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Thread: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

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    Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Hi,

    First of all, this thread has not much to do with programming.

    I'm a non-native English teacher and I work for an Italian military school, where I also develop Web-based learning units in SCORM.

    Right now, I'm doing research into e-learning applied to language teaching and, recently, I was given the task of preparing some presentations for colleagues who may be interested in this field.

    A few days ago I was told to prepare my presentation in Italian but, when I found that in the audience there were some attendees who did not understand my native language, I decided to give it in English.

    I have uploaded my presentation to YouTube and you can watch it through the following link:



    In an effort to improve myself, there are a few questions I would like to ask the members of vbforums.com who are English/American/Canadian/Australian etc. native speakers and who cannot speak Italian:

    (1) Are you able to understand everything I say or does my Italian accent/pronunciation prevent you from grasping some of my sentences? In the latter case, to what percentage is what I say unclear?

    (2) What expressions used in my presentation would you definitely change to make it easier to follow?

    (3) If you found my English unclear, what advice would you give me to improve my accent/pronunciation/diction and/or vocabulary?


    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by esposito; Sep 27th, 2015 at 04:04 AM.
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    Super Moderator FunkyDexter's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    I only listened to the first 5 minutes and your English is 100% clear. Its excellent, in fact. At no point did I struggle to understand anything you said.

    If I was being really picky I'd say that you could work on your accent a little, you're still recognisably Italian, but that didn't get in the way of communication at all.

    You've actually made me a little jealous, actually, because my Italian is non-existent beyond the ability to order food
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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    Thanks, I appreciate that.

    I agree with you: I badly need to work on my accent. My daughter is only 12 years old but her English accent is just brilliant. I should ask her what her secret is.

    Thanks again.
    Since I discovered Delphi and Lazarus, VB has become history to me.

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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    I find it almost entirely understandable. You do have an Italian accent, but I feel that it is blended with an English accent, which makes for an intereting but largely comprehensible mix. The one constant is the -a ending to lots of words. It's a notable accent, but doesn't detract from understanding, for me.
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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    Thanks for your advice. It's nice to hear from a mother-tongue speaker that there's a little bit of English in my accent. I'll try to get rid of the flaws you've pointed out.
    Since I discovered Delphi and Lazarus, VB has become history to me.

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    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    I'm not sure that you should. What's wrong with having an accent? In the US, people from the midwest are favored for things like call centers because they have very neutral accents, but so what? I didn't realize that I had much of an accent until I listened to some recordings of some stories I told on stage. Now that I know I have an accent....I don't care. As long as people can understand me, then the accent is just color. So, I wouldn't say that you should try too hard to change your way of speaking.
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    MS SQL Powerposter szlamany's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    I feel you are speaking too fast - almost skipping a pause between some words.

    And that's coming from a New Yorker where talking speed is always fast.

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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaggy Hiker View Post
    I'm not sure that you should. What's wrong with having an accent? In the US, people from the midwest are favored for things like call centers because they have very neutral accents, but so what? I didn't realize that I had much of an accent until I listened to some recordings of some stories I told on stage. Now that I know I have an accent....I don't care. As long as people can understand me, then the accent is just color. So, I wouldn't say that you should try too hard to change your way of speaking.
    Maybe you are right. Probably, the only reason why I should make an effort and try to get rid of my Italian accent is because I work in a language school and today's students usually attach a lot of importance to phonetic aspects such as inflection, intonation and pronunciation.
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    Re: Tips for language to use and pronunciation

    Quote Originally Posted by szlamany View Post
    I feel you are speaking too fast - almost skipping a pause between some words.

    And that's coming from a New Yorker where talking speed is always fast.
    Yes, I had figured that out by myself. Anyway, in this particular case, the reason for it is because I was given half an hour for a presentation that usually takes one hour in my native language. In the classroom, my way of speaking is very much slower.
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    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    I have always found that I speak faster on stage than I do otherwise. Slowing down is something I have to focus on, or a 15 minute talk takes half that.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    My wife has a fitness product and we did some video's 15 years ago - having a steady and slow tempo in speaking was not easy - and without adding any huh's and eh's and um's between words.

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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    I agree with you: I badly need to work on my accent.
    No your accent isn't a problem, and your English is very good. The one thing that would definitely make you more understandable though is working on this -

    The one constant is the -a ending to lots of words.
    I found myself focusing sometimes on the words you ended like this rather than the whole sentence.

    Like when you say Course-a instead of Course

    This is a minor issue though, generally your English is very good as is the breadth your vocabulary
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by NeedSomeAnswers View Post
    No your accent isn't a problem, and your English is very good. The one thing that would definitely make you more understandable though is working on this -



    I found myself focusing sometimes on the words you ended like this rather than the whole sentence.

    Like when you say Course-a instead of Course

    This is a minor issue though, generally your English is very good as is the breadth your vocabulary
    Thanks, I'll take your advice and try to get rid of the -a ending. I'm sure I will have to do a lot of practice to achieve that result. Anyway, no matter how long it takes, I think that time will be well spent, as two native speakers have pointed out the same flaw.

    Thanks again. I appreciate your help.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    your accent isn't a problem
    I'll second this. You do have an accent but you were very clear and easy to understand in spite of it.

    If your goal is to communicate clearly then you're 100% clear already. If you want to fool people into thinking you were born in London, then you might want to do some work.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by FunkyDexter View Post
    I'll second this. You do have an accent but you were very clear and easy to understand in spite of it.

    If your goal is to communicate clearly then you're 100% clear already. If you want to fool people into thinking you were born in London, then you might want to do some work.
    Thanks. Anyway, getting rid of my foreign accent is also a question of self-esteem for me, as I am an English teacher. So, I think I'll have to roll up my sleeves and work hard on it.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Your best bet would be to spend some time over here. Accents are one of those things that are best learned by osmosis.

    I've got a spare sofa if you bring some decent Italian food
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    MS SQL Powerposter szlamany's Avatar
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    I recall an interview with one of the Gabor sisters - she knew she reach a milestone in English when she started dreaming in English.

    Have you had any English dreams? Nightmares?

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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by FunkyDexter View Post
    Your best bet would be to spend some time over here. Accents are one of those things that are best learned by osmosis.

    I've got a spare sofa if you bring some decent Italian food
    Thanks, it's very kind of you. I would love to spend some time abroad, but right now my work commitments prevent me from taking this option into consideration.

    I'm afraid learning by osmosis only works when you are very young, though. When I'm not in the classroom, I spend hours with my work-colleagues, who are all English native speakers, talking shop and discussing politics. They are from England, Scotland, the U.S. and Australia and we almost never talk to each other in Italian. In spite of that, my Italian accent is still here.

    To get rid of my foreign accent, I feel I should, first of all, build awareness of specific sounds that I pronounce incorrectly. Your tip about the -a ending was very useful in this respect.

    Secondly, I think I should contact a specialized school and attend an English diction course which provides a sort of intense speech therapy.

    Thirdly, whenever I can afford it, I should take your advice and go abroad.

    Thanks again.
    Since I discovered Delphi and Lazarus, VB has become history to me.

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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Yes, sometimes in my dreams I speak in English. This happens when I dream of meeting my work-colleagues or my students (in the classroom, we never speak in Italian). Even when I'm awake, I often happen to think in English, especially if I'm thinking about some job-related issues. But I don't know which milestone I have reached so far.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    I don't know what a SCORM is but I'll take three. That french dude seems to know what he's doing.
    I don't live here any more.

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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by wossname View Post
    I don't know what a SCORM is but I'll take three. That french dude seems to know what he's doing.
    Hi,

    Here's some info about the SCORM standard:

    SCORM is a set of technical standards for e-learning software products. SCORM tells programmers how to write their code so that it can “play well” with other e-learning software. It is the de facto industry standard for e-learning interoperability. Specifically, SCORM governs how online learning content and Learning Management Systems (LMSs) communicate with each other. SCORM does not speak to instructional design or any other pedagogical concern, it is purely a technical standard.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by esposito View Post

    First of all, this thread has not much to do with programming.
    Sorry, I don't understand this phrase; it must be your accent.

    Seriously, though, I don't see a problem with accents. As long as you are speaking 'proper' English and not using colloquialisms - which are most often accent-based - then there is generally no misinterpretation.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by SJWhiteley View Post
    Sorry, I don't understand this phrase; it must be your accent.

    Seriously, though, I don't see a problem with accents. As long as you are speaking 'proper' English and not using colloquialisms - which are most often accent-based - then there is generally no misinterpretation.
    Thanks. I think you are perfectly right when you refer to the average English speaker. Nevertheless, very often students expect their English teacher to master all aspects of the language, including accents.

    About the sentence "First of all, this thread has not much to do with programming", I just meant, "Sorry if I started a thread that has nothing to do with what this forum deals with (computer programming)".
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    very often students expect their English teacher to master all aspects of the language, including accents.
    I can understand that. I think everyone would agree that you communicate effectively but you're holding yourself to a higher standard. You want to do more than communicate, you want to set an example for your students to follow and the closer you are to "perfect" English the better the example you are setting.
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    Re: Linguistic tips for a non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by FunkyDexter View Post
    I can understand that. I think everyone would agree that you communicate effectively but you're holding yourself to a higher standard. You want to do more than communicate, you want to set an example for your students to follow and the closer you are to "perfect" English the better the example you are setting.
    You hit the nail on the head. I personally believe that this ambition should be pursued by all language teachers.
    Since I discovered Delphi and Lazarus, VB has become history to me.

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