Friday, March 18, 2016

Q&A: Overcoming Awkwardness

Okay, I have a weird question for you and your followers. I am a language freak. I'm fluent in Dutch, English, Spanish, Italian, and am learning German, Russian and French. (Don't ask how many times I've tried to say something in one and corrected it in another) My problem is, for Russian, French and German you have to use the accents to properly pronounce some of the words. Now it's a bit silly, but I get embarrassed when I try to mimic the accent. Do you have any tips on getting over it?
Hi! I think I can understand you. I feel deeply embarrassed when I have to pronounce English sounds [θ] and [ð]. Russian doesn’t have these sounds. Moreover, it is considered a speech impediment (sigmatism) if one produces these sounds. Listening practice helped me to get rid of these awkward feelings.

If by the accent you mean a stress, in Russian absolutely every word should be stressed properly: one vowel in each word should be articulated clearly, and all the rest reduced to some degree.

Interestingly, Karen Van Hook who is patiently working on reducing my funny Russian accent always says “That’s it!” exactly when I’m mocking (or I think that I’m mocking) typical American speech. You can’t over-do it. Never. Exaggerate - and you’ll get exactly where you want to be.

So my general suggestion would be: listen to native speakers, Russian songs and watch movies in Russian. Listening is extremely important. Even if you don’t understand 80% of what you hear, let your ear to get accustomed to the Russian sounds. You’ll get the rhythm and general sounding of the Russian speech, and will start doing the accent without feeling embarrassed. It only comes with practice. Good luck!

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Photo by Steven Mueller