The most common problem for Chinese speakers of English is that English is mostly pronounced with the tip of the tongue at the front of the mouth, while Mandarin and Cantonese and other Chinese dialects are pronounced mostly with the back of the tongue at the back of the mouth. As a result, the consonant sounds take a bit of work to coordinate. Here are five pronunciation tips that will help you to become a clear English speaker.
Tip #1: the consonant sound “th”. Put your tongue between your teeth and blow air out. That’s all there is to it! “Th” is a very common sound in English and when you pronounce it correctly, you will sound excellent! If you substitute a “t” or a “d” for it, you might be saying a different word, such as saying “tree” instead of “three” so it’s really worth pronouncing this sound correctly.
Tip #2: the sound “v” and contrast that to the sound “w”. Many Chinese speakers mix up the “v” and the “w” but in English, these are two entirely different sounds. For the sound “v” bite your lower lip and blow air out. Don’t forget to use your voice. You can tell whether you’re using your voice correctly by putting your fingers on your throat and feeling the vibration. For “w,” you just make your lips round and blow air out. That’s all there is to it! You also use your voice for this sound. The thing to concentrate on is the position of the lips. Use a mirror to practice these sounds. Once again, if you substitute “v” for “w” or “w” for “v”, you might be saying a totally different word, such as vein or vine or maybe even wine.
Tip#3: the sound “r”. The good news is that “r” is always pronounced the same in English, regardless of where it is in the word. The beginning of the word, as in “run,” the middle as in “Mary,” and at the end of the word as in “far.” Remember to curl your tongue tip backwards and hold it there for pronouncing the sound “r”. Remember, it’s made with the tip of the tongue.
Tip #4: Always pronounce the endings of words clearly, don’t leave them out. For example, try the words “pit” “bid” or “for.” People may understand you without the ending, but your listeners will understand you even better when you put the ending on, so practice and you’ll notice the difference!
Tip #5: Word stress is very important. Remember not to stress all syllables in a word— just stress one. for example –INternet, aRRANGE. Try it!
These tips will go a long way to improving the way your English sounds and will make you feel clear and confident when speaking English!
Bonnie Gross B.A., D.S.P.A., SLP.
President, SpeechScience International, Keynote Speaker, Workshop Facilitator, Voice Transformer
Bonnie Gross is currently the President of SPEECH SCIENCE INTERNATIONAL – a company devoted to helping individuals become dynamic, influential speakers and communicators, through training, in voice enhancement, fearless public speaking, leadership speaking skills, VOCAL EQ. and accent reduction. Bonnie graduated from the University of Toronto with a BA in Psychology, and a postgraduate DSPA in Speech Pathology and Audiology. With a dual career in both Speech Pathology and Radio and Television Arts, Bonnie is able to transform individuals into dynamic, persuasive, exciting speakers.