speaker.” In the entire sentence, I don’t hear and gaps or pauses between words.
So in some cases, there’s a very obvious link, like when one word ends with a consonant and
the next word begins with a vowel. But even when there’s not a very obvious linking sound,
there’s never a gap between the words. “A lot of people ask me if it’s possible to
sound like a native speaker–” We’ve been working for several minutes, and here we are
only half way through one sentence. This is just an example of how you might take notes
from the audio or video clip of your choice. After you’ve listened several times and taken
thorough notes, you then put the audio or video away and, from your notes, try to speak
the way the native speaker was speaking. If you can, record yourself, and then compare
this to the native speaker. This is how you can figure out where you still need to work.
And now we’ll do an imitation exercise. In this video, you don’t look at the text. You’re
not concerned with the actual words because you do already have ideas about how words
should be pronounced. So in this exercise you’re just listening. And I loop things three
times in an imitation exercise so that you begin to think about the pitch changes and
the musicality of the speech, rather than the individual words themselves. Repeat it
back exactly as you hear it, even if you’re not sure of the individual words. It’s ok,
that’s not what we’re going for in this particular exercise.
A lot of people ask me [x3] A lot of people ask me
if it’s possible to sound like a native speaker [3x] if it’s possible to sound like a native speaker if you weren’t born in the US. [x3] Because of the internet, there really is an endless supply of audio and video where English
is being spoken by native speakers. I know looping something over and over, as in the
imitation exercise, can be more of a hassle on your own. That’s why, on my website, I
do have both Ben Franklin and imitation exercises ready for you. So I encourage you to take
a look at these, or any other audio or video clip that interests you, and turn it into
a pronunciation exercise: study it this way. It will really take you far in your practice. That’s
it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.