This is an All Things English podcast Episode 1447 Five Steps to Clear English Pronunciation with Adaa Shemesh.
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Do you get frustrated when you try to improve your pronunciation but cannot implement it in the real world today? Our guest shows us a five step process to make sure that you isolate the sounds that you want to improve and use them in real English conversations.
Hello, Hodda, how are you today, so excited to have you on the show. I'm so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me. Anytime, guys. I'm excited to introduce our guest for today, Hodda Shamash. She's on the show from the Influenzae podcast. Tell us a little bit about where you're from, Hodda, and what you're doing in the ESL world.
OK, so as you said, my name is Hadari, pronounced it perfectly. And I live in Tel Aviv, Israel, and I'm a fluency coach and the speech and presentation coach and I'm not native speaker of English.
So actually I am teaching everyone what I have learned myself. And that's what I live in Israel and I work all around the world online.
Awesome. I find it so inspiring that you have you have learned English and now you're able to teach us from that experience. I think as a native speaker, we may take it for granted sometime. We don't know how we've learned our native language. So I appreciate this perspective. This is awesome. And today you're going to tell us about how our listeners can take their pronunciation learning out into the real world, is that right?
Exactly. Exactly. Struggle for listeners, for your students.
Absolutely. So, first of all, a lot of people understand that pronunciation is important, but they don't know exactly how they can actually use it and integrate it into their relative speech. Also a very common mistake that people think that, OK, once they learn a certain sound on YouTube or in a private coaching session, they feel like, OK, now I've mastered it, I know how to use it. And they expect themselves to use it, you know, effortlessly when they're speaking and they get really frustrated with themselves for not being able to do that.
And I want to say that the part about learning how to make a sound is just the first step.
Right. Or maybe second step. And most of the work is about the implementation and the repetition, and that part is usually overlooked.
So I want to talk about that today. Yeah, I'm glad you're here to talk about this. This is so because, again, when we put so much time into something, right. And we think it should work right.
We think it should work because everything else we can kind of learn it and make it happen most of the time. But language is a special case. So I understand that you have kind of a framework that you've been working with students on that seems to work based on student experience. Can you show our listeners how they would go about making sure they learn the pronunciation sounds correctly and then really getting out there, putting it into action? How can we do it?
So first of all, the the most important step is perception. That means that before even attempting at trying to pronounce a certain sound, it is so important to be able to hear it and to recognize it. Why am I saying that? Because if someone is doesn't have a certain sound in their native language, it's very likely that they won't even hear the nuances of that sound or they'll hear it, but their brain will analyze it as a different sound.
So it's important to understand that what they're hearing is not exactly how they categorize it or how they perceive it in their brain. So they need to perceive it as a new sound.
And as such, that means that they need to kind of like treated differently and how they think about it and use it. So perception is really important. Yeah.
And also sometimes there are very subtle nuances in English, like sheep ship pulpmill medad like, you know, vowel sounds that don't exist in many different languages, like two different very close vowel sounds, and then people usually merge them.
So before you're even trying to make them, they need to hear that. Exactly. Again, like you said, we can't hear what we don't know.
And that's maybe that's why it's so intense for beginners to really understand fast natural English, because if you don't have a sense of any of those sounds, you don't know what you're listening for. I love that. Right. OK. Exactly. And and one of the things about improving your your listening skills and understanding native speakers better is like you. It has to go through your mouth when you do it. Then this is why pronunciation is so important, because when you do it, you're able to understand it better too.
Yeah, that makes total sense. OK, so this is an important first step. I feel like it's kind of the foundation building our house here. All right. So large sections, no one had our. What will be the next one then?
Well, the next one is very simple pronunciation. It's the production of the sound. It's very technical. It's what you do exactly.
With your lips, with your thumb, with your jaw, with the with your cheeks.
Everything about your mouth and every human being can pronounce every any possible sound in, you know, any language.
It's just a matter of understanding what to do with your articulation organs, which is what I discussed. Right.
So to like let's say you want to. Practice or improve your ah in an American English, so you need to know what the tongue does, right? Yes. So you pull the tongue back, the sides of the tongue, touch the sides of the teeth. The lips need to around the tip of the tongue shouldn't touch anything. So we have these steps that you need to go through. And then ideally you practice it a bit and then you get to the right sound.
OK, do you recommend that students kind of mimic they watch someone pronouncing it and they kind of try to mirror what they're seeing, the way it's being formed in the mouth? Or is there is it more about understanding where to place the tongue and move the lips? How would you go about it?
That is such a great question, because it really depends on different learners learn and improve differently.
So sometimes I would be like explaining to students what they need to do and they'd be like, well, and then I just say the sound and maybe like, oh, you know, and repeat it and imitate it quickly. Others need to see a diagram and see exactly where the tongue is doing right. Others need to the entire explanation and some just need a lot of examples and repetition and just help them fine tune it by giving them some more images or notes.
So like, you know, sometimes I say stuff like imagine like you have a hot potato in your mouth.
For some people it be like, what? For others, boom. You know, that's what. Exactly. So it really depends. And as a coach, I try to go back and forth and see what resonates with a student and what gets them to make that sound good. And then I just continue with that.
Yeah, that's so important because there's not one way of learning to make these sounds. Everyone learns in a different way. And that's so key to really speak to students where they're at, how they learn.
I love it. OK, so we're at the practice stage.
Adagio, then what would be the next step once we've done perception and pronounce, I guess, and then what would be the next step for guys?
Today you're meeting our guest, Adaa Shamash. Make sure to go over and check out her podcast, the Influenzae podcast, and subscribe to get more from Hodda. Thanks for listening.
Well, the next step is building pronunciation confidence, which is also practice, right? So basically practicing the sound now, practicing the sound doesn't mean to just say 10 words with the same sound, then that's it. So you want to be very intentional about the practice. A lot of people practice in drill words, but they repeat the same patterns that they bring over from their native language, of course. So, for example, going back to the ah, let's say you're a Spanish speaker and then you have a tendency of saying instead of you're so right instead of.
So you know how to say the ah, maybe you have practiced it before, but then you drill sounds and you keep saying run red. Right. And you keep tapping that tongue against the upper palate and you don't even notice. So and then you just perpetuate that mistake and you build you build the muscle memory of the mistake of the it's not a mistake, but it's a mispronunciation, let's say.
Like it's not the American car or the British are.
So as a result, like it's just you the person might be practicing, but without seeing the results of thereafter because the practice wasn't intentional.
Yes. We want to make sure that when you practice, you have some guidance or tools and doesn't mean that you have to go and seek for coaching, but you need to just pay attention to look in the mirror, to feel your tongue, if needed, to record yourself, see if it's different, if it feels too comfortable.
Usually you're going back later, right? It feels weird and artificial.
You're probably on the right track because doing something different will make you feel a little you know, it's going to feel a little awkward, but you practice it enough times and then you make your own.
I love that. That's so important. Muscle memory is so powerful in both ways. If we do it wrong or teasing ourselves, very bad habits are getting cemented. Right. I mean, I know this in the direction of having studied Spanish for a long time and having lived a little bit in Latin America and then now starting to lose my accent, unfortunately. And so I'm going in the opposite direction. And so I can feel that when I pronounce Spanish words, it just doesn't feel natural anymore.
And so it can happen in both in both ways for sure.
And it's also the muscles. Right. Let's not forget that these are muscles. So you need to strengthen them. It's not like, OK, you're not going to the gym for two years. How would you expect to be in shape? Exactly. I mean, we can build new muscle fibers and our biceps after a few weeks of the gym. So why couldn't we do it with our mouths, with making those sounds? I love that mentality. Exactly.
Exactly. It should be addressed exactly the same way I love it.
And also, it's like ongoing work, like you say, you know, you haven't done it in a while. You get rusty and then you're not as sharp and it doesn't feel as smooth and effortless.
Yeah, we have to nurture this skill. One hundred percent. One hundred percent. OK, absolutely.
So then this is great. So I love this framework. So then what's our next step? I feel like there are a couple more steps to really make sure we bring it out there with with out in the conversation. Really. Right.
So now you need to start implementing what you have practiced. Let's assume that you've practiced the R and you were intentional about it and you drilled it in words and phrases and sentences and you tackled challenging transitions. And now but you still you feel that you're still not using it in a conversation, right? It's not there for you. You go back to your old habits. So the next step is still like that's a buffer step, which is OK, don't use it yet in real life because there is the whole aspect of judgment.
And then you think about your English, too, and about how to structure the sentence and vocabulary. There's a lot that goes into it. So you want to make it automatic, but also it doesn't happen on its own.
So the next step would be to practice on your own.
So to record yourself speaking freely or to read out loud, but to focus on one or two sounds and to make sure that you are actually using them. Right. So just start using it not in drills, but in real, you know, in real conversation.
But I recommend that it's still you on your own, right. Like you speaking to other people. So there's less judgement and more permission. Yeah. And then.
Right, so people are a lot better, you know, they say after there was a research that showed that people who have a glass of wine, their pronunciation improves because not that I'm sure, not that I'm encouraging people to consume alcohol, but it says that, like, when you're less judgmental, there is more freedom, especially when it comes to pronunciation and English influence in general. Interesting.
That is such an interesting insight. Yeah. You know, I think this is a step that a lot of students skip and this may be the problem. They go from classroom learning, drilling to let's go into the middle of a conversation in a crowded nightclub or party. And I should be able to do it right.
And yeah, I like that you're adding in this step.
Right. And so you do it on your own, but you simulate like a real conversation, but you're still safe. And ideally, if you record yourself, I would recommend to listen back to it and to observe your performance.
Feel good going back to the physical activity.
Even athletes, when they're on the field and they you know, after a game, they will watch the videos of the game and see their performance is when you're in your body doing whatever it is, when you're on the field, then you're not aware of many of the things or many patterns that you that you tend to go into.
And when you listen back to it, like listen to your recording, you can notice a lot of things. And then it's a lot easier to to decide if you want to keep it or change it to tweak from there.
Yeah, that makes total sense. OK, so now after we've done all of this, we've learned the sounds, we've pronounced them, we've done our our practice recording ourselves, listening for sounds. What do we do next?
I'm guessing that we want to then go into the real world and then. And then. So on one hand, if you've done all of that, a lot of the work will show up for you spontaneously.
That's the great part about practicing or building pronunciation confidence that it's going to show up for you. And sometimes you won't even notice that it's there. You'll start getting feedback from people, right? Fantastic. Yeah. And but but if you want to really seal the deal, then use it intentionally every time. Focus on, as I said, not everything. Not don't try to to integrate everything that you've learned. That's just not going that's going to make you feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
So let's say you worked on R and intonation and say, OK, you go into position or a meeting and probably it shouldn't be the most important meeting of your career.
So you go into a meeting and you have that small talk at the beginning, be intentional about using one or two sounds that you've learned and you've practiced, because when you're aware of it and you have that like a voice in the back of your head saying, ah, no, the ah, then it's easier to integrate it.
And then you you become confident speaking to other people using those sounds. Yeah. I love it. I love that we're isolating sounds too because I think a lot of students just want to improve all of their pronunciation all at one time and go into that meeting, be able to pronounce everything perfectly, which is completely unrealistic or it's just not possible, guys. So this is a really good strategy. Isolette, a couple of sounds go into that meeting and only judge yourself based on how well you do with those sounds.
Nothing else, right, Adaa?
Yeah. Yeah. OK, also, I love it. Do you find that most of your students that you work with are learning American English or British English or Australian English. What is the go to pronunciation, the accent they look for.
That's a good question.
I think I mostly attract American students who are more into American pronunciation, but I have a lot of students who also live in the UK and Australia, and then I just help them understand how to tweak it a little bit. But to be honest, it's more about their confidence and being able to be clear. Right. So it's less about sound like an American, sound like a British speaker.
So it's just like understand what are the sounds that are preventing you from being clear and delivering your message confidently? Right. Or clearly. And it's not just pronunciation, it's also prosody, intonation, rhythm, stress, all of that.
So more than like learning certain accent, we learn the building blocks of spoken English, write whatever dialect that is, because the R is the same. It's just like there are few features it has dropped in British English or Australian English. But it's mainly the key sounds. The most important sounds are the same languages across all dialects, you know, so. So that's important to remember.
So I bet our listeners are going to want to hear more from you, Hodda. So let us know where we can find you, find your podcast or where your listeners go to learn more, because this is really good stuff that we don't dive into quite as much on all English. But I want to encourage our listeners to pursue this more.
Yeah, well, thank you. And I would love to have your listeners come and join me. My website is Haddara, Match.com, and they can come and tune in to the Influenzae podcast.
Whatever platform you prefer, you're on Spotify or an Apple podcast, all the places. All right. OK, so guys, go and find the Influenzae podcast. We put our show at Shamash. And thank you so much. Harder for joining us today. This has been fantastic. I really enjoyed chatting with you.
Thank you so, so much. It's been a pleasure. Absolutely. See you soon.
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