I have customers from all over the world – Brazil, the United States, Australia, Japan, Philippines, Arab Emirates – you name it!
Also, the native background of the English Harmony System’s owners is as diverse as the countries they reside in. I have Arabic and Chinese speaking customers from the States, Hindi speakers from the UK and Brazilian Portuguese speakers who live in Australia.
It just goes to show how widespread the English fluency issue is and how often foreign English speakers have developed their understanding and reading skills at the cost of their spoken fluency just because it’s a conventional wisdom that one needs to focus on reading and writing in order to become fluent.
It’s wrong, of course, and that’s what the English Harmony System does – it rearranges your English knowledge by forming natural English speech patterns so that you can speak more fluently and confidently.
Anyway, there’s one aspect the English Harmony System doesn’t cover, and I don’t touch upon it on my blog often, either. Namely, it’s English pronunciation.
Well, I actually do mention pronunciation when it comes to discussing fluency and the fact that many foreigners are trying to speak with perfect pronunciation which may actually have quite the opposite effect on their ability to speak fluently.
In other words, I’m always saying that you have to speak and pronounce English words in a way most comfortable to you, and that you don’t have to be too hung up on being perfect ❗
But then one day I got an e-mail from one of my Japanese customers and it got me thinking if there might be more to the pronunciation aspect than I had thought.
You see, I had always assumed that once my English Harmony project is for foreign English speakers who’ve been struggling with English fluency for years, I don’t really have to focus on teaching proper pronunciation because that’s something my target audience has learnt ages ago.
Well, I do have tips on how to pronounce certain English sounds if you’ve always been struggling with them, but my advice always follows the same pattern – I tell my fellow foreigners to pronounce words in a way that suits them best and allows them to speak freely rather than trying to please others. Especially those, who think that a near-native pronunciation is a pre-requisite for English fluency 😡
But that particular e-mail from my customer made me wonder if my assumptions about pronunciation are correct because he basically said that it’s very difficult for Japanese English speakers to pronounce English words properly and they’re even struggling with FINDING a way to pronounce English words that suits them because English sounds are very distant from their native pronunciation! Some students apparently struggle with pronunciation even after years of practice, and what it means for the English Harmony project is the following.
Foreigners who I deal with, have very decent English understanding, reading, writing and listening ability, and can also speak fluently on certain occasions, but what they lack is the ability to produce instantaneous speech and use the same means of expression used by native English speakers.
I would have thought that all such foreigners surely would have acquired quite a normal pronunciation regardless of their national background.
I mean, once the person has spent literally years learning the language, even with relatively little spoken practice they would possess the ability to make themselves understood, and as far as I’m concerned, we foreigners don’t need more than that ❗
However, if some of my customers would even struggle to pronounce words and repeat phrases and engage in the dialogues in the speech exercising lessons contained in the English Harmony System, it would mean that I’d have to review the whole methodology and provide some help with learning to pronounce English words properly!
I went over the e-mail a few times – especially places where the customer said that Japanese and Vietnamese languages are the furthest from English in terms of pronunciation and that he still faces many embarrassing situations because others don’t always understand him.
I e-mailed him an answer saying that it’s indeed something I hadn’t taught about because I hadn’t realized that Asian students have these particular difficulties, and that it’s something I have to think about when making future System’s updates.
But here’s what I realized soon after my communication with my Japanese customer.
There will always be native English speakers in the States or the UK or Australia who won’t understand what you’re saying, ALWAYS ❗
Unless you have a perfect pronunciation, that is, but if you’re anything like me speaking with an accent, you’ll definitely get the typical question at some stage: “Can you say it again?” Or – “Can you repeat it?” Or even worse – they’ll pretend they understood what you said, but you’ll clearly feel that it’s not the case!
And you know what?
I also encounter situations when I’m not understood because of my accent. No matter how hard I try, there will always be someone who won’t understand a particular word or a whole sentence I’m saying, despite the fact that I come from Eastern-Europe instead of Asia!
And do you also know that even native English speakers struggle to understand each other if they come from different geographical backgrounds?
There are so many different regional English accents that you’d go mad trying to understand them all – Cockney and West of Ireland accent, South African and Southern American – all these regional accents are so distinct that it actually makes me think that ANY specific foreign English accent should receive the same respect and treatment!
So here’s the bottom line.
You don’t have to bend over backwards trying to make your English pronunciation to be very close or identical to that of a specific group of native English speakers.
No matter where you come from – Japan, Indonesia, Argentina or Russia, you don’t have to be ashamed of your accent and the way you pronounce words!
After this e-mail exchange with my Japanese student I believe stronger than ever that the whole pronunciation issue originates in trying to please some other group of English speakers who think that their English is the correct one.
But did you know that the English language has surpassed its historical native boundaries a long time ago and these days many nations on the planet can call English their native language? India and Nigeria, for instance, are the second and third biggest English speaking countries in the world, and just because English speakers from those countries have different accents doesn’t mean they should try to sound more like American or British English speakers!
Please, don’t be ashamed of your native background, and don’t let the misconception that only American or British pronunciation are correct drive you mad trying to replicate them!
So, if you’re from Japan or Vietnam, speak English the way your mouth wants, and let others worry if they can’t understand this or that specific word you said.
They can make it out from context easily, and if something presents real difficulties, they’ll ask you to repeat it, simple as that!
All right, that’s all I wanted to tell you today, and I hope it’s going to put all of your English pronunciation worries to rest!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!