Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wat Struggles With Pronunciation

by AJ

Listen To This Podcast Episode

This is a conversation between my best friend Kristin, a Japanese student, and I.

In this conversation, we discuss the problems Kristin's boyfriend is having with pronunciation. Her boyfriend is named Wat. He is Thai. Wat taught himself to speak English-- all by himself. He learned by listening, and by trying to communicate with foreign tourists in Bangkok. Wat sold jewelry on the sidewalk. His story is amazing.

Wat moved to San Francisco one month ago. Although his spoken English is great- he does have one problem-- pronunciation. Wat has a strong Thai accent. This didn't cause him problems in Thailand, but it has caused some problems in America.

In this conversation, We discusses Wat's pronunciation challenges. Kristin mentions some of the frustrations she is having trying to convince Wat that pronunciation is important. We then discuss the reason why it is important to have good pronunciation.

Here is the conversation:

Kristin: Last night he was trying to say "tools".

Student: Tools?

Kristin: Like hammer, and screwdriver... you know. Like if you're making something. So.... putting together....

AJ: Yeah, all those things are tools. Hammer, screwdriver, anything you use to make something.

Kristin: So he's trying,.. last night he's trying to say "tools" but he's saying "two"... "two". So I think he's saying "two".
So for five minutes I'm saying, "I don't understand-- two?"

And he kept saying "two, two" and I was like "two.... two what?"
Yeah, sometimes it can be very difficult.
Trying to get him to say that.. the "s" sound is almost impossible.

AJ: The final "s"

Kristin: Yes. That's what happens when...

AJ: Thai people, they chop the ends off

Kristin: They chop the ends off of words. That's why its,... like, if he just finished-- "tools", I could understand. But he's cut, cut it... "two, two"

AJ: "Two, two" yeah. They make everything kind of shorter. Yeah. That's why I was telling her about enunciation, right, and I was... because she was practicing her pronunciation-- like if she focuses on "r" and "l" she doesn't... not like a Thai person... but other sounds become weak, so I was trying to tell her, you know, try to pronounce every sound in the word.

And, even... even if it sounds a little unnatural, you know, more like an actor. Still, you know, that pronunciation will be very clear. Its tough.

Kristin: I try... I try to do that with Wat. I haven't said that to him, but I try to encourage that and he's... I think he feels weird doing it.

AJ: Um, hmm.

Kristin: So he doesn't. Uh, like last night finally he's, like, "Oh whatever".
Uh, when I finally realized what he was saying, I was, like, "tools" and he's like "Whatever".

And I was, like, "Don't say whatever. You're here now and people aren't gonna understand you. You need to work on that"

AJ: I think that, you know, that obviously he needs to learn to read, but I think he also needs to work on pronunciation.

Kristin: He does.

AJ: Because a lot of people don't understand. And that makes his life more difficult here. I mean, he's trying to talk to Americans and they don't understand him. That will be frustrating to him... cause problems.

If his pronunciation is good, even if he can't read he can ask someone- "Hey where's this? " And if they understand him quickly.. its no problem.

I was trying to tell her that, you know, I think her pronunciation is quite good... and...

Kristin: It is. Yeah.

AJ: And I said that's good. That helps a lot. So, you know, like, Wat... or someone else with more of a strong accent,... many times Americans get frustrated.

They don't understand you the first time, they, they become frustrated and they stop listening. They're, like, "What, what"... and they just.... you know.

We're teachers so we'll be patient. But, but many Americans will not be patient. They'll just, like, "OK, whatever".
You know, they just stop listening to you... and.. so its, it is important.