Lesson Transcript


Chigusa: Welcome to a special Inner Circle Audio Lesson! I'm Chigusa and I'll be your host. My co-host today is the founder of InnovativeLanguage.com... Peter Galante!
Peter: Hi everyone! Peter here.
Chigusa: In this Inner Circle, we’re talking about...
Peter: Your Pronunciation is Terrible: Is Pronunciation Important or Not? And today, you will learn...
Chigusa: One – How to Approach Pronunciation as a Beginner
Peter: Two - How You Can Perfect Your Pronunciation with Our Program
Chigusa: All so you can master your target language and reach your goals!
Chigusa: Listeners, welcome back to the Inner Circle.
Peter: Last time, you learned how to do a half-way review, or kind of a half-way report, mid-term report…
Chigusa: …you learned that motivation naturally dips...
Peter: ...and how to maintain, or even boost your motivation.
Chigusa: And last time, Peter, you promised a goal of 10 minutes.
Peter: And I hit it.
Chigusa: That’s great! So after a few months of missing goals, you’re back.
Peter: Yes, missing goals is actually quite motivational, Chigusa.
Chigusa: It sounds like it! So did you do anything differently?
Peter: I’m still sticking to my routines. Doing my HebrewPod101 lessons and learning new conversations. Reviewing those. Lots of shadowing where I listen to the audio and talking at the same time, recording it. Then I use those conversations during my timed sessions with my skype teacher. So, going from 8 to 10 minutes isn’t such a big leap when you’re using that tactic… I’m still making progress, bit by bit. But there’s one thing that’s been on my mind when I started studying Hebrew. Actually, most languages that I studied, this is… I think...we’re going to dip into a bit of psychology here because this is an interesting topic.
Chigusa: Oh, what is it?
Peter: So... pronunciation.
Chigusa: Ah, Hebrew pronunciation is a bit different, isn’t it?
Peter: Well, it’s different from the languages that I’ve learned to date, but each language is different in its own way, and each language has sounds that are…can be really difficult for people who are not native - didn’t grow up speaking the language.
Chigusa: Is it a lot harder?
Peter: That's an interesting question. So, I think there have been quite some studies about this where if you’re a native English speaker, certain sounds may be more familiar to you. So, for example, the R and H sounds are more guttural. They come from the throat. Those are quite challenging for me. For the most part with Hebrew, you stress the last syllable of a Hebrew word, and that can be a bit challenging to remember. So, again, each language has its own unique set of challenges for each individual learner, and that’s what makes pronunciation one of the biggest challenges. Because Chigusa, when you start a language, where do you start?
Chigusa: Like the alphabet?
Peter: Languages with an alphabet, you start there, and you're kind of pronouncing them so you kind of, in a way you start with pronunciation if you buy a book. In the beginning, there’s usually a section on how to pronounce the sounds of the language. So in a way, we’re starting there, but you can study for years and years and years and not perfect something you start with. So that’s why pronunciation is fascinating.
Chigusa: Actually, I have friends that started learning a language but haven't perfected their pronunciation for years and years.
Peter: Exactly. And kind of it makes me wonder…I know I have my own personal opinion on this but let's address some of these questions. How important is pronunciation really? Should you even aim for perfection? Or maybe good enough? And that’s the topic of today’s Inner Circle.
Chigusa: Your Pronunciation is Terrible: Is Pronunciation Important or Not
Part: So, let’s get into the first part.
Chigusa: Part 1: How to Approach Pronunciation as a Beginner
Peter: So, this can be controversial, and this lesson is kind of based on my own personal experience. I’m happy to hear your thoughts, if you want to share them, please do, and... but again, this is a personal take.
Chigusa: So, Peter, what do you think? Is pronunciation important?
Peter: Let’s call it perfect pronunciation, and I think when you're starting as a beginner, I think good enough pronunciation is what I like to aim for. So, I’ll talk a little more later on. I aim for understandable pronunciation. What do you think, Chigusa?
Chigusa: I think understandable pronunciation is good enough.
Peter: And the reason I ask is… it depends on the personal preference, right?
Chigusa: Yeah, some learners prefer to get everything just right….
Peter: And some, whether they’re aware or not, move on with so-so pronunciation. You know, I’ve also encountered teachers, and I remember them specifically, 2 teachers, no sorry, multiple teachers, one Chinese teacher, and several French teachers that refused to move on until you mastered the pronunciation.
Chigusa: Really? Did this happen with Hebrew too?
Peter: No. Thankfully, no. This teacher was very, very good, and she would correct my pronunciation with positive reinforcement, not say “that's not how you say it,” but when I said the word incorrectly, she would say it again, she would repeat it, parrot back correctly so I would learn from my mistakes. But this has happened, again, with the teachers French and Chinese.
Chigusa: Yeah, I can see why. Especially with Chinese. There are the tones.
Peter: Yes, with these tones, saying the incorrect tones will - you’ll speak the incorrect word. So the tones are really really critical, but I also think context is part of the language too. So if you’re saying a sentence and some of the words are pronounced incorrectly, they can understand from the context, so… to be honest, for me, the fact that they wouldn’t move on from pronunciation. Ideally, we’d all want to have perfect pronunciation. But the fact was, it was very demotivating for me to repeatedly spend class after class. Now, I think you can argue that “hey, just get better with that pronunciation,” but practicing the pronunciation, the alphabet, week after week after week without anything new… what do you think? Is that motivational or not so motivational?
Chigusa: Not very motivational.
Peter: And we have to remember that much of our material - learning content - is geared towards adults. And kids can really absorb so much faster. My kids were raised here in Tokyo, and my Japanese is much much better than theirs, light years better than theirs, but they can say certain sounds that I can’t because they’ve heard it from an early age, they've taken those classes. So their pronunciation, if they want to, will always be better than mine. So, kids and adults - it’s a bit different.
Chigusa: Right, and it’s usually much harder for adults, right?
Peter: There is scientific evidence supporting this that babies that hear languages can actually reach those sounds or speak at an early age can activate those sounds, even if there’s a gap between there. In my case, there’s the sound of the Japanese L or R, and I cannot get that sound perfect, but the kids can. So, this is where the issue lies. Since language learning requires time investment… Do you want to spend your time perfecting pronunciation and not speak much at all… or have so-so pronunciation and focus on speaking more?
Chigusa: Hmm, that's a good question. How do you approach this?
Petter: So, I like to get a base level understanding of pronunciation. We have pronunciation lessons on all of our sites. So, I’ll go through the course, and I practice pronunciation. Some sounds carry over, some don't, but I keep moving on. I set a time limit for my pronunciation unless it’s like really, really terrible.
Chigusa: So, if you can’t get something down right…?
Peter: I don’t get stuck over it. That was harder to say than I thought because some people can be very passionate about this. It’s a very controversial topic. But for me, again, this is just my way; I attack the language, I don’t get stuck on it. Speaking more imperfectly is better than learning perfect pronunciation… For me.
Chigusa: Yeah, that’s true. With Japanese learners, even if their pronunciation is slightly off… I can still understand them.
Peter: Exactly. You get your point across. So, it’s good enough for now. Remember, language is a tool we use to facilitate communication. So if you want to talk to someone to know more about them, you’re using the language as a tool. So, if the tool is good enough, then you can reach and achieve what you’re trying to do, which is... communicate. Think about this if you want, if you’re ordering food, I guess one of the more primitive ways is to point at what you want. But then, if it’s a sandwich, then you’re getting the sandwich the way it was made, right? So maybe you have certain preferences. You don't want something on that sandwich. So now you need the tools to have that thing the way you want it. Now, if the tool is good enough, if the language, the pronunciation is good enough for you to get certain things removed from that sandwich and the way you want it, isn’t that better than perfectly speaking that you want that sandwich? So how about this? Would you rather have the sandwich the way you want it using not perfect pronunciation, or ordering the sandwich you don’t want in perfect pronunciation? This please versus I would like this sandwich, take out the mayo, add some lettuce, slice the tomato, and put it in a bag for me. So, Chigusa, which would you prefer? The perfect pronunciation or imperfect pronunciation with more ability to communicate?
Chigusa: The imperfect pronunciation with more ability to communicate.
Peter: Yeah, now there is a risk in this. Not so much a risk, but in order to do this strategy, you have to really have a bit of a thick skin. Or you have to get used to something that will come, and it’s not fun. I kind of remember several times - it’s always tough when you say a word, and someone doesn’t understand because of the pronunciation. That can knock your confidence. Or when someone directly tells you, "wow, your pronunciation is not that good." And that actually happened. Someone had mentioned to me directly, "wow, for the amount of time that you’ve been in Japan, your pronunciation is really bad."
Chigusa: That hurt.
Peter: So again, that’s why the strategy comes with a bit of - you have to be a little self-confident. You have to be willing to accept that there may be cases like this where you’re trying to communicate, and people are not understanding to you. And people may not always be completely understanding - “oh, can you say it again?” “I don’t know what you’re saying.” If you’re confident, you’ll see these - in the case of the attack on your pronunciation as someone who's insecure; there’s no reason to attack you. So again, it comes from this self-confidence. Also, if you’re trying to communicate and the person does not understand you and they're not being sympathetic, or they’re not trying to be empathetic and trying to help you understand, then that … you cannot let that damage you. You have to stick to your strategy and understand that this is a strategy you chose to get better, and you will go back and improve your pronunciation. Just be ready to deal with a bit of adversity, because people can take you to task intentionally, as was the case with the person who was like, “you should be better.” Very subjective statement. And people who unintentionally knock your confidence by not being understanding. If you go into the store like, “this, please.” And they’re like, “Huh?” “This, please.” “Hmm?” That can knock your confidence too. Just have to remember that each person - it can be something not even related to the language, like they might not hear so well, an older person or things like that which have happened. Just stay confident and stick to the strategy. If you take it.
Chigusa: Peter, did that insult make you go back to pronunciation?
Peter: Now, I’ll be very honest, yes it did. It’s never fun to have someone say something like that, so in a way, even though now I’m talking about you have to stick to the plan, yea, when your confidence gets knocked, it sometimes does force good actions. So, you know I did actually after that was said go back and I did, to be honest, there was some validity in the statement. In Japanese, there’s something called the long vowel. So where you hold - Japanese is very musical in a way - you hold things for kind of beats. A short vowel will be very short, and the longer vowel will be held for a little. Like if you say “ikimashou,” you kind of hold it - it’s called a long vowel. And I needed to work on that specific thing, so, in the end, it worked out in my favor. I did go back. If I’m sticking with a language long term and I get to an intermediate level… I do come back and work on the pronunciation. But the beginning stages, I feel my time is better spent, the return on my time in improving my vocabulary, my grammar so that I can interact with more people. Because the more people you can interact with, the better you get by making mistakes and actually using the language.
Chigusa: When you come back, how do you practice pronunciation?
Peter: So, I’ll come back and practice with the voice recorder and now video. And I’ll try to listen more carefully, and shadow. I’ll also use our Premium PLUS teachers and ask them to review my pronunciation. So, to be honest, one of the best ways you can do is specifically ask for feedback, and it’s always hard when it's with your friends because friends are great, and family members are great for feedback once in a while. But Chigusa, imagine we’re out and “hey Chigusa, how do you say this in Japanese” and I’m looking at water. "Hey Chigusa, how do you say water in Japanese." And then you tell me. And then I say, "is this the right pronunciation? Is this the right pronunciation?" And every single word throughout our dinner, or if we’re out with friends, we go somewhere, and we’re talking, will it be fun?
Chigusa: It will be annoying.
Peter: So that’s where teachers and tutors are really helpful because that time is actually set aside for that. And because you always want to be mindful that everyone’s having a good time and not just you unilaterally making things into lessons, right?
Chigusa: So, for the most part, as a beginner, you don’t spend too much time on pronunciation.
Peter: Exactly. Again, we go back to this time investment. And adult learners… weeks are busy. So you want a return on that time investment. Everyones on a busy schedule. So, I’d rather learn to speak more first. I’d rather learn more first to have a wider array of things, but I’m not going to lie, having really really good pronunciation - the thing about pronunciation, if you’re good at it, you will get really sincere compliments from people. Chigusa, when you heard Japanese and when you heard some non-native speakers … if I say who are the best, the ones that pop into your mind probably have pronunciation nailed, right?
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: If I say, who are the top 3 non-native Japanese speakers, you know. How is their pronunciation?
Chigusa: Quite good.
Peter: So it’s a powerful, powerful thing to be able to speak with perfect pronunciation but remember, learning is about stages. And for me, I prefer the learn fast approach. But for other people, they really spend the time to get the pronunciation down, and I’m not going to lie, their pronunciation is much better than mine. And it's good for them, and their approach worked too. So I don't think there’s one approach - one size fits all. I think that is also a very valid approach for some people. If you’re that type of learner that likes perfection. Take the time. Make sure, because everything afterward, you’re going to be reinforcing. Interestingly, I met a guy who actually felt strongly that you should get perfect pronunciation before going on, and his Chinese pronunciation is incredible, like a native. Again, it’s just a personal decision.
Chigusa: So, Peter, what if a learner wants to focus on perfect pronunciation from the start?
Peter: Okay, so let’s jump into part 2.
Chigusa: Part 2: How You Can Perfect Your Pronunciation with Our Program
Peter: Listeners, language learning requires time investment.
Chigusa: So, if you’re a beginner, see if it makes sense for you to work on just pronunciation, just speaking, or both.
Peter: Or, you can follow my own example. Get a base-level of pronunciation… or good enough… move on, and come back later.
Chigusa: First, check out our Pronunciation course in the Lesson Library.
Peter: This should give you “good enough” to get going. You’ll understand how the language sounds...
Chigusa: ….what the important rules are…
Peter: And...what the most common mistakes are, so you can avoid them.
Chigusa: If you’re an Absolute Beginner or a Beginner, we recommend you take these lessons…
Peter: ..and get a general grasp of the pronunciation of your target language.
Chigusa: Second, use the Voice Recording Tool.
Peter: You’ll find it in the Dialogue section of every audio lesson.
Chigusa: With the Voice Recorder, you can listen to the native speaker say a line, record yourself saying the same line….
Peter: ...and play the two recordings side by side to see how close you get.
Chigusa: Of course, it may take a few tries...but the more you do it…
Peter: The better your pronunciation will get. And this is a great way to perfect your pronunciation on your own.
Chigusa: Third, send voice recordings to your Premium PLUS teacher…
Peter: ...and ask them for feedback.
Chigusa: Your native teacher will instantly know where you need adjustment…
Peter: ...and help you improve. But again, don’t worry if you don’t get it right away.
Chigusa: It’ll come with practice. And even if you have a not-so-perfect accent...
Peter: ...natives will be able to understand you. Again, in my case, I feel it’s better to speak more imperfectly than learning perfect pronunciation at the start….and not being able to speak at all. However, you prefer, perfecting pronunciation, investing more time in this critical, very important area upfront, then that’s perfectly okay, and that’s what that strategy was for.
Chigusa: Alright, let’s get back to goals. Peter, so you hit 10 minutes. What’s next?
Peter: The next goal is 12 minutes.
Chigusa: Sounds good. Deadline?
Peter: October 31st.
Chigusa: And listeners, let us know what your small, measurable monthly goal is.
Peter: Email us at inner dot circle at innovative language dot com, and stay tuned for the next Inner Circle.


Chigusa: Well, that’s going to do it for this special Inner Circle lesson!
Peter: Bye. Everyone!
Chigusa: Thanks for listening!