How To Learn Pronunciation Without a Native Speaker in Sight

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How many times have you heard the phrase- ‘Kids do a better job at learning new languages?’ Strike that. How many times have you heard this phrase and stopped yourself from taking the challenge of learning a new language? If you have done this considerable number of times, then this article is for you. Learning a new language is a herculean task, but there are so many Hercules around the world doing it that this fear should not bother you. In this article we will look at some of the ways you can learn pronunciation-which is the make-or-break part of learning a language. You will come across so many people who have learnt the language to the t, have a considerable hold over the grammar and writing portion of it, but fail in this one aspect that is pronunciation. Let’s dive right into it.

Learning Sounds

Learning and recognizing sounds is not an easy bit and several people claim it does not improve with practice. Probably they are lacking in what practice of making sounds consists of. The ideal way of learning any sound is to hear it and try looking for it in other texts or speeches. For instance, if you come across the word, ‘lanmou’ in Haitian Creole and want to learn how it’s pronounced, simply follow the given steps:
Repeat the sound of the word to yourself
Put on a Haitian Creole YouTube Video where you may come across this word. You can choose a video on the topic.
Try to recognize the word whenever it is spoken
You can then look for other videos where the person speaking is different- maybe the gender has changed, or the age differs and try to find that word. You may also look at the subtitles to spot your word.
Once you do this enough number of times for your brain to make the assumption and have established the neural pathway, record yourself saying the word in as many different styles as you have heard-maybe in the form of a question or an answer or an assumption.
In order to optimise your time you can learn full dialogues so that you will learn other words as well at the same time. You can learn ‘Who Are You?’ topics in Haitian Creole with CreoleTutors online.


Making sounds

You have had a bit of practice in making sounds in the above step, however, a lot of work remains. Now that you have learnt to recognise the different styles of how a sound can be made, you have to train your mouth, lips, tongue and teeth to make that sound. You can choose to follow the given steps.

Break the sound down into Haitian Creole syllables and pauses.
Start the video where the sound is being made
Play the video at half of its original speed (or even less if you need) and imitate the mouth movement of the speaker.
Once you have learnt the choreography of the mouth, pause the video and record yourself making the sound.
Once you are satisfied, play the video and the recording you made together to spot any difference or make any corrections
If possible, try and get feedback on your work.

These steps would not be necessary for each and every sound, however for sounds that don’t come naturally to you, these steps will give you the necessary practice you need.

Training Regimen

If you thought you had mastered it, well it’s time to think again. Training yourself is the hardest bit. Once you have learnt to recognize the sound and make it with your own mouth, it’s time to solidify the neural pathways using the following steps.

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Use online flashcards that provide feedback on your sound. Anki has several and you can try them out.
Make time for spaced repetition. Repeating what you have learnt at scheduled intervals- where you repeat the word as soon as you are on the brink of forgetting it- is an effective memorization technique which will work quite nicely here.
You must also keep a file of all the videos that you have watched to learn specific sounds so that you may not have to waste a lot of time searching for them again.
And before you know it, you will be ready to take on a debate with a native speaker in no time.

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