German and English

Tweet German-speaking friends are visiting us. Their vocabularies, cultural knowledge, and structural command of English are impressive, and we speak together fluently. This afternoon we worked on the little bit of accent that remains in my friend’s English speech.  It involves voicing the “g” of “German” or of “joy,” and getting used to pronouncing “th.” […]

Teaching pronunciation

Tweet I am teaching a class of Chinese students (plus one Saudi Arabian and one Iranian).  They are graduate students who have all studied English for many years, and perhaps were under the impression that they spoke English when they arrived on our shores. They were rudely greeted by professors who gave incomprehensible lectures, and […]

Minimal pairs

Tweet One assignment for my mostly-Chinese ESL class was to transcribe the words of the song “Danny Boy” from a Youtube clip.  The results were fascinating both for the way they constructed meaning out of the sporadic hints they gleaned from the clip, and for the way they created words out of similar hints. One […]

Pronouncing English

Tweet If a person is not introduced to a language’s structure as a baby, the language will not be instinctual. The structure of the brain changes as children age, and in babies there is a particular constellation of emotions which attach to certain sounds, and that changes rapidly. After a certain age, language enters through […]

American pronunciation

Tweet I am teaching an ESL classes at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey this term, and am having great fun introducing American English to speakers of other languages; in this case, mostly Chinese and Malay, with two Arabic speakers and one Portuguese speaker. Our next class will be on the phonetics of […]