Let's consider a student who possesses complete fluency in English but wishes to acquire a native-like British accent, despite having a strong existing accent. The primary challenge arises from the misconception that, as human adults capable of speech, we inherently have full control over our speech mechanisms. In reality, we only command the speech mechanisms pertinent to our native language, lacking control over those specific to the target language, English. This leads to a perpetual cycle of overcompensation and reliance on the speech mechanisms of our native language, hindering progress towards a native-like British accent.
Breaking this cycle is crucial for achieving mastery in pronunciation. The journey involves several stages. The initial stage is one of awareness, where the student recognizes that a difference exists and acknowledges the need for correction in the future. It's important to note that immediate correction might overwhelm the student cognitively, making the process excessively challenging and possibly leading to frustration. Therefore, the focus at this stage is on creating awareness rather than immediate correction.
Following the awareness stage, the student progresses to dissecting and differentiating between sounds. This step is essential for understanding the nuances of pronunciation. Once the student can dissect and differentiate sounds effectively, the next stage involves learning to mimic each sound accurately. Mimicry is a key component in acquiring a new accent. Finally, the student internalizes these sounds through consistent repetition, reinforcing their ability to produce native-like speech.
Week 1-4: BUILDING AWARENESS
During this initial phase, the student is introduced to the essential tools that play a crucial role in understanding English sounds. This includes familiarizing themselves with the International Phonetic Alphabet and vowel sound charts. The emphasis is on creating awareness of these tools, with no immediate need for memorization.
The student is also enlightened about the intricacies of English sound production, specifically focusing on breathing mechanisms and the aspiration of sounds. Awareness extends to the positioning of articulators and the dynamic interplay between the lungs and articulators, influencing both consonant and vowel sounds in English.
Using the introduced tools, the student becomes aware of the diverse sounds within the English language. The focus shifts towards recognizing the distinctions between native-like and non-native sounds, both for consonants and vowels.
Engaging in listening exercises, the student attempts to differentiate between English vowel sounds. It's expected that the student may initially struggle with a higher error rate, influenced by their native language's perceptual filter. This phase marks a crucial realization where they begin to understand that the sounds they perceive differ significantly from what they hear.
To reinforce this awareness, the student participates in basic repetition exercises, systematically attempting to reproduce the individual phonemes of the English language. Given the complexity, the accuracy rate is initially low, requiring multiple attempts to replicate even simple sounds. This phase is foundational, setting the stage for further skill development.
WEEK 5-8: DEEPENING UNDERSTANDING
During this period, the student advances in their comprehension of the tools, recognizing their significance in aiding the understanding of English phonetics.
A daily practice regimen is established for the student to hone their breathing mechanisms. Despite continued challenges, there is a notable improvement in their accuracy, indicating progress.
The focus shifts to the study of each of the 12 monophthongs in isolation. Engaging in listening exercises becomes a key component as the student strives to differentiate between these distinct monophthongs. Although initial difficulties in discerning between the various sounds persist, the student's competence steadily grows.
Notably, the student demonstrates an enhanced ability to mimic stop consonants, aspirated airflow, and various consonant sounds when practiced in isolation. This marks a significant step forward in their journey towards mastering the intricacies of English pronunciation.
WEEK 8-12: EXPANDING SKILLS
Having successfully concluded the study of the 12 monophthongs, the student progresses to the exploration of each of the 8 diphthong vowel sounds in isolation. This phase also involves an increased focus on connected speech, guiding the student on how to seamlessly link sounds in a manner that mirrors native pronunciation.
Building on their foundation, the student exhibits enhanced confidence in performing basic aspiration exercises. Notably, they now demonstrate a heightened ability to differentiate between various vowel sounds, showcasing an improved proficiency. When given ample time, they can articulate back simple groups of sounds with precision, marking a significant advancement in their pronunciation skills.
WEEK 12-16: ACHIEVING CLARITY
At this stage, the student has developed a clear ability to distinguish and identify all twenty vowel sounds and the 24 consonant sounds. Their comprehension of the tools is solid, and they now understand the reasons behind the differences between their current accent and the desired native-like British accent. They have reached a proficiency level where they could potentially continue their progress independently, albeit with the recognition that further reinforcement is necessary.
While the student can proficiently repeat back two to three syllables at a time, tackling more intricate words and structures remains a challenge. Complex linguistic elements may still pose difficulties, and connecting intricate sounds together could be a bit perplexing. Continued effort is needed to refine these aspects, ensuring a more comprehensive mastery of the target pronunciation.
WEEK 16-20: BUILDING CONFIDENCE
At this juncture, the student exhibits confidence in flawlessly reproducing all English phonemes one by one. Warm-up exercises, once challenging, are now navigated with ease. The student is growing more self-assured in repeating two to three-syllable words. Nevertheless, they encounter difficulty articulating individual words independently, requiring prompting from the teacher for smoother expression. This signals a specific area for focused attention and further refinement in their journey toward mastery.
6 MONTHS ONWARD
The student has reached a point where they can effortlessly repeat back two to three words at a time, achieving flawless native-like pronunciation.
9 MONTHS ONWARD
Advancing further, the student can now proficiently repeat back short sentences, maintaining a perfect native-like pronunciation.
12 MONTHS ONWARD
At this stage, the student has progressed to repeating back longer sentences with native-like precision. Moreover, they are now capable of reading aloud independently with native-like accuracy, particularly when speaking slowly and carefully. Moving forward, the focus shifts to reinforcing the learned processes, fostering a more automated and natural fluency in their speech.
The example provided serves as a preliminary guide for a student with a pronounced non-native accent aspiring to attain native-like pronunciation. This outlined process and timeline are quite reasonable, taking into account the duration it typically takes a native speaker to master the sounds of their own language during early development. It's essential to note that individual timelines may vary, with some learners progressing more swiftly and others requiring additional time. This plan is built on the foundation of at least one weekly lesson with an instructor, complemented by several hours of self-study each week utilizing the Comprehensive Course materials and Daily Training program.
My program consists of the following components:
Designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of fundamentals, aiding in lesson preparation and review.
Tailored to offer students targeted exercises, facilitating the reinforcement of correct behavioral actions.
Geared towards consistently reinforcing the correct output mechanisms, ensuring continuous improvement.
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