Helping Cantonese speakers with unstressed words

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Helping Cantonese speakers with unstressed words

Unread postby Hubert » 16 Jun 2007, 18:16

Dear Lucy,

Do you have any tips regarding how I could help native speakers of Cantonese overcome the staccato like speach that some of them have when they try to speak English or not?


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Helping students with unstressed syllables and words

Unread postby Lucy » 24 Jun 2007, 14:41

Dear Hubert,

According to Michael Swan, the reason for the staccato speech common amongst Chinese learners is that in their own language, each syllable carries equal stress. They don’t have the notion of stressed and unstressed syllables or words.

If you want to work on eliminating this staccato style, you will need to do some work on the schwa and unstressed words. The first step is to raise students’ awareness to the existence of stressed and unstressed syllables and words in English. Below are some ideas for raising awareness:

Choose a system for marking stressed and unstressed parts of speech (underlining, colours, lower case and upper case letters). Mark any new language using this system and ask students to do the same.

Stress falls on the words that carry meaning. Ask students to take a simple sentence and to mark which sounds they think are stressed and which are not stressed. Do this exercise regularly, maybe for a few minutes every lesson.

Work on the way meanings change when stress changes.

Take a simple sentence and pronounce it “the Chinese way” and the way a native speaker of English would pronounce it. Ask students to tell you which sentence is Chinese and which is native English. Ask them to pronounce the phrases in a Chinese and English way. Do this whenever you are working on pronunciation.

You can also work on basic repetition of words and phrases by asking students to repeat after you and by drilling. This will work better if it is done in conjunction with work on the reasons for stressed and unstressed sounds.

Finally, try to always present language orally before students see the written form. This will allow them to assimilate the sound before seeing the word; once they have seen the word or structure, they will pronounce it as they read it. ... stress.htm ... stress.htm


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