Monday, October 31, 2011

Using Tongue Twisters for Your Pronunciation

Take a look at this tongue twister.

Betty Botter bought some butter,

But,” she said, “this butter’s bitter. 

If I bake this bitter butter

It will make my batter bitter.

But a bit of better butter – 

That would make my batter better.” 

So she bought a bit of butter, 

Better than her bitter butter, 

And she baked it in her batter, 

And the batter was not bitter.

So it was better Betty Botter

Bought a bit of better butter. 

I think tongue twisters are great to help learners of English with their pronunciation. Just like you need to build your muscles to life heavy objects, you need to build the muscles in your mouth to speak a foreign language. Tongue twisters are like taking your mouth to the gym – lots of fun repetition to improve your pronunciation of those difficult sounds.

Here is a video to help you.

I think the Betty Botter tongue twister is great because it practises the most difficult part of English pronunciation – vowel sounds. Here are the similar words and the different pronunciations. Use this interactive phonetic chart to help you. Let me know how it goes.

Big thanks to Inna, who brought this tongue twister to class!

‘Betty’ /’beti:/

‘Botter’ /’bɒtə/

‘bought’ /’bɔ:t/

‘butter’ /’bətə/

‘bitter’ /’bɪtə/

‘batter’ /’bætə/

‘But a’ /’bətə/ (the same pronunciation as ‘butter’ when it is said quickly)

‘bit of’ /’bɪtə/ (the same pronunciation as ‘bitter’ when it is said quickly)

‘better’ /’betə/

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Phonetic Film Quiz #2

Here is the second quiz. 5 actors from a film about a bank robbery and that’s the only help I will give you. ;-)

/'denzel 'wɒʃɪŋtɪn/

/klɑɪv 'əʊwɪn/ 

/dʒəʊdi: 'fɒstə/

/wɪləm də'fəʊ/ 

/'krɪstəfə 'plʌmə/

If you want some help, use this interactive phonetic chart that will pronounce the sounds for you.  Also remember that this video might help you as well.

Here are the answers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Speaking Preparation for IELTS

I love, LOVE these videos from the British Council about IELTS Speaking.  They are funny and informative.  They provide excellent advice for the IELTS speaking exam as well as being entertaining.

To read what they are saying (the transcript) click here.

To read the transcript of this video click here.

To read the transcript when you listen a second time click here.

Click here for the transcript.

Hopefully, this will give you some useful information for you when you are doing your IELTS or any other Cambridge speaking exam. Big thanks to Andy Lewis and The British Council: English Online website for such great videos. Take a look at other great stuff on their website!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Phonetic Film Quiz #1

I am continuing my topic of phonetics and movies with a film quiz. Here is a list of actors' surnames from a film I enjoy. From these surnames in phonetics, can you tell me what the movie is?








So, do you know?  Here are the answers and I'll post another one next week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Phonetics - Maggie Gyllenhaal, how do you pronounce that?

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Photo from Wikipedia)
One of my favourite actresses is Maggie Gyllenhaal.  She chooses some really interesting movies to be in and characters to play.

I was visiting my parents recently and they like her movies as well and during a conversation we had a question, “Actually, how do you pronounce her surname?”  We see it all the time in movies, on DVD boxes, etc... but we didn’t really know how to pronounce it.

My solution – Wikipedia!  The article displays the phonetic spelling of her surname: /ˈdʒɪlənhɔːl/

The /dʒ/ like the beginning of the word ‘jeans’.

The /ɪl / like we say the word ‘ill’, a synonym for sick.

The /ən/ with the /ə/ sound, the neutral sound that is everywhere in the English language.  Often in literature you will see this work ‘Uh’ which is just a sound that we use to show that we are thinking and need more time to think in a conversation.

The /hɔːl/ like the word ‘hall’ or similar to /hɔːs/ like the word ‘horse’.

So there is her surname.  Gyllenhaal = /ˈdʒɪlənhɔːl/.  I'm a native English speaker and the fastest way I found to get the pronunciation was by using the phonetics.  They can be useful for everyone.

Take a look at this interactive phonetic chart from Macmillan publishing to help you understand phonetics better.  I also recommend taking another look at this excellent short video that explains the phonetic chart.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Learning and Forgetting Vocabulary

Do you see the link on the top bar?  The one that says 1000 Challenge.  It goes to a page that talks about a language learning challenge I did earlier this year.  Learning 1000 new words in a foreign language.  I was quite successful – in one month I memorized 869 new words and phrases.  However, that was in July and now it is October.  After the challenge finished, I had a holiday, I was busy with other projects and I was lazy – I didn’t continue studying and now I probably remember about 200/300 words. :-(

This is not surprising and it is explained very well in this article, 'Do not forget The Forgetting Curve'.  I highly recommend reading the article.  It talks about spaced repetition.  This means, learning something and then going back (meaning ‘returning’) to it a day later, a week later, a month later.  I did not review the words I learned after July 1st and that is why I do not remember all 869 of my words.  However, I still remember 200/300 new words and phrases - and that is not bad!

How I originally learned all those words and phrases in one month was with note cards.  Aaron Myers wrote a short blog post, 'The Stack', about using note cards to help you put language learning in more parts of your life; on the bus, waiting in a line.  These are perfect moments to continue your language learning.

So I did my challenge to inspire people and to raise money for charity.  Giving my money and time to charity is one of the most enjoyable things I do.  It makes me feel really good about myself and it motivates me to do more things because I am doing those things to help other people, not just me.

So have I convinced any of you to do something similar?  I know that I have one friend who is going to do a similar challenge to improve his Japanese.  However, if you are a learner of English and you are reading this, can I convince you to do your own 1000 Challenge?

Please say yes.  Choose a learning goal, choose a month, choose a charity and then get started.  If you are on Twitter then tell people about your challenge using the hashtags: #educharity and #ellchar.  Have I inspired you to push yourself, to challenge yourself, to do something that will help you and an organization that needs support?

Please say yes.  If you like the idea then suggest it to a friend or suggest it to a family member and give them help.  Suggest it to your teacher, suggest it to your students, suggest it to your boss or whoever.  The idea is do language learning and to help charity.

Please say yes. :-)

Monday, October 3, 2011

People you should be following, pt 3 (YouTube)

I don’t have lots of knowledge ‘when it comes to’ YouTube. When it comes to Twitter or blogs I feel much more confident but when it comes to YouTube, I still feel that I’m not really using that resource as much as I could be. By the way, the previous sentence is not very good because it has too much repetition of the phrase ‘when it comes to...’ but hopefully my repetition (see my earlier blogpost) will help you remember this phrase for you to use in the future! ;-)

A big, big thank you to Marcelo Mendes for recommending most of these channels! I highly recommend you explore his website. He is very generous with his time and obviously enjoys learning and helping other people to learn as well.

Two Great YouTube Channels

The Daily English Show amazes me – there is obviously a lot of work that makes this channel! On their blog, they say they are the world’s first daily online English language show. These videos come from New Zealand, which is great because it is very important to get used to listening to lots of different accents in English. This channel has been producing videos for over 5 years! What I really love about this channel is that the videos are about interesting things – I’m watching and learning from their New Zealand Summer Tour. Also, the English is clear and you can read the transcript of every video on the blog.

Try this video, and see the transcript here.

Next, is a huge resource for English learners and teachers but EnglishClub is also on YouTube and there is one specific series that I find very interesting – The Learning English Video Project. This project visits school and language institutes to ask learners and teachers about their experiences, goals, problems, solutions and achievements as well as getting tips and advice from them.

Like the Daily English Show, I love these videos because they are really interesting. Again, visit the website for the transcripts and lots of other things to help you when you are listening to the videos.  The project covers the UK, Brazil, China, Spain, America, Romania and Morocco.

Try this first video from Granada, Spain.

A Couple of Other Useful Channels

Daily Dose of English is a channel that provides short videos describing a few English phrases (usually with a common word or topic). There are now enough ‘doses’ (or videos) for one every day for 5 months. However, it is a good idea to watch one or two, take notes, write some example sentences to help you remember and then watch the same video again a week later. How much do you remember?

You can go to the website for transcripts and to download the mp3s. Unfortunately there are advertisements on the website but this is still a good resource.

By the way, a “dose” of something, refers to ‘a small amount of something that you take regularly’. This word is usually used to talk about medicine but we use it for metaphors and other phrases sometimes as well.

Use Phrasal Verbs is another channel of short videos by Linguaspectrum (who makes the Daily Dose of English videos as well). Each video talks about one specific phrasal verb. There is a website as well but I think it is quite confusing to navigate (meaning that it is not easy to understand where to find the information you want).

I like these two channels, Daily Dose of English and Use Phrasal Verbs, because you learn useful vocabulary and phrases but more important than that, you will get at least 5 or 10 minutes of listening practice (actually more than 10 minutes if you watch the videos more than once, which you should do if you really want to remember anything),

Next time I will look at websites you should be following with RSS – and if you don’t know what RSS is, I’ll explain it!

RSS - We see this sign on many websites, but
what does it mean and how can we use it?
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