The inspiration today comes from Idahosa (pronounced “ee DOW sah”) over at mimicmethod.com. He has put together an entire website built on the idea that you should spend more of your time listening to and mimicking native speakers. Check out some quotes and blog posts titles to see why:
- Language is all about sound.
- Why Rhythm perception is the most valuable skill for both language and music.
- Words are imaginary. Syllables are real. Learn foreign languages through syllables.
- How to Tune your foreign language vowel pronunciation.
- Pronunciation is NOT a bonus skill – it’s the MOST important element in language acquisition.
- The 4 pronunciation tweaks that will eliminate 80% of your foreign accent.
So you can see that his primary focus is SOUND – including accent and pronunciation. And he’s right, SOUND is what language is essentially. Words, phrases and syllables only have the meanings that we (or the culture) collectively assign them. What’s to say a certain sound or grunt in one language isn’t a perfectly logical word or explanation in another?
So, one of the biggest keys to acquiring spot-on pronunciation in a second language is by mimicking whatever you hear native speakers saying. Try to copy the EXACT rhythm and sounds you hear. Here are some more tips for how you can better mimic native speakers:
- Listen OFTEN, repeat EVERYTHING.
- Mimic natives (under your breath) as you walk away from the check-out counter – or somewhere else – after paying for groceries.
- Mimic announcements you hear in supermarkets.
- Listen to and mimic native music in that foreign language.
- When someone asks you a question, immediately repeat that question back to them. (They’ll think you’re trying to understand it – and unless in a rush – will usually RE-pronounce it for you more clearly to help you better understand it.)
- Consistently watch a certain TV series and mimic what they say (there are often repeated words and phrases throughout the series).
- Watch TV news and mimic what they say (TV news often has the cleanest, least accented, or slang-ified speech).
- Record videos of your speaking and have natives critique your accent.
- Get specific help from natives about correcting your accent.
- Specifically, record a video of yourself mimicking someone or something famous in that foreign language (like a famous song or speech) and then get feedback on your accent.
So, today’s Challenge is all about mimicking.
#20: Choose a TV program to watch and mimic. Record a video of you watching the program and immediately mimicking whatever you hear.
Don’t worry about understanding the TV show for now. Just worry about perfecting your pronunciation. The most important thing to get right here is the flow and rhythm of the syllables as they glide over your tongue (hopefully they don’t “clunk”).
Here are a few Korean TV resources that I’ve picked up:
- A long list of Korean TV shows and clips freely available on YouTube.
- KShowNow.net (English subbed Korean TV – but don’t let the subtitles distract you!)
And of course, the Mimic Method blog and Facebook page for more inspiration.
More on pronunciation: Omniglot Pronunciation