I will admit that I have an incredibly hard time understanding someone who is speaking English with a heavy accent. It doesn’t matter what kind, or if English is their second language. There are plenty of Canadians and Brits who I can’t understand… and English is their first language! It is both embarrassing and frustrating to tell someone that I can’t help them simply because I just can’t make out what they are trying to tell me. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often. I have become very good at reading other visual cues to break apart the language barrier.
But this made me ask myself why, when people can speak English fluently, we seem to cross wires. And I realized that it doesn’t have to do with their knowledge of the English language… it’s a problem of differences. Differences in how I enunciate a word and in how they enunciate that same word, as well as differences in pronunciation. And depending on the individual’s culture changing that is going to take a lot of work… especially in a language as difficult as English. There were certain sounds that I couldn’t pronounce until I was in my teens (I still have a hard time saying aluminium!). And in the commercial below, the problem with not understanding how to properly pronounce and enunciate words is highlighted.
The best thing to overcome the problems of pronunciation(has to do with saying a word the way a dictionary would tell you it should be said) and enunciation(has to do with saying all the sounds in a word clearly) is to practice by reading aloud. Reading from a book or a magazine forces you to read set words and not slip into slang that is easier. And even better is to record yourself. This will help to show you exactly what words you have a hard time with and where you tend to slur words together. If you want to do any recordings, come and talk to Ms. Dalberg about participating in the student podcasts. We’re offering students the opportunity to podcast about books, movies, music, etc. Afterwards, we’ll place the podcast on the wiki page so that you can see your improvement!