Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Today I interviewed a new client. He is employed in a boutique business writing and publishing firm and is Mandarin speaking from Malaysia.. What really impressed me was the attitude of his employers. They really respected his work and his ability to communicate visually. His work was definitely an asset to the company and they were trying very hard to provide him with  whatever it took to improve his communication skills.His employers have agreed to fund a five week one-on-one class focusing on pronunciation and writing skills. My  main message to him will be ( to use a sporting expression) "It's now time for you to step up to the plate".
Changing your pronunciation patterns can take a long time but it IS possible if you put in the time and effort. It requires practising the drills over and over again, recording yourself and listening for and correcting your errors. My new client will be able to change but it is up to him to put in a real effort to show he appreciates what his workplace is doing for him.

I probably sound like an old school principal but I can't reiterate enough the necessity for practise, practise, practise.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rhythm work

My latest favourite trick is lots of rhythm work. By this I mean clapping, tapping, clicking, walking - anything to get the rhythm of English. Limericks, Jazz Chants and Rhymes and Rhythm A poem based course for English pronunciation are my most used tools.
Initially a lot of work is done on word and sentences stress so the concept of stressed syllables and words is understood ( and practised) Rhythm work can be the 'fun' part of pronunciation although some students are a little embarrassed about it.
I do like to start the idea of rhythm in English by the borrowed story of 4 conductors all tapping out a beat with their bat
Conductor one
one                         two                      three                      four
Conductor 2
one and            two and            three and             four and
Conductor 3
one and a         two and a            three and a         four and a
Conductor 4
one and then a two and then a   three and then a   four and then a

This little story easily shows the idea of patterns of stress and 'unstress' and how all the 'little' words need to fit into the rhythm. I have found this to be particularly useful for french speakers who seem to have difficulty losing the classic 'French' accent. It is also very useful for many of the South East Asian languages to get over the 'staccato' and jumpy nature of their English. it is also good for those coming from India whose English is almost their first language but the rhythm of their speech makes it hard to understand sometimes.