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Subject: helping someone with English pronunciation
Question: Hello, I am a musician and college music professor. At the parish at which I attend church, our priest is Nigerian and speaks with a heavy accent, to the point where his English is sometimes unintelligible. This is frustrating for parishioners, as they cannot understand parts of his sermons. I have offered to help him with his pronunciation of certain English sounds. He has agreed to accept my help. I have no formal experience with linguistics; however, I grew up in a bi-lingual (German/English) family, and am gifted with communicating with and therefore helping international students. I taught Ear Training for 15+ years, and have an acute ability to recognize what creates sounds. Therefore, I believe that, with God's help, progress can be made. Can you please give recommendations as to how I could get started on working with our priest on improving his accent when speaking English? For example, some helpful text we could work out of, or ways in which I could help, would be of great help to me. Thank you very much for your service, and for your kind consideration. Best wishes, Francesca Tanksley
Reply: I think my colleagues have some great suggestions, but I have one in the opposite direction. Can your pastor type up his sermon and pass it out to the congregation ahead of time? I believe it would help the congregation learn how his native speech prounciation works. Although your pastor is willing to switch accents, it will still be a challenge in many ways (just as it is a challenge for many Americans to switch to a British accent and vice- versa). In terms of learning an English accent, I would focus on the vowels as well as intonation. English vowels are where the most variation happens and the English vowel system in general is fairly complex. One key difference is that "native" English vowels (i.e. Standard US/UK/Australia) are often different types of diphthongs and often a World English (e.g. Nigerian/Jamaican/India) has a true vowel or perhaps a different diphthong. I also recommend a phonetics book discussing the articulation vowels such as one Peter Ladefoged. Another is "Applied Phonetics" by Harold Edwards which focuses on U.S. English You don't need the acoustic spectrogram charts, but learning about how the tongue position varies between vowels is very handy for explaining pronunciation.
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 09-Dec-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: helping someone with English pronunciation    James L Fidelholtz     (07-Dec-2013)
  2. Re: helping someone with English pronunciation    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (07-Dec-2013)
  3. Re: helping someone with English pronunciation    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (08-Dec-2013)
  4. Re: helping someone with English pronunciation    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (08-Dec-2013)
  5. Re: helping someone with English pronunciation    Susan D Fischer     (07-Dec-2013)

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