When a student says he wants ” to improve his pronunciation “, his goal is to improve the quality of his Oral expression (Speaking). To achieve this, several skills are required such as :
And in the end, his ultimate goal is to have a good communication. So, this is more than just improving “pronunciation” but all these skills help to improve Speaking and Listening, and to have a better communication.
Here is an explanation of the advantages of each skill .
How is it possible to produce the right sound if you cannot identify it ?
This skill allows you to control the sounds you produce and helps you to listen.
Training your ear helps you control your pronunciation and better understand what you hear.
It’s a WINNER at TEFAQ because :
The TEFAQ oral comprehension test has 10 of 60 questions to test your ability to distinguish sounds (Section C, Phonetics. Examples : Entendu/Attendu, Boule/Poule, Vu/Bu, De/Deux/Du, …). It makes 27% of the correct answers needed to pass the Tefaq. A good ear training guarantees success for 9 of 10 questions.
Real life, at your level or a little higher is a good practice (real conversations, movies, television, songs, audios with transcriptions, …). In case of difficulty, take the time to analyze, seek advice from a francophone or a teacher.
Another solution is to work alone at home. You can educate your ear online by practicing many discrimination exercises on close sounds. It will take a few hours, but it is worth it because it helps to detect the difficulties you are experiencing and to enhance your ability to distinguish sounds.
There is a tool I like, well structured and very practical, but with an old interface.
(It requires a browser with a Flash-player on a laptop and to spend 10 minutes to understand how it works. After that, everything is fine and go smoothly).
(use a browser with a Flash player plugin. Link to plugin is in the page; HELP here)
So when you have a difficulty in pronunciation, ask yourself : is it because I don’t place my mouth correctly or is it because I cannot identify, control correctly the sound I want to produce ?
My advice : Spend some time to understand how to use this website, go through some exercises on all type of sounds, identify your difficulties and work on them.
To be able to distinguish French sounds very well saves energy, helps go faster, and it is needed to improve listening and to be able to control the quality of the sounds you produce. Spend a few hours training your ear, it’s worth it.
Watching videos can help a lot to correct difficulties. Ask a French native speaker for help is a also a good solution. You can also work in front of a mirror (or film yourself with a phone) to watch the position of your mouth and to improve them.
Read with a French native speaker to have a feedback
Read alone (while recording), and I suggest this method :
A rhythmic group is a group of words of a sentence uttered in a single breath, there is no pause between words. A sentence can be split into several parts (each part has a meaning)and that it is possible to focus on the pronunciation of each part . You probably already practice it intuitively but it’s interesting to understand the game.
A short explanation would be :
When speaking slowly the phrase of this video can be divided in 6 rhythmic groups (Look at the graphs in video) :
“La chambre ~~ des députés ~~ a adopté ~~ un projet de loi ~~ lors d’une séance plénière ~~ vendredi dernier.”
When speaking faster, at normal speed, 2 rythmic groups will merged (4 rhythmic groups to pronounce) :
“La chambre des députés ~~ a adopté un projet de loi ~~ lors d’une séance plénière ~~ vendredi dernier.”
Read transcripts of audios and I suggest this method :
In languages with a tonic accent (like French), the movement of the body is part of the language.
With tonal language like Chinese it is not the case
See a short explanation below (and Nota)
Gestures can help give strength to your message, to give it a rhythm and to have better communication.
Think about it and go step by step, and find your style.
Nota : Be aware of cultural differences because, for example, for tonal languages, changing the tone changes the meaning of a syllable (Example : the syllable “ma” in Chinese has 4 different meanings related to four different tones) . This is not the case in tonic accent languages such as French. This difference can explain why one will have a cultural adaptation (for the tonic accent or tonal accent) during the passage from Mandarin to French or from French to Mandarin. In addition, another cultural difference: gestures are a part of the communication in languages with a tonal accent (like French).
Have a look at this video without the sound. Does it make sense to use gestures for communication ?
A simple example that you can try: Say “Premierement, …”, “Deuxiemement, …”, “Troisiemement, …”, … counting on your fingers.
Can you do it naturally without intonation ? It could be a good start if you are a beginner.
A Tip : Feel it, look at people, find your style and copy what you like, what you can do at your level and go step by step to connect intonation and gestures. It’s really working !
Start with situations of everyday life. The purpose is to have good pronunciation and discover how intonation can enrich your message. If you like to practice intonation, you will begin to live the language and your relationship with your learning will become completely different. It’s worth a try !
Do practice tongue twisters and you will be surprised at your progress : A natural and good pronunciation when you speak aloud and fast.
Tongue twisters are exercises :
If you practice tongues-twisters, you get automatism kept in time (little fatigue and quality of the pronunciation preserved). Kids, adults, actors, VIP, … practice tongue-twisters in any country, any language to get a clear pronunciation.
Here are some examples of tongue twisters (click on pictures) :
How to practice: Speak aloud and begin by slowly pronouncing a tongue twister and exaggerate the movements of your mouth (over-articulate). Then you go at a normal speed and you always exaggerate the pronunciation. Afterwards, you go faster and you always exaggerate the pronunciation. Working 10 minutes a day, after a few days (after a few weeks for some difficult tongue twisters), the result is excellent: a good pronunciation with almost natural movements.
You can also train with friends and make a game: who speaks the fastest while keeping a good pronunciation? Guaranteed laughter!
A tip: for the first time, register with your phone, as a reference, to see your progress after a few days.
A tongue twister can be difficult at first. Here is some actions you can do :