Intonation and pronunciation
There have been two comments on the subject of pronunciation and intonation. These both came from Hong Kong from Cantonese speakers who have a high level of fluency in English but who want to achieve as close as possible to native speaker pronunciation.
My advice is as follows.
Do not worry about whether you pronounce like a native speaker or not. By all means try to imitate native speaker pronunciation as closely as you can. It can be fun to try to do so. I will provide some hints on how to do so below. But do not worry if you do not achieve this goal. This may sound like contradictory advice. What I mean is that you can aim to sound like a native speaker but should be satisfied with yourself if you can communicate clearly and effectively. You should not have the slightest sense of being inadequate if you do not achieve this 100% native speaker like pronunciation. I wonder if that is clear.
It is better to use words and phrases like a native speaker and prounounce with an accent than to pronounce like a native speaker but have phrasing that is not natural. So work hardest on your choice of words and phrases.
Having said that I offer the following advice on pronunciation. First of all choose someone whose voice and pronunciation you like. Listent repetitively to that same person. Imitate that person as much as you can. Overload your brain with that person’s voice and intonation.
Get a hold of the text of what that person is saying or transcribe it. Now read it out loud many times imitating the person you are listening to. Record yourself. Identify the differences in pronunciation and intonation between yourself and the native speaker. You will gradually get better and better at doing this.
Isolate the vowel sounds and consonant sounds that you are not sataisfied with. Work very hard on saying those sounds. Record yourself and compare yourself to a native speaker. Do the same with intonation.
It is possible that books explaining the intonation of English can help. By all means buy such books, including the one recommended in the comment below. But even without this book, if you train yourself to listen for intonation and imitate it, you can develop the ability to pronunce with the correct intonation.
I also recommend doing a lot of reading out loud. Do this in a loud voice and exaggerate.
Here is what I said in my book a few years ago.
Once I was able to pronounce individual words and phrases satisfactorily, I would find it easier to understand content not designed for the learner: in other words, authentic material. I would record radio broadcasts to listen to over and over. Much later when I had reached a certain level of fluency, I particularly enjoyed listening to the famous Beijing Xiang Sheng comic dialogue performer Hou Bao Lin, with his colourful
rhythm of speech. In recent years, to maintain my Mandarin, I sometimes listen to CDs of
is highly developed and when I listen to one of these CDs I thoroughly enjoy being transported back to a bygone era.
Any person can learn to pronounce any language, regardless of nationality. Some people may achieve better results than others, but we can all get pretty close if we work at it. The objective should be to be easily understood. It is not necessary, nor possible for everyone, to achieve near native speaker pronunciation.
First, LISTEN repeatedly to individual sounds and to material within your basic range of comprehension, concentrating on pronunciation. Listen
The sounds, the intonation and even the writing system of your native language can influence your pronunciation of the second language. The more you are able to establish freedom from the influence of your native language, including the influence on pronunciation, the better you will learn the second language. The writing and sound system of the native language can be a significant obstacles for a learner since there is a naturally tendency to pronounce the words of a new language is if it were a word in your own language.
In Japanese the writing system is based on syllables. So a word like “brother” becomes “bu-ra-za”.In Korean there is no “f” sound. Many North Americans seem unable to pronounce the Japanese Kato or Sato to rhyme with “sat” and “cat” even though those words exist in English. They may hear these names pronounced correctly many times but still insist on pronouncing their names to rhyme with ‘‘say’’ or “gay”. Cantonese pronounce from the throat, Mandarin speakers speak more with the tip of their tongue, and people from central
do not distinguish between “l” and “n”. The Spanish pronounce “w” as “gu” and the Germans pronounce “w” as “v” , the Swedes say “yust” instead of “just” , the French cannot pronounce “h” and on it goes.
It is important to practice pronunciation while reading the new language to get used to seeing these words as words in that language. You have to force yourself to train the muscles of your mouth to make the new sounds accurately. You may have to breathe differently to pronounce the new language correctly. You must try to imitate the rhythm of the new language. Pronunciation practice is best done on your own, and is a form of play acting. It can be fun.
Often learning proper “body language” can be as important as pronunciation in effective communication. Easily understanding what is said is essential to good body language. Furthermore, an appreciation for the culture of