In my accent reduction classes, we look at the various pronunciation problems that the ESL student might be experiencing. Over time and with plenty of practice, it is possible to vastly improve the sound and quality of your spoken English.
A native speaker of Japanese will generally need to focus upon intonation so that the voice has the rise and fall of standard English. It is sometimes difficult for learners of English to speak words with the correct intonation and the voice at times can sound a little quiet. It is worth spending time on practicing pitch, stress and intonation in order to overcome this. Please click here for an article I previously wrote on accent reduction.
The sounds of ee and i are difficult to distinguish between for many nationalities and the same holds true for Japanese learners of English. In an earlier post I wrote about this. Please click here for practice with the sounds of ee and i ( as in heat and hit).
The sounds of l and r are especially difficult and the correct position of the tongue will ensure that you produce the sounds correctly. The tongue needs to hit the top of the mouth behind the teeth to correctly sound l. For sounding r the tongue is toward the back of the mouth but should not touch the roof of the mouth. Please click here for tips on how to pronounce l and r correctly.
Extra practice with the sounds of th will also help improve the quality of your pronunciation as this sound can be either unvoiced or voiced. Compare the following words,
- think - those
- teeth - that
- health - breathe
The first word in each line is said with an unvoiced th, whereas the second word is said with a voiced th. Notice the difference in sound and the vibration that is felt in the lips with the voiced th. In an earlier post I wrote about the different th sounds. Please click here for further practice.
It is often helpful when working on individual sounds, to have a hand mirror to make sure that your tongue is in the correct position and that your mouth is in the correct shape. It is also worth recording yourself so that you can evaluate the sounds and keep track of your progress.
I am a qualified Accent Reduction Tutor and have helped many Russian speakers with the challenges of the English language. You are welcome to contact me for a free evaluation.