l2 accent

June 28, 2016 Sound Neighbours

Sound Neighbours

We’ll all know there’s nothing like having good neighbours!  And just as the neighbours can make a difference in the quality of your life, so too do neighbouring speech sounds make a difference in the quality of your consonants, whether they are in your native language or a second language.  All languages have their own rules about which sounds can go together and which one can’t.  When those rules differ in a second language from your first, the result can be accented speech.

One particular sound neighbour in English that is not found in many other languages is consonants at the end of words that are voiced.  Voicing means that your vocal cords are together and vibrating.  For instance, you say the word “dog”, both the last sound is voiced.  Contrast that with “cat”, where last sound is unvoiced.  When people come to me for their accent reduction assessment, I often hear them turning voiced consonants at the ends of into voiceless consonants.  This is one of the most common feature of non-native speech.

vocal cords jpg

If you’re a news junkie like me, you probably have heard a lot of talk about the Brexit vote in the UK.  Even though I thought it was madness for Britain to leave the EU, the news coverage has been a real treat.  There have been so many interviews with people in the EU with so many non-native English speakers to hear.  Yet even with so many of the advanced speakers, I heard a lack of voiced word-final voiced consonants.  How I would love to exchange some accent reduction training with those speakers for some tips on where to go in Madrid, Rome, or Berlin!

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