Lose your accent! English “L”

Place your tongue correctly for the different English L's
Place your tongue correctly for the different English L’s

You can sound like a native.

English has different ways of pronouncing “L”, especially in the US. Generally at the beginning of syllables the tip of the tongue goes up, what we call a “light L.” At the end of syllables, the tip of the tongue stays down, as well as the middle of the tongue, what we call a “dark L.”

This video demonstrates the different pronunciation of dark and light “L” in different contexts, using multiple examples.

Even though speaking with a foreign accent seems like a normal state, you can learn how to make the sounds that sound easy in the mouths of natives. This video series increases your awareness of all the parts of your mouth you use for speaking. A language never felt so good!

Dr. Thomas Coates blew my mind. He taught me how my tongue, lips, jaw, and teeth create language. Like a Chinese calligrapher learns how each finger holds a brush, like a yogi breathes with specific depth and stretch of her diaphragm, I took the first steps towards mastering language: losing my accent.

Enjoy!

Photo credit: M Glasgow via Foter.com / CC BY

Lose your accent! English vowels and American diphthongs

Enjoy using your tongue to pronounce American English vowels correctly!
Enjoy using your tongue to pronounce American English vowels correctly!

You can sound like a native.

Non-native speakers often give themselves away with their vowels, as English tends to pronounce them as diphthongs. American English diphthongizes them in a unique way. (In fact, you can tell a lot about a variety of English by its diphthongs.)

In this video I explain the Standard American English diphthongs of /ey/, /ow/, and /uw/ of my native dialect, having grown up in a middle-class family in Nebraska and Colorado.

Even though speaking with a foreign accent seems like a normal state, you can learn how to make the sounds that sound easy in the mouths of natives. This video series increases your awareness of all the parts of your mouth you use for speaking. A language never felt so good!

Dr. Thomas Coates blew my mind. He taught me how my tongue, lips, jaw, and teeth create language. Like a Chinese calligrapher learns how each finger holds a brush, like a yogi breathes with specific depth and stretch of her diaphragm, I took the first steps towards mastering language: losing my accent.

Enjoy!

Photo credit: Derek K. Miller via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Lose your accent! English “th” (with American English “r”)

Don't get frustrated! You can pronounce "th" like a native.
Don’t get frustrated! You can pronounce “th” like a native.

You can sound like a native.

This sound challenges most learners of American English because it requires the speaker to position the tongue with the tip slightly beyond the teeth. On its own, the sound is not so hard, but articulating it alongside other unique English sounds—like the American “r”—brings its own troubles. This video helps you put the sound into context with other difficult sounds, but thinking about where your tongue is and what it is touching will help you pronounce English better.

Even though speaking with a foreign accent seems like a normal state, you can learn how to make the sounds that sound easy in the mouths of natives. This video series increases your awareness of all the parts of your mouth you use for speaking. A language never felt so good!

Dr. Thomas Coates blew my mind. He taught me how my tongue, lips, jaw, and teeth create language. Like a Chinese calligrapher learns how each finger holds a brush, like a yogi breathes with specific depth and stretch of her diaphragm, I took the first steps towards mastering language: losing my accent.

Enjoy!

Photo credit: ta||tim via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Lose your accent! American English “r”

Focus on your mouth and discover the right accent!
Focus on your mouth and discover the right accent!

You can sound like a native.

This sound challenges most learners of American English because it requires the speaker to point the tongue up while not quite touching the roof of the mouth. If you can say “t”, though, you can say “r.” Watch this video and you will learn to feel where your tongue is.

Even though speaking with a foreign accent seems like a normal state, you can learn how to make the sounds that sound easy in the mouths of natives. This video series increases your awareness of all the parts of your mouth you use for speaking. A language never felt so good!

Dr. Thomas Coates blew my mind. He taught me how my tongue, lips, jaw, and teeth create language. Like a Chinese calligrapher learns how each finger holds a brush, like a yogi breathes with specific depth and stretch of her diaphragm, I took the first steps towards mastering language: losing my accent.

Enjoy!

Photo credit: Tim Kirman Photography via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Poetry translation for language learners

Use poetry in translation to bridge the gap
Use poetry in translation to bridge the gap

Living among Somalis, I’m fascinated by their attachment to poetry.  The 19th century explorer Richard Burton wrote about Somalia, “The country teems with ‘poets, poetasters, poetitoes, poetaccios’: every man has his recognized position in literature as accurately defined as though he had been reviewed in a century of magazines” (from First Footsteps in East Africa).  This feeling has not changed to the present day, even as far away from East Africa as we are in Minnesota.

I know that if I want to know the Somali language, I have to know Somali poetry.  I don’t know what to do because I’m a complete amateur of the Somali language.  Sometimes I’ll look for Somali poetry hoping that I’ll understand it if I just stare at it long enough.  I needed a way to bridge the gap–the chasm–between my basic, basic Somali and the great expanse of Somali literary beauty.

Poetrytranslation.org

Then my prayers were answered when I found the website poetrytranslation.org.  I found poetry by modern Somali poems in the original Somali, once translated literally, and once translated fluidly.  It was perfect!  That way I can read the original and hear the “music” of the rhyme and meter.  Then I can work through the difficult, dense meaning of the poem with a helping hand.

You think this is good: you can listen to some of the poems read by the poets themselves!  This dimension adds to the music and bridges the gap from the written to the spoken word.  For learning the language, this ensures that you’re reading with the correct pronunciation.  Moreover, the poem becomes more intimate, more tied to an actual human.  You can even subscribe to the podcast of the recorded poems (only available through iTunes, unfortunately for me).

Bonus

Much more than Somali, I found poems of many different languages.  Now I have a great resource for working on my Farsi thanks to several poems in that language, as well as in the closely related languages of Dari and Tajik.  You can find poems in even more obscure languages, too (eg, Assamese, Siraiki, Shuar).  A good portion of the poems come from Asia: from Georgia and Kurdistan, to China and Korea.  If I were learning Chinese, I would especially love that an audio accompanies many of the poems in that language.  The one thing the site lacks (I hate to even say it since the site has so much) is that the site does not offer transcriptions of non-Latin scripts.

Every poem demonstrates painstaking work.  The curators of the site collect these original poems by poets already established among their language communities.  The literal translation offers insight into the translation method, and then the poems are rendered artistically into English, which are themselves worthy of enjoyable reading.

Poetry can help your language

I encourage you to compliment your language-study with this site if possible because it will help you on multiple levels.  First, it will allow you to learn grammar and vocabulary from solid native sources.  Second, it will highlight the way that your language uses imagery to convey ideas.  Third, you will gain insight into what the speakers of you language consider most beautiful in their language, and you will deepen your knowledge about their point of view.  Enjoy your language in its most artistic form!

Have you found unlikely language-learning aids?  Do you use poetry to learn your language?

Photo credit: Valentina_A / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA