Strategies for Private Practice

Private Practice Strategy #1: Word lists

Make a list of words you encounter often and want to say clearly.  For example, choose some words that you have had difficulty pronouncing correctly in conversations with your friends or colleagues. Consult a dictionary for the proper pronunciation--I recommend the on-line "talking" Merriam-Webster Dictionary (www.m-w.com).  There is also a link to that dictionary on your syllabus.

Once you have written the words down on the paper and confirmed their proper pronunciation, tape it in a place that you will see it every day (for example, on your computer monitor, on the refrigerator door, on the bathroom mirror, etc.) and plan to practice the words a few minutes each day.

If you like, you can also have an English-speaking friend to record the words in sentences for you so that you can practice by imitating or speaking along with the recorded voice.

If you want feedback on whether you have improved the pronunciation of the words or not, it is a good idea to compare your pronunciation of the words to the on-line dictionary's, or you can ask a friend or co-worker to give you feedback as you pronounce them. And, remember, if your smart phone can understand you, your pronunciation is fine.

After a couple weeks of using one list of words, make a new list and work on some different words.
 

Private Practice Strategy #2: Tracking

When you "track" a voice, it means that you imitate, or try to repeat, what an English speaker is saying. This is a strategy you can use with the radio, tapes, television, videos, or even conversations around you. It is an excellent way to work on rhythm and intonation.

For instance, say you are watching a TV drama. Choose one character, and try to repeat what the character says on a word-for-word basis, following a few words behind the speaker. If some of the sentences are long and you can't catch all the words, you can even simply follow the intonation contours and rhythm by humming. I recommend trying this strategy with dramas or comedy shows, but not the news.

You can also try this strategy with tapes or radio (Some students like to do this in their car--but don't forget to pay attention to your driving!). You also can do it with conversations around you, but in that situation you should track silently--repeat what they are saying in your head, but not out loud! Sometime when you are waiting for the bus or sitting in the classroom waiting for class to start, you can try silently tracking some of the short conversations going on between students.


Private Practice Strategy #3: Listening and Reading Aloud

This private practice strategy allows you to practice your listening skills with real speech and to read a text while you imitate a native speaker's speech. For example, you could go on an on-line news web site or an English listening practice web site (see below) and find a short story or dialogue. You would be able to read the text of the story or dialogue while you listen to it (the web sites have audio recordings). As you listen, you could note where the thought group pauses are, which words are emphasized, and other features, such as rhythm and intonation. Then you could try repeating after the audio (like you did in the tracking strategy) and trying to use similar rhythm and focus.

You don't have to use the internet for this strategy. You could find a passage from an article that interests you and have a native speaker of English (for example, a friend or classmate) record it for you. Then you could listen to the tape and imitate the rhythm, pauses, etc., as you read the article.

Feel free to check out the web sites below to see if you find them an interesting source of news and stories for you to try this strategy:

http://www.esl-lab.com/ You can click on a listening quiz topic (for example, school supplies", "hotel check-in", "a healthy life-style", etc., and then at the bottom of the quiz, you will can click on "quiz script". , you can read the script and listen to the audio by clicking on the "play audio" button.

http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/ has news broadcast in slightly slower English for non-native speakers. Transcripts for some stories are available.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/news/index.shtml click on "words in the news" and you will find short BBC news stories that have been selected for English learners. There are transcripts you can read as you listen, and new vocabulary are highlighted and explained.

http://www.literacynet.org/cnnsf/ This site has both the audio and text of short news stories from CNN San Francisco

http://www.englishbaby.com  This web site is slick and modern with "cool" content updated weekly.  You can listen to informal, natural conversations about movies, TV shows, music and entertainment with up-to-date vocabulary and some popular slang expressions.  Each conversation topic is accompanied by exercises.


Private Practice Strategy #4: Mirroring

Closely akin to Strategies 2 and 3 is mirroring. This is the most challenging strategy because you speak along with the audio model, rather than repeating after the audio. With this strategy you need to see the text of the spoken passage and read along with the speaker, keeping the same speed and trying to incoporate into your speech the same thought groups, stress, rhythm, intonation and reduced forms. Following are two texts and audio files you can use for mirroring.

             New Greeting Cards Offer Encouragement, Hope                                    Procrastination: Stop it now                     
 


Private Practice Strategy #5: Recording and listening to your voice

Record yourself speaking (you could record yourself talking on the phone, talking about your day, or even reading some email messages you received). Then rewind the tape and listen to your voice, and monitor some aspect of pronunciation that you know you have difficulty with. For example, you could listen to see if you were pronouncing your "th" sounds correctly. Or you could listen to your rhythm and see if you are reducing soft function words. There are a variety of things you could listen for, but try to just focus on one or two things at a time.

As part of your preparation for your final presentation, you should record yourself practicing the presentation and then listen to yourself. I would like you to listen to your thought groups and placement of focus. Are you pausing in places that are appropriate? Are you putting focus on the correct words? Is there pitch change and lengthening on focus words? By practicing and checking your thought groups and use of focus, you will likely improve your pronunciation for your final presentation!


Other Resources for Speaking Practice

Rachel's English
Over 300 free videos on American English pronunciation and spoken English

Free classes at NC State. Conversation and pronunciation for international graduate students, visiting scholars, and spouses.
When: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings from 6:00 - 7:15 and Friday morning from 10:15 - 11:30
Where: Monday and Tuesday evenings in Withers 110, Thursday evenings in Withers 120, and Fridays in Poe 224
Cost: Free.
Contact Robin Kube at rmkube@ncsu.edu if you have questions.

NC State English Conversation Club Meetings on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons, 3:30 - 4:30. No application or registration required. We only ask that participants come ready to talk and have fun!