When we think of people who communicate well in a second language (let’s say, English), what is it that makes them sound so engaging?
It’s people who are clear and attentive, who express themselves well, who seem confident and whose voice is varied and engaging.
And when you come to think of that, it makes much more sense to value these aspects than the simple generic idea of ‘speaking like a native’.
And you know what’s even better? While you can’t be reborn into a different language, with some exercise you can improve your communication skills in your second language (and first!) and become clearer.
I know this because I’ve seen it work for me and my students, and I believe it might work for you too.
Today, I have three exercises for you to help you do just that. All you need is a text and a wine cork!
Yup, you got it right, a wine cork. But stay sober for this one. Or not.
First, read the text out loud and familiarize yourself with it.
The Cork exercise: Read the text out loud again, but this time – use a wine cork between your teeth. This will force you to work harder to pronounce every sound. The goal of this exercise is to help you become more aware of your tongue movement and create more space in your mouth, something that will help you in pronouncing the open vowels of English, especially the /æ/ as in ‘cat’ and the /ɑ/ as in ‘father’. You’ll find pronouncing those vowels is much easier after this exercise.
Extracting the vowels: Read the text out loud, but this time – pronounce only the vowels. If you’re not familiar with all the vowels, I recommend that you watch my video about the vowels of American English and if necessary, google the pronunciation of specific words and find out.
You don’t even have to say the whole text, a single sentence can be eye-opening, or is it ear-opening? (mouth opening?! You get the idea)
The Rookie Narrator: Read the text out loud, but this time – either overdo it, or underplay it. This exercise will allow you to explore your voice and expression and feel more comfortable in English.
Hey, it’s Hadar. Today, I’m going to share with you three exercises that are going to help you boost your pronunciation and clarity in English and help you improve your communication skills. In the past, I’ve only shared these exercises with my students, but today I’m sharing them with you as well.
But before we begin, if you are new to my channel, then welcome. My name is Hadar. I’m a non-native speaker of English, and I’m here to help you speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom, and help you fall in love with how you sound in English. So make sure to subscribe and click the bell to get all the notifications.
So let’s begin. To do these exercises, you’ll need two things: one – a text, any kind of text; and the other one is a wine cork, any kind of wine. You could drink the wine before, it might help, but you don’t have to. This is the text I’ve chosen for you today.
So pick a part in the text that you’d like to read. And again, it could be an email or a news article or any type of script that you find online. Find something that is fun and interesting. That is my only recommendation, but it’s not a must. So, I’m going to randomly choose a paragraph and then just read it first out loud. Here it goes.
“Are you kidding? The last thing they expected was Mickey Knox to get up close and personal. They wanted a follow-up episode and wouldn’t have taken anything I’d given them”. Good.
The first exercise is with a wine cork. What I want you to do is to stick it between your teeth and to say that text with a wine cork inside. What it’s going to do is it’s going to force you to work harder to pronounce every single sound. At the same time, let’s agree that it’s not going to sound clear, so don’t worry about it. Remember that it’s an exercise for the tongue and for your mouth. Let’s do it.
<Speaking with a wine cork> “Are you kidding? The last thing they expected was Mickey Knox to get up close and personal. They wanted a follow-up episode and wouldn’t have taken anything I’d given them”.
The TH is exceptionally challenging. “Think”, “theory”, “thick”. But what it does, it creates more awareness in your mouth. Your tongue needs to work harder to articulate all those consonants and it creates more space in your mouth – something that would serve you better when it comes to pronouncing open vowels of English, like the ‘a’ as in cat, the ‘ah’ as in father, or the ‘ow’ as in go.
So when you do that, that it creates a lot more space in your mouth and helps you sound clearer. And the best part, once you take the cork, it feels like it’s easier to say all of those words. It’s like running with weights – it’s challenging, but possible. Once you take off the weights, it’s a lot easier to run. That is the same idea.
So what you want to do is say one sentence with a cork inside your mouth, and then you take it out and you say it again. And try to enunciate every single sound. Of course, all the ‘b’ and ‘p’ and ‘th’ are going to be a little more challenging because you can’t actually close your mouth.
If it’s really challenging, you can cut through the wine cork and use a smaller space between your teeth. That is also great. I mean, don’t say ‘no’ just because it’s a little challenging at first, find a way to make it happen for you.
That was the first exercise, which is the cork exercise. The second exercise is to isolate the vowels from the text. Now that might be a little more challenging, especially if you don’t have a lot of knowledge of the English vowel sounds. And for that, I have the precise video for you and I’m going to link to it in the description to teach you all the different vowel sounds of American English. But still, it forces you to try and isolate in your head, what vowel sound it is.
So instead of reading words, you should be reading vowels. So a sentence like “Are you kidding?” may sound something like this: ‘aar-uh-i-i’. ‘aar’, we hear the R cause it’s an R-colored vowel, “you” becomes ‘uh’, “kidding” becomes ‘i-i’. ‘aar-uh-i-i’.
“The last thing they expected” – ‘uh-a-i-ei-uh-e-uh’. “The last thing they expected” – ‘uh-a-i-ei-uh-e-uh’, “expected was Mickey Knox to get up close and personal”.
‘uh-i-ee-aa-uh-e-uh-ow-uh-uhr-uh-uh’ – “was Mickey Knox to get up close and personal”. ‘uh-i-ee-aa’ – “was Mickey Knox” – this is me telling you, you don’t have to do that – ‘uh-e-uh-ow’, “to get up close”, ‘uh-uhr-uh-uh’ – “in personal”. Interesting, right?
Now, you don’t have to do the whole text like that, but only doing it for one sentence is so incredibly empowering because it puts you in control of what’s happening in the words and what you need to do be able to pronounce those words clearly.
So again, just one sentence is going to be great. And if you don’t know what vowels you need to pronounce, you can use resources like dictionary.com or a simple Google search to help you understand what those vowels are.
The last exercise is what I call the rookie narrator. In this exercise, you will read the text with exaggeration and pathos. The idea here is to give you a little more freedom in your words and your English, and to explore your voice and expression in English.
“Are you kidding? The last thing they expected was Mickey Knox to get up close and personal. They wanted a follow-up episode and wouldn’t have taken anything I had given them. I’m not going to tell Mickey Knox that, I’m going to make him think his gray matter depends on it”.
Now, this is one of the exercises. Another exercise is to underdo it. So, just for you to feel the difference between being very expressive and underexpressive. So, for example: “Are you kidding? The last thing they expected was Mickey Knox to get up close and personal. They wanted a follow-up episode and wouldn’t have taken anything I’d given them”.
So you want to explore your abilities as a speaker, and to overdo it and underdo it is a good way, because ultimately what you really want is to find a place right there in the middle. And sometimes to be an overdoer, and sometimes to be a chill underdoer. I just invented it.
Anyway, these are the three exercises: the cork exercise, the extract the vowels exercise, and the rookie narrator exercise. Which one of the three is your favorite and you are going to start doing it as you practice your pronunciation?
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you next week in the next video.