首先，我要说明，WXC 积聚了大量人才， 英语本科，语言学家，PhD 比比皆是，而我工科出身，大学之前没有学过E文，到美时已三十有加，如此谈论怎样讲英语，岂不班门弄斧， 关公面前耍大刀？ 各位请谅，我这里只略谈我的一点体会，若有不对之处，一笑了之，权当耳旁风.
Because of the fact that US is a country with different group of people coming from different culture background, spoken American English (referred as AE hereafter) always bears speaker’s own language print, more or less. We can’t say right or wrong with accent, as I have seen in this forum that somebody used Henry Lee and Henry Kissinger as examples to prove that accent is ok. I agree with that. However, since our goal is to make our spoken English as close to standard AE as possible – the language spoken by broadcast anchormen/anchorwomen, accepted by most people, we shouldn’t be satisfied with heavy accent, if we are striving for excellence and to be sucessful.
Not long ago, I saw on this forum somebody ZT’ed a post listing some methods to improve AE, such as “listen more, talk more”, “watch TV”, etc. No doubt those are great. However, one may find it hard to see improvement in short time. Can we find a way to improve our spoken AE in a practical way?
Let’s look at the main components of spoken AE:
Now let’s go down to the list one by one:
(1) Pronunciation – Chinese Mandarin syllables/pronunciation are very close to that in AE, so this part has no problem to most people. The only differences would be on a few words like “pronunciation” that we had been taught to say “pro囊ciation” but in AE it is “pro南ciation” (similarly word "monday"). Another error-prone is the “ei” sound as in “Raven”, quite often being pronounced as "i" in “Riven”. Some Chinese don't open their mouths wide enough when they say "ai" sound as in "guide".
How to pronounce stressed words in a sentence is as well important. Chinese speakers have a tendency to increase the volume on stressed words, but otherwise give equal volume to each word. This atonal volume-increase will sound aggressive, angry, or adrupt to native speakers. The correct way is - change pitch patterns and double the vowels to stress these words before voiced consonants.
(2) Abbreviation – How do you feel comfortable to use abbreviated expression instead of in written format? For example, your boss says to you –
“Can you move this to another room when you get a chance? “
Can you burst out “I’ll do it now” or “I will do it now”?
Read this sentence:
The dogs’d’ve eaten the bones if they’d been here
The correct reading is:
Th’ dog zede veetn th’ bonzif theyd bin hir
Another abbreviation phenomenon is dropping sound, for example, winter, Toronto, mountain, Clinton… the “t” after “n” in those words are dropped (note: "mountain" and "Clinton" ending sound should be pronounced with more distinctive nasal sound, similar to Chinese "eng" but close your mouth) . Of course if you keep "t" sound nobody will say you are wrong, but that isn't how native speakers say it.
(3) Liaison – This is important as in AE the words are not supposed to be chopped, rather the words should be smoothly linked. I have seen people living in this country for most of their life, they speaks fluent English. But once they start to speak, I can tell right away they are not native. Why? Because they lack liaisons in the sentences so make their talk choppy or bumpy.
Can you easily say “fuel efficiency” (you should say a “li” in the middle). Similarly “respectable English Master” (there should be “lenglish” sound in it as well).
Another case is added (w) and (y) to make the sounds running smoothly. These two are used very often by Americans. For example:
“Let’s go(w)over it”
“Go(w)on and on”
“I(y)also need it”
When to add (w) and when to add (y) are determined by the ending vowel of the the first word and vowel being in the beginning of second word. If the ending vowel in the first word is “O” or similar, add a (w); if it’s “i” or “ai” or similar add a (y).
(4) Intonation – this is one of the most important things in our English study. Our Chinese intonation is so much different than AE, much flatter, and seldom will any Chinese teacher pay enough attention to teach you how to pratice it. We are not alone - Vienamese, Japanese, Korean and Indian are all having even worse intonations. Listen to your tape recording, imitate and repeat the sentences, work hard on the punctuations and length of each word (they are not equally same in a sentence). Over time, you’ll get the perfect one.
Click here to listen to my previous recording to see if you can recognize the liaisons
I hope this makes some sense to you. Good luck!