Nguyen Cong Danh
1. M.A. in Applied Linguistics - University of New England, Australia.
2. B.Sc. in Computer Science - York University, Toronto, Canada.
3. B.A. in Business Administration - University of Economics - HCMC, Vietnam.
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PRONUNCIATION & INTONATION - THE KEY TO SPEAKING PERFECT ENGLISHWHAT IS PRONUNCIATION?
According to Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "pronunciation" is the way a single word is pronounced. In other words, pronunciation involves the utterance of a particular word. So, if one has correct pronunciation in English, one is able to pronounce each and every word in the language correctly.
WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE VERY ACCURATE PRONUNCIATION?
You start learning English from A,B,C and practice talking to your friends in English ever since. At first, it seems that both your friend and you have a hard time understanding each other, but after a while, everything goes on rather smoothly although you two do not really pronounce the words correctly. That is because both of you have inaccurate pronunciation from the beginning, and therefore, can understand the errors of each other easily. However, when it comes to talking to a native English speaker, things are different. Native English speakers can only understand a word as it is correctly pronounced. If you pronounce a word which does not sound as it should, native English speakers could not understand what you are trying to say most of the time. In some cases, they have to make a guess and figure out what you mean. In other cases, they understand it differently, which leads to misunderstanding in communication, and this is really a bad situation. Let's take the following as an example:
Two painters are painting a house, probably for a client. They have to refer to the handbook "House Painting Tips". The book gives a series of instructions on how to paint a house. One of the guys reads the instructions from the book. When it comes to the instruction "DROP CLOTHS", he reads which means "DROP CLOTHES" (take clothes off) because he does NOT have correct pronunciation. He should have read
(put the piece of cloth on the floor) instead. That's why both of them dropped their clothes instead of dropping the cloths on their hands down to the floor!
But then the other guy figures it out and corrects the first guy that the book says "DROP CLOTHS", not "DROP CLOTHES"!
So, incorrect pronunciation in this case leads to a very funny situation!
WHAT DOES CORRECT PRONUNCIATION HELP YOU?
1. Correct pronunciation helps you make yourself understood more easily and correctly.
2. Correct pronunciation helps you sound English because all the words are pronounced the way they are supposed to be.
3. Correct pronunciation helps you speak English naturally like a native English speaker.
4. Correct pronunciation helps you speak with absolute confidence because you are sure how to say the words properly.
WHAT IS INTONATION?
When you talk, you raise your voice sometimes. Other times, you lower your voice. You put a tress here and there while expressing your ideas. In plain words, intonation is the sound changes made when your tone rises and falls. Intonation is the music of a language. Every language has its own intonation. Unlike pronunciation, intonation involves all the words spoken in a sentence rather than a single word.
WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE CORRECT INTONATION?
Many people think they can speak perfect English as long as they have correct pronunciation. This is a myth. Correct intonation not only creates the melody of the language but also helps listeners understand you better. Let's look at the following two examples:
I. How to say "yes":
1. In the first situation, your tone is level. It means that it does not go up or down. You agree but you are NOT interested.
2. "Yes" with a falling tone shows your positive attitude.
- Can I come in?
- Yes. (falling tone) --> You are welcome. I am very happy about it.
3. "Yes" with a slight rise means a question.
- You can eat my lunch.
- Yes. --> Means "OK, but ... really? How about you? Don't you eat lunch? ..."
4. "Yes" with a sharp rise in tone means you are somewhat disappointed.
- Mom, I failed the English exam.
- Yes. --> OK, are you saying that you failed the exam? I am so disappointed.
5. "Yes" falls first and then rises again means "I am listening to you. Keep telling me the story"
- Bob, talk to Mr. Bean. Then, seal the deal. After that, call Ms. Kate at Marketing ...
- Yes --> Means "OK, that's fine. Keep telling me. Finish what you want to tell me. I am listening to you"
- Finally, write the report and put it on my desk, please.
6. "Yes" rises a little bit first and then falls down means "Alright. I don't know. Maybe that's not it"
- Bob, I didn't break the glass. Believe me!
- Yes. --> OK, you said it but who knows. Maybe you did it.
II). How to say "Hello":
You can either stress on the first or the second syllable, which results in a falling or a rising tone
respectively. In each way, it has a totally different meaning:
1. If your tone falls at the end, it is a greeting.
2. If your tone rises at the end, it has several meanings including drawing attention from someone. It has the same meaning as "Where are you? Is there anybody home? I can't see you".
WHAT DOES CORRECT INTONATION HELP YOU?
1. Correct intonation helps you convey your ideas correctly and thoroughly to the audience.
2. Correct intonation helps you sound exactly the way English sounds.
3. Correct intonation once again gives you confidence when speaking English.
Pronunciation and intonation together are the two most important factors that help you speak a language correctly. You may be very good at grammar. In addition, you may have a very large vocabulary or be able to write an excellent business letter. However, if you do not speak English with correct pronunciation and proper intonation, you cannot make yourself understood satisfactorily when engaging in a conversation, which is part of your daily activities.