Sunday, January 1, 2012

Excellent Books to Improve American Accent!

Happy New Year from Singapore!

This post is to let you know about my latest endeavor to improve my American English accent.

Specifically, I would like to introduce to you the 2 excellent books shown herewith on American English pronunciation, which have radically changed my perception of how I should vocalize when I speak English:

英語喉 50のメソッド
(In 50 Lessons You Get Eigo-nodo, hereinafter referred to as the Eigo-nodo book)

(Understanding English Spoken at Machine-gun Speed)

Both of these books are co-authored by Kazuaki Uekawa and Jeana George. They are intended for Japanese learners of English like myself, who are interested in improving their American English accent.

The title of the first book, 英語喉 (Eigo-nodo), is a Japanese term which literally translates as the English throat. As the name suggests, this book explains in detail how we can improve our American English pronunciation by utilizing the throat.

I came across these books quite by accident. About 2 months ago, I was surfing YouTube and checking out some English pronunciation tutorial videos, and came across a video that was done by Kazuaki Uekawa, one of the co-authors of the Eigo-nodo book.

In this video, Mr Uekawa is demonstrating how Japanese learners of English can improve their pronunciation by vocalizing from the throat.

Check this out:

When I watched this video for the first time, I was flabbergasted because, although Mr Uekawa was born and raised in Japan, his American English accent sounded really natural to me, to such an extent that he can pass off for an American guy if you hear him talking on the phone.

I was equally amazed at the content of this video, because the idea of utilizing the throat to improve vocalization had never occurred to me before. Prior to watching this video, I had been trapped by the misconception that achieving a perfect American accent was all about how I shape my mouth and where I place my tongue such that the correct sound would come out, with no heed whatsoever to how we can make use of the throat to vocalize. Talk about being hit by a revelation!

After watching the video, I immediately Googled his name, and ordered the books on the Internet. As soon as I got the books, I began to study them in earnest, and followed the Eigo-nodo method conscientiously for about a month or so.

I'm really glad that I have done this, because I have made great progress in terms of improving my vocalization when I speak English.

There are a lot of detailed techniques that are mentioned in these books, but the gist of it is that, the essential difference in pronunciation between the Americans and the Japanese arises from the fact that the Americans tend to use their throat much more heavily than the Japanese, and as a result, their voice would come out sounding deep and well rounded.

Japanese people, on the other hand, have a tendency to generate the sounds entirely from the mouth, without using the throat, resulting in their voice sounding relatively flat and extremely high-pitched as compared to the Americans, with not so much vibration or resonance taking place in the throat area.

Up until now, I have been practicing this method for about 2 months, and my speech is presently undergoing a huge transformation. My American English accent is beginning to sound much deeper, more convincing and native-like than ever before.

Granted, making use of the throat is only one element that goes into creating a native-like sound, and I still have a lot of fine-tuning to do, as some of my vowels and consonants are definitely off. However, I feel that mastering a throat-based vocalization method is indeed a good starting point, and will form a solid foundation for acquiring a perfect American accent going forward.

I'm planning to upload another video on my YouTube channel for an update as soon as my vocalization stabilizes and gets rock-solid, so please keep a lookout!

In the mean time, I will continue dotting the i's and crossing the t's to refine my accent.

I hereby declare 2012 to be my American Accent Acquisition Year, and will make achieving a perfect American accent my New Year's resolution!

Here's wishing all of you a very prosperous and happy new year ahead!


Keith said...

Wow. Excellent find! Finally somebody who can explain this important feature of speaking English to Japanese people. I'm so jealous!!

Uncle Polyglot said...

Hi Keith,


Thanks a lot for reading my very first blog post for the year.

As regards English pronunciation, the Eigo-nodo method is my biggest find ever, for which I am infinitely grateful to the authors of this book.

Now that I have mastered the method, the next step for me is to remedy my vowel and consonant issues.

Albeit a bit embarrassing, I'm planning to record my own voice from time to time and analyze in microscopic detail my problem areas in order to get them rectified one by one.

I'm determined to acquire a perfect American accent by the end of 2012, and I'll keep my readers posted with follow-up blog posts and YouTube videos.

Take care, and talk to you again soon!

Keith said...

That's awesome! I look forward to it.

I also have to make major progress in my Japanese this year. Not sure how I'm going to do it, though.

Anonymous said...

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Rajesh Bothra