If you’re a person whose mother tongue is not English, the chances are, you’ve learned English in the ‘non-natural way’. That is, you’ve learned English in a way that is opposite to the way of natural language acquisition. You know, the natural way of acquiring a language is to learn to speak it first and then to write it.
Those people who do not learn English the natural way, know reasonable English – or even excellent English. And if you ask them to write a report or something in English, they may do it fairly well. But, if you ask them to speak to you about the same thing, they find it hard to do. Or even impossible. When they start speaking, most of the words remain on the tip of their tongue and don’t readily come out.
And often, what words do come out sounds disconnected and random. And, they find themselves speaking in a clumsy and unclear way, with long gaps and intervals of indecision between every two words. And they keep fumbling for something to say.
Not only this, they find it difficult to go on beyond one or two lines, without tripping up and without stumbling over the sounds or sequences of sounds. And then, they tend to fall back upon their mother-tongue – or become tongue-tied. This book will help you to overcome all these problems and will also help you in developing better speaking skills
The first English lesson should deal with pronunciation. When you don’t do pronunciation first, you have to do something else than pronunciation. And then whatever you do and if it involves speaking, then bad pronunciation habits are formed. If you don’t know how to pronounce and yet you pronounce your own way at the beginning of your learning, then you are building your habits in the wrong way.
Learning words without pronunciation in the first lesson is damaging. There are two possibilities that are recommended: (1) learn pronunciation from the beginning and speak from the beginning, (2) learn without pronunciation but do not speak (you will start speaking at a later stage – after learning pronunciation).
The idea is not to have ‘perfect’ pronunciation from the beginning but ‘correct’ – understood in the following sense: (1) use the right sounds – perhaps your own versions of the English sounds, but make sure that there is a clear correspondence between your own sounds and the English sounds (2) always stress the right syllable. Additionally, it’s a good idea to be able to phonetically transcribe your own English output.
This means that you will have conscious control over your output. You will have a ‘digital perception’ of your pronunciation – as opposed to an ‘analog perception’, which is usually developed by learners
Vowels are formed by retraction of the back of the tongue, as in ‘father’ by advancing the front of the tongue, as in ‘bit’ or else they are mixed, as in ‘bird’, in which the tongue is in a position half-way between back and front. By height, they are high, as in ‘hit’, mid, as in ‘hate’ or low, as in ‘hat’.
The vowels of these three words are all front, but the distinctions of height apply to back and mixed vowels as well. Thus u of ‘full’ is high-back, just as that of ‘hit’ is the high front. All these vowels may be further modified by labialization or rounding. Thus, if the ee of ‘feel’ is pronounced with narrowed lip-opening, we obtain the French u in clune’ – the high-front-round.
There are besides other modifications caused by the shape of the tongue itself. Of a large number of possible vowels, only a small proportion is employed in each language. Again, among the special vowels of anyone language, we must distinguish between those differences, which are distinctive, that is, to which differences of meaning correspond and those which are not.
Thus the first elements of the diphthongs in ‘by’ and ‘out’ vary considerably: some people sound them broad as in ‘father’, some thin, as in ‘man’, with various intermediate sounds. And yet the meaning of the words remains unchanged. The distinction between the vowels of, men’ and ‘man’, on the other hand, though really slighter than that of the different pronunciations of ‘by’ and ‘out’, is a distinctive one