Tips to Improve Your Pronunciation From Expert @hadar.shemesh (1)
Hello, Steve Kaufmann here and today I have another special guest,
but a special, special guest, Hadar Shemesh of Accent's Way.
And she is a specialist in the area of pronunciation and she's a model
herself of how you can achieve native-like pronunciation in a
language, in this case English.
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Nice to see you again.
Nice to see you.
Pleasure being here.
Thank you so much for inviting me.
Okay, now I became aware of your videos of your YouTube channel, and we'll leave
a link in the, uh, description box.
And you have a lot of videos where you explain how to learn languages,
but in particular, you focus on this issue of pronunciation.
So, uh, it's fine to say that pronunciation doesn't matter as long
as you can understand, as long as you can get your meaning across.
That's really all that matters.
Which may or...
which may be true in fact is true, but most people are very concerned
about their own pronunciation.
Can you give us some background on your own journey in so far as your
own very North American pronunciation and the kind of advice and help
you, you give people around this whole subject of pronunciation?
So I was born and raised in Israel.
I was never exposed to English growing up.
And when I was 21, I wanted, I decided to move to New York to become an actress.
And uh, I showed up with my intermediate English.
I, you know, I definitely had a very noticeable Israeli accent where, you know,
people would ask me, where are you from?
You know, Hadar, such an exotic name, and like, there was always a
conversation about me and my accent and, um, which was okay, like I,
I, you know, it is what it is.
And then I studied acting.
I started an acting school and there we learned speech and pronunciation.
And I fell in love with this idea of modifying my sounds just by
learning what to do with my mouth.
And everyone learned speech and pronunciation, native speakers
and non-native speakers, 'cause we learned classical American.
Uh, that was the first year.
The second year we studied different dialects and what it did is it totally
opened up my mind in terms of not only my, uh, how I sounded, but also it
changed my confidence, how I showed up.
I understood so much more how to use the language better.
I felt more effortless.
Um, I had more confidence because every time, you know, before I
would second guess myself or avoid saying certain words that had th
or r and that stopped happening.
When I made the new sounds my new habit, my new speaking habit.
A couple of questions.
Sorry, go ahead.
No, I'll let you finish.
No, no, go ahead.
All the things you say sort of, uh, makes me think of questions, but I
can save my questions so you go ahead.
But that's it.
But then, After the two years of acting school, I already had a pretty solid
American accent and I was able to shift between accents and I learned it, and
I knew how to, you know, I, I learned the different sounds and gradually
moving back to Israel, I realized that no one here talked about pronunciation
and I realized how important it is for building confidence and fluency.
Not just to sound an Amer...
like an American, right?
But mostly to build that confidence speaking a second language.
So I started teaching it.
Okay, so the first question that comes to mind is, an actor by definition
is someone who is not inhibited.
You know, you, you're acting, you're pretending to be someone else,
uh, which is a particular mindset.
Uh, and so you're used to the idea that you're gonna imitate this
person, you're gonna imitate their role in the story, you're gonna
imitate the language they use.
So I think an actor has a big advantage, uh, in learning languages and also has,
um, you know, they're more confident.
So to what extent can you take that experience of an actor, you, the
boudding actor, actress, whatever the word is today, and that
confidence that you obviously had.
And how do you then transport that over to your average person?
Ah, this is such a good question 'cause I talk about it a lot.
Like me learning, acting, and making someone else's words my own is a big
part of the experience of a language learner because all of a sudden you take
someone else's words or someone else's language and you wanna make it your own.
So you want to let go of what you hold so closely, like your own pronunciation and
how you perceive the language and your own rhythm, and you need to surrender to
the new sounds and the new intonation.
So there is this aspect of letting go that is oftentimes so hard for people.
So I think that the mindset work around what it means to speak a second
language, letting go, trying out different things, exploring your voice.
When I teach, I use a lot of, um, techniques from my acting studies, you
know, using voice, understanding how to, how to play with your voice, and
also letting go of the, of the, of the tension that you have when speaking.
So I absolutely think it's the same.
I think that even as an actress, I had a lot of challenges with
confidence being one of the only non-native speakers in class.
So I always had issues with, with my pronunciation and things
that would be so easy for others, I had to work harder for them.
But I think that has taught me all the things that I know now and you
know, got me to where I am today.
You know, it's very interesting.
Uh, an actor imitates, uh, uh, you know, projects into the role of the person.
Uh, when we learn languages, we are imitating an aspect of another culture.
We're actually trying to project into that culture.
Um, Uh, the best language learners, they see themselves as members of that group.
I learn French.
I want to be French.
I learn Chinese.
I want to be Chinese.
Uh, I don't hold back in my own culture.
And I've often said that to learn a language you need to experience
a certain cultural weightlessness.
In other words, you're not an Israeli person speaking English,
you're an American, I'm a Chinese.
Uh, easier said than done.
How are you able to get people to let go of their identity uh,
and, and just without fear, just kind of throw themselves in?
Because it's the unknown.
You're throwing yourself into something that you're, it's not familiar to you.
And for any number of reasons people, oh, as they get older, they
don't like to change, they don't like to abandon their identity.
The, you know, actors do that, that's their profession.
But how do you get ordinary people to do that?
I think it's all about accepting the fact that it's going to be different.
They're not gonna feel completely like themselves at the beginning.
And the ideal is to bring it to a place where you feel authentic and you feel
like yourself, but the path, the road there will require you to discover new
things about yourself, to discover, uh, you know, you, you want to say something,
you have all these thoughts running around your head in your native language.
And what you're able to portray is a fraction of it and you need to be okay
with it, and to find a way to express yourself and to connect and to communicate
with others with whatever tools you have and I think that if you understand that
and you're willing to, to be okay with the experience that it's not gonna be the same
and you can't, you cannot compare yourself to your native language all the time.
Not in how you sound.
Not in your pronunciation.
Not in, not in how you are able to express yourself, 'cause it's just not fair.
The circumstances are different.
And people constantly do that and then they're like, I'm not good enough.
I feel like a fraud.
And having those thoughts is definitely limiting them and preventing them
from taking action, speaking more, 'cause they're constantly focused
on what other people are gonna say, but if you just operate from...
I was just gonna say, what you are saying now is that it's not just pronunciation,
it's, it's the whole range of, of, you know, operating in another language
and, and that obviously as we progress.
We're never perfect, but we're getting better all the time.
So at an earlier stage in our journey, we're not very good at
all, and yet we have to keep going.
Uh, but so it's just, it's not just pronunciation, it's,
it's the whole experience of learning in another language.
We have to accept what we are at each stage and try to enjoy it.
Yeah, it's never just pronunciation or just grammar or just vocabulary.
It's everything together and the experience together.
And you also need to balance between those things as you're learning and as you're
focusing, you know, there are stages in your language learning experience,
where the focus is, is going to be more on pronunciation because you've already
done a lot of work around comprehension.
Usually you start learning by perceiving the language by consuming
the language so that happens naturally as you develop, as you learn, but
there is a point where you are ready to do more work around pronunciation.
Maybe not very early on, but maybe there is a stage where you're
ready for it and then that should be your focus and that is okay.
And then you can't focus on too many things at the same time.
But I agree, it, it's also, um, it's also complex yet, yet clear.
Uh, if you know what it is that you need at a certain stage.
So do you have a range of techniques that you teach, uh, your subscribers, learners?
In other words, enabling them to get to a level of better language
usage, better pronunciation.
Are there techniques there or is it all the sort of the attitude?
So when it comes to teaching pronunciation, there's
absolutely a technique.
The first one is perception.
To be able to make a sound, you have to hear a sound.
If you can't hear the difference between sheep and ship, you're not
gonna be able to make those sounds.
So perception is first.
Then you need to learn how to pronounce it.
'Cause sometimes you might hear that there is a difference between "ee"
and "i", but every time you try to say it, it's gonna sound the same.
And that's where the technical aspect comes into play, where you
learn the difference between what your intuitive pronunciation is.
For example, as an, as a Hebrew speaker, I would just want to say "ee" in both
cases instead of "ee" versus "i".
So I need to understand my, what my, um, default sound is and how to
shift to be able to, to pronounce the sounds that I'm aiming to pronounce.
And then it's all about repetition, building habits.
So, so, so you build the muscle memory so you don't always have to
think about it when you're speaking.
And then there is a stage that I believe is also very important,
which is intentional speaking.
And then you use the specific sounds while speaking, because usually what happens,