Thursday, 4 April 2013

I'm a Pronunciation Snob

I know it's wrong. And yet I can't help it. It's made worse by the fact that I hold language learning in such high esteem. I never miss an opportunity to tell people "just get on with it - doesn't matter if you're not perfect, just do it" - the usual enlightened stuff.

But. But.But. The truth is - I cannot abide bad pronunciation. Sorry, but I think in most cases it's just laziness. Treating a foreign language like your own, not making an effort with different vowel sounds, intonation, pitch - why should one nod sagely, and say "You're perfect"?

Especially as it isn't very difficult. Just listen and listen and listen. Like you would to music. In fact, listening to music sung in a different language is the best way of picking up the pronunciation. I can pronounce Italian well because I listened to "Azzurro" billions of times in my youth and took it from there. Maybe nothing to be proud of musically, but it sets you up. Listen to Beatles songs - not once or twice, but all day long til you find yourself singing along - and your English pronunciation will benefit so much! It's the next best thing to living in the country itself.

Most people make the mistake thinking it's all about picking up the current slang. In fact there is nothing sadder (or funnier) than listening to a foreigner talking street but with their homely accent firmly in place.

First set yourself the target of getting the pronunciation totally and absolutely pitch-perfect, then turn your mind to the lingo of the day!

Listen to a single word over and over again til it swirls round your head all day - you'll never forget it, and it will trigger off a "pronunciation memory bank".

And never get bogged down with too much grammar stuff - proper native pronunciation is the mainstay of learning a language -everything else can (and will) come automatically. But it is very hard to lose a foreign accent if you let it hang around. So remember when you first set out learning a new language - get the music going!


  1. Excellent recommendation! I will listen to music - and dance, since I love dancing - while learning. Win-win :)

  2. While it is desirable to sound like a native speaker it is not achievable by everybody. Henry Kissinger has lived in the USA since 1938 and never lost his German accent. One should not have unreasonable expectations.