how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

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how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby karenmok » Mon Feb 09, 2015 10:37 am

Hi,
I wish my kids could learn to speak more effectively. They still pronounce most words with a strong Chinese accent. I wish they could speak to some teacher who specialises in helping Singaporens speak more like the ang mohs.

Karen

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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby slmkhoo » Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:23 am

When you say "more effectively", are you referring only to pronunciation and accent? I would interpret "effective" speaking as using the right words in the right sense, and expressing the meaning clearly. That is different from accent. Also, what is their grammar like? Without correct grammar, correct pronunciation and an ang moh accent still won't help much.

If you are concerned about pronunciation and accent, do note that they are different, though related, things. A person can speak with correct pronunciation but still not have an "ang moh" accent. Examples are people like Tommy Koh and Lee Hsien Loong. And you will have to decide what pronunciation standard you wish to follow - US/UK etc. Also,"ang moh" accents come in different forms - US/UK/Australia/NZ (and regional variations). So you will have to decide what you actually want. Personally, I would focus on pronunciation and not the accent. A person with an "ang moh" accent who hasn't actually lived in that country for any length of time just makes people think "fake!".

That said, once you have chosen a particular pronunciation standard, get a good dictionary with a pronunciation guide, and start correcting their pronunciation a little at a time. Every time you notice that the pronunciation of a word is different from that of a good speaker, look it up and work on that word and similar words until it becomes second nature. If the whole family works on it together, it will probably stick better as younger kids will tend to speak like their parents. Peers and teachers have an influence (good or bad) too, of course. There may be sounds that they are unable to distinguish or pronounce initially, (eg. the difference between "bad" and "bed", or the "th" sound) so you may want to find someone you know to help in that.

The other thing is that the child must have the determination to use the "new" pronunciation or just teaching them will not help. I don't know if any tutor in Singapore deals with such things, but you would probably have to pay more than the average for such specialised help as the person may need to have some knowledge of phonetics (not just phonics).

slmkhoo
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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby D3@n » Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:18 pm

Hi Karen,
Singaporeans should not speak like Ang Mohs.
Many of us are still subconscious victims of the Western Imperialism. For example, there are so many TV artistes trying too hard to fake that Ang Moh accent and failing miserably. A particular male TV celebrity takes the cake! Cringeworthy!
Singaporeans should speak like Singaporeans. We have our own unique accent. And by this I'm referring to the Singapore English, and not Singlish.
I have a Linguistics honours degree and I pride myself in speaking well. Yet, I do not have a British or American accent.
If your children have no problem with pronunication and enunciation, I suspect the "strong" Chinese accent you refer to has more to do with their stress placement and tonal pattern. This I find a common issue with my students from China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand. However, the irony is that while their accent may sound strange here in Singapore, it is the perfect norm in their respective countries.
Accent only plays a small role in fluent effective communication. You can fine-tune it for your children, but I would not recommend over-doing it at the expense of being natural.

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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby janet88 » Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:36 pm

Our PM speaks standard English with no slang.
He is clear and does not use big words.
Super LIKE :smile:

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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby slmkhoo » Tue Feb 10, 2015 3:32 pm

D3@n wrote:Hi Karen,
Singaporeans should not speak like Ang Mohs.
Many of us are still subconscious victims of the Western Imperialism. For example, there are so many TV artistes trying too hard to fake that Ang Moh accent and failing miserably. A particular male TV celebrity takes the cake! Cringeworthy!
Singaporeans should speak like Singaporeans. We have our own unique accent. And by this I'm referring to the Singapore English, and not Singlish.
I have a Linguistics honours degree and I pride myself in speaking well. Yet, I do not have a British or American accent.
If your children have no problem with pronunication and enunciation, I suspect the "strong" Chinese accent you refer to has more to do with their stress placement and tonal pattern. This I find a common issue with my students from China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand. However, the irony is that while their accent may sound strange here in Singapore, it is the perfect norm in their respective countries.
Accent only plays a small role in fluent effective communication. You can fine-tune it for your children, but I would not recommend over-doing it at the expense of being natural.

I agree with you. Just one comment - I would include stress placement in 'pronunciation'. Even if the vowels and consonants are pronounced correctly, if the stress is placed on the wrong syllable, the word sounds wrong.

slmkhoo
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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby D3@n » Tue Feb 10, 2015 4:07 pm

slmkhoo wrote:
D3@n wrote:Hi Karen,
Singaporeans should not speak like Ang Mohs.
Many of us are still subconscious victims of the Western Imperialism. For example, there are so many TV artistes trying too hard to fake that Ang Moh accent and failing miserably. A particular male TV celebrity takes the cake! Cringeworthy!
Singaporeans should speak like Singaporeans. We have our own unique accent. And by this I'm referring to the Singapore English, and not Singlish.
I have a Linguistics honours degree and I pride myself in speaking well. Yet, I do not have a British or American accent.
If your children have no problem with pronunication and enunciation, I suspect the "strong" Chinese accent you refer to has more to do with their stress placement and tonal pattern. This I find a common issue with my students from China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand. However, the irony is that while their accent may sound strange here in Singapore, it is the perfect norm in their respective countries.
Accent only plays a small role in fluent effective communication. You can fine-tune it for your children, but I would not recommend over-doing it at the expense of being natural.

I agree with you. Just one comment - I would include stress placement in 'pronunciation'. Even if the vowels and consonants are pronounced correctly, if the stress is placed on the wrong syllable, the word sounds wrong.


You're absolutely right.
However, I was making a conscious separation in sound and stress for the purpose of the issue being raised here.

To further illustrate, here is one reason why Native Mandarin speakers have problems with the English "accent".
Mandarin (usually) has four tones for each character (word), and each character (word) is made up of only one syllable.
However, there is no stress distinction for these characters or within phrases and sentences - except for the rare instance of the "轻声" (eg.花,哥) .
On the other hand, the English word more often than not is made up of more than one syllable, and not all syllables are equally stressed. The matter complicates further when a sentence (made up of many words) or a passage (made up of many sentences) is spoken/read. Non-native speakers end up feeling overwhelmed by this totally new linguistic system that is based on a more complex sound and stress pattern.

For example,
record (verb)
record (noun)
same spelling but different parts of speech, stress placement is different, leading to a different pronunication.

photograph
photography
photographer
photographic

These four words have a similar root word but yet their stress placement differs.

May seem random but there is actually a rule governing stress pattern.

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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby karenmok » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:07 am

D3@n wrote:
slmkhoo wrote:
D3@n wrote:To further illustrate, here is one reason why Native Mandarin speakers have problems with the English "accent".
Mandarin (usually) has four tones for each character (word), and each character (word) is made up of only one syllable.
However, there is no stress distinction for these characters or within phrases and sentences - except for the rare instance of the "轻声" (eg.花,哥) .
On the other hand, the English word more often than not is made up of more than one syllable, and not all syllables are equally stressed. The matter complicates further when a sentence (made up of many words) or a passage (made up of many sentences) is spoken/read. Non-native speakers end up feeling overwhelmed by this totally new linguistic system that is based on a more complex sound and stress pattern.

For example,
record (verb)
record (noun)
same spelling but different parts of speech, stress placement is different, leading to a different pronunication.

photograph
photography
photographer
photographic

These four words have a similar root word but yet their stress placement differs.

May seem random but there is actually a rule governing stress pattern.


Hi,
Looks like you are aware of the precise problem many Singaporeans face and you also have helped some in overcoming these problems.
Would you be kind enough to suggest how my kids can acquire a better/more correct pronunciation? I came across this word "salmon". Looks like "l" is silent here. I am getting confused by the sheer number of rules and exceptions.
Can you direct me to someone who can really help my kids, given all the ground we have covered here?

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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby slmkhoo » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:32 am

karenmok wrote:Hi,
Looks like you are aware of the precise problem many Singaporeans face and you also have helped some in overcoming these problems.
Would you be kind enough to suggest how my kids can acquire a better/more correct pronunciation? I came across this word "salmon". Looks like "l" is silent here. I am getting confused by the sheer number of rules and exceptions.
Can you direct me to someone who can really help my kids, given all the ground we have covered here?

The problem with English is that there are many exceptions to any rule you may want to formulate. A lot of words just have to be learned one at a time, using a dictionary with a phonetic guide, or from a teacher. Extensive listening to good spoken English is key. How old are your kids and are they keen to change their pronunciation? Or are they very young? If they are older and not willing, nothing will work. If they are, you could try to find a tutor who speaks accurately and has a grounding in phonetics. If they are reluctant, encourage them that it can be done. My husband had very "Singlish" pronunciation in school but managed to correct himself a lot over the years. He still makes mistakes when not being careful, but he speaks much more accurately now than when I first knew him.

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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby jetsetter » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:53 am

karenmok wrote:Hi,
Looks like you are aware of the precise problem many Singaporeans face and you also have helped some in overcoming these problems.
Would you be kind enough to suggest how my kids can acquire a better/more correct pronunciation? I came across this word "salmon". Looks like "l" is silent here. I am getting confused by the sheer number of rules and exceptions.
Can you direct me to someone who can really help my kids, given all the ground we have covered here?


Listen to BBC or VOA, watch more English dramas/movies, join Speech & Drama classes taught by Brits/Americans, befriend angmoh kids...

Stress placements can be self-taught by checking the Oxford dictionary (if you want the RP pronunciation): [pur'chase] vs ['purchase]; ['calendar]

Silent 'l', 'b', 'h' , etc. are all captured in the dictionary too, but you need to know IPA. Watch more tv/listen to BBC lor.

Then again, within the UK and the US, you have so many different varieties to mimic. Some regions have more rhotic accents than others. You notice the Scots and Welsh speak differently from the "educated" Londoners? (sheesh, I'm sounding elitist)

RP has more open back vowels ('sure' is /ʃɔː/) and diphthongs ("no" is /əʊ/), while AmE has what we call "flapping" ("water" - /t/ is pronounced somewhat like /d/) and flat vowels ("bæthroom" is pronounced diff). If you go to Boston or Dallas, the people there also pronounce their words differently from the Californians?

Kids just need to sound intelligible; there's no need to mimic any foreign accent.

But having said that, I myself can feign a lot of foreign accents! I can speak fluently like a BBC in Britain and like an ABC in US and China, and no one can tell I am from Singapore!! And I am not a linguist or actor! muahahaah.... :sweat:

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Re: how to acquire a proper English accent in Singapore

Postby ChiefKiasu » Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:45 pm

The purpose of spoken language is to communicate. The only good reason why one needs an accent is to make oneself "understandable" to the other party. Speak with ang moh accent to locals and they either scratch their head wondering what you are saying, or they think you are trying to be attas. Speak with Singlish accent to ang mohs and they genuinely think you are speaking in Chinese, not English.

So the issue is not what accent you are using, but rather, whether you are getting your message getting across to your audience.

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