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美语口音训练第一册第1课

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Welcome to American Accent Training. This book and CD set is designed to get you started on your

American accent. We'll follow the book and go through the 13 lessons and all the exercises step by

step. Everything is explained and a complete Answer Key may be found in the back of the text.

What Is Accent?

Accent is a combination of three main components: intonation (speech music), liaisons (word

connections), and pronunciation (the spoken sounds of vowels, consonants, and combinations). As

you go along, you'll notice that you're being asked to look at accent in a different way. You'll also

realize that the grammar you studied before and this accent you're studying now are completely

different.

Part of the difference is that grammar and vocabulary are systematic and structured— the letter of

the language. Accent, on the other hand, is free form, intuitive, and creative— more the spirit of the

language. So, thinking of music, feeling, and flow, let your mouth relax into the American accent.

Can I Learn a New Accent?

Can a person actually learn a new accent? Many people feel that after a certain age, it's just not

possible. Can classical musicians play jazz? If they practice, of course they can! For your American

accent, it's just a matter of learning and practicing techniques this book and CD set will teach you. It

is up to you to use them or not. How well you do depends mainly on how open and willing you are

to sounding different from the way you have sounded all your life.

A very important thing you need to remember is that you can use your accent to say what you mean

and how you mean it. Word stress conveys meaning through tone or feeling, which can be much

more important than the actual words that you use. We'll cover the expression of these feelings

through intonation in the first lesson.

You may have noticed that I talk fast and often run my words together. You've probably heard

enough "English-teacher English"—where ... everything ... is ... pronounced without having to listen

too carefully. That's why on the CDs we're going to talk just like the native speakers that we are, in a

normal conversational tone.

Native speakers may often tell people who are learning English to "slow down" and to "speak

clearly." This is meant with the best of intentions, but it is exactly the opposite of what a student

really needs to do. If you speak fairly quickly and with strong intonation, you will be understood

more easily. To illustrate this point, you will hear a Vietnamese student first trying to speak slowly

and carefully and then repeating the same words quickly and with strong intonation. Studying, this

exercise took her only about two minutes to practice, but the difference makes her sound as if she

had been in America for many years.

V Please listen. You will hear the same words twice. Hello, my name is Muoi. I'm taking American

Accent Training.

You may have to listen to this CD a couple of times to catch everything. To help you, every word on

the CD is also written in the book. By seeing and hearing simultaneously, you'll learn to reconcile

the differences between the appearance of English (spelling) and the sound of English

(pronunciation and the other aspects of accent).

The CD leaves a rather short pause for you to repeat into. The point of this is to get you responding

quickly and without spending too much time thinking about your response.

Accent versus Pronunciation

Many people equate accent with pronunciation. I don't feel this to be true at all. America is a big

country, and while the pronunciation varies from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the southern

to the northern states, two components that are uniquely American stay basically the same—the

speech music, or intonation, and the word connections or liaisons. Throughout this program, we will

focus on them. In the latter part of the book we will work on pronunciation concepts, such as Cat?

Caught? Cut? and Betty Bought a Bit of Better Butter; we also will work our way through some of

the difficult sounds, such as TH, the American R, the L, V, and Z.

"Which Accent Is Correct?"

American Accent Training was created to help people "sound American" for lectures, interviews,

teaching, business situations, and general daily communication. Although America has many

regional pronunciation differences, the accent you will learn is that of standard American English as

spoken and understood by the majority of educated native speakers in the United States. Don't worry

that you will sound slangy or too casual because you most definitely won't. This is the way a

professor lectures to a class, the way a national newscaster broadcasts, the way that is most

comfortable and familiar to the majority of native speakers.

"Why Is My Accent So Bad?"

Learners can be seriously hampered by a negative outlook, so I'll address this very important point

early. First, your accent is not bad; it is nonstandard to the American ear. There is a joke that goes:

What do you call a person who can speak three languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person

who can speak two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who can only speak one

language? American.

Every language is equally valid or good, so every accent is good. The average American, however,

truly does have a hard time understanding a nonstandard accent. George Bernard Shaw said that the

English and Americans are two people divided by the same language!

Some students learn to overpronounce English because they naturally want to say the word as it is

written. Too often an English teacher may allow this, perhaps thinking that colloquial American

English is unsophisticated, unrefined, or even incorrect. Not so at all! Just as you don't say the T in

listen, the TT in better is pronounced D, bedder. Any other pronunciation will sound foreign,

strange, wrong, or different to a native speaker.

Less Than It Appears ... More Than It Appears

As you will see in Exercise 1-21, Squeezed-Out Syllables, on page 18, some words appear to

have three or more syllables, but all of them are not actually spoken. For example, business is

not (bi/zi/ness), but rather (birz/ness).

Just when you get used to eliminating whole syllables from words, you're going to come across

other words that look as if they have only one syllable, but really need to be said with as many as

three! In addition, the inserted syllables are filled with letters that are not in the written word. I'll

give you two examples of this strange phenomenon. Pool looks like a nice, one-syllable word,

but if you say it this way, at best, it will sound like pull, and at worst will be unintelligible to

your listener. For clear comprehension, you need to say three syllables (pu/wuh/luh). Where did

that W come from? It's certainly not written down anywhere, but it is there just as definitely as

the P is there. The second example is a word like feel. If you say just the letters that you see, it

will sound more like fill. You need to say (fee/yuh/luh). Is that really a Y? Yes. These

mysterious semivowels are explained under Liaisons in Chapter 2. They can appear either inside

a word as you have seen, or between words as you will learn.

Language Is Fluent and Fluid

Just like your own language, conversational English has a very smooth, fluid sound. Imagine that

you are walking along a dry riverbed with your eyes closed. Every time you come to a rock, you

trip over it, stop, continue, and trip over the next rock. This is how the average foreigner speaks

English. It is slow, awkward, and even painful. Now imagine that you are a great river rushing

through that same riverbed—rocks are no problem, are they? You just slide over and around

them without ever breaking your smooth flow. It is this feeling that I want you to capture in

English.

Changing your old speech habits is very similar to changing from a stick shift to an automatic

transmission. Yes, you continue to reach for the gearshift for a while and your foot still tries to

find the clutch pedal, but this soon phases itself out. In the same way, you may still say

"telephone call" (kohl) instead of (kahl) for a while, but this too will soon pass.

You will also have to think about your speech more than you do now. In the same way that you

were very aware and self-conscious when you first learned to drive, you will eventually relax

and deal with the various components simultaneously.

A new accent is an adventure. Be bold! Exaggerate wildly! You may worry that Americans will

laugh at you for putting on an accent, but I guarantee you, they won't even notice. They'll just

think that you've finally learned to "talk right." Good luck with your new accent!

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