Accent improvement for Indian Speakers – the sounds of p, t, ch and k

English accent improvement for Indian speakers
In American or European English, the sounds of p, t, ch and k are pronounced somewhat differently than an Indian speaker is used to these pronunciations. The English sounds  of p, t, ch and k are ‘aspirated’ at the beginning of a syllable that has the accent. For example –  pin, tin, chin, kin are supposed to be aspirated.

Now, what in the world is an aspirated sound, you may ask?

The aspirated sound is the pronunciation with an initial release of breath air. For example h, as in hurry, is aspirated. Also, the rule is equally noticeable in English sounds like pit or kit where a puff of breath is clearly audible in the pronunciation of p and k sounds.
You can try pronouncing “pit” out loud and hold your hand in front of your mouth, or a lit candle if you need a more dramatic effect. You will feel a puff of breath, or see a flicker of the candle flame, that accompanies the “p” of “pit,” because it’s automatically aspirated in English. That is, of course, if you are pronouncing it with American accent.

In Indian speakers, the speakers with Indian accent, the required aspiration is missing by habit. This is because we are used to our speaking habits based on Hindi, Sanskrit or other mother tongues from India. In Indian English p, t, k are well-known to be unaspirated. If no flicker of candle flame in the above experiment, then you need some practice!

In other words, the American “p” sound is much harsher than Indian sound where a speaker tries to pronounce it quietly without accompanied burst of air. The same distinction applies for t, ch and k sounds.
The Indian speakers don’t have this problem with many other aspirated sounds, included the pronunciation of h, as in hurry.

The Indian speakers can overcome this pronunciation habit, the lack of aspiration, by repeatedly and consciously practicing the correct sounds of p, t, ch and k. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian Speakers – the sounds of p, t, ch and k”

Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘V ’ vs. ‘W’ sound

English Pronunciation for Indian and South-Asian Speakers: ‘v’ vs. ‘w’

Listen carefully to Americans/British speakers when they say words with the letter ‘V’  and ‘W’. Notice how the ‘V’ sounds very different from the ‘W’; there is a clear difference between ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds. Even though most of Indians understand the difference, the distinction is often not carried out in spoken English.

In Hindi, Punjabi and many other native languages from India, we do use ‘V’ sound. The absence of ‘W’ sound in our mother-tongue may be the reason that we often confuse/mix-up the two sounds in English language.

The ‘V’ sound:  To pronounce the ‘V’ sound correctly, place lower lip gently against the upper front teeth and make the sound. Don’t press it hard, you should be able to exhale through, while making the sound. You will need lots of practice if you are not used to it.
Remember, ‘V’ is a “hard” sound; make a tone, don’t just breathe out. Just breathing out makes the ‘F’ sound. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘V ’ vs. ‘W’ sound”

Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘R’ sound

Accent and pronunciation improvement for Indian speakers – avoid ‘rolling R’

When it comes to English language, especially for a novice speaker from India, many sounds and pronunciations need extra attention. The ‘r’ sound is one such challenge for many Indians treading the English speaking universe.
The American/English ‘r’ sound is very different from the way many Indians pronounce it. Without realizing, some of us put extra stress on ‘r’; this extra stress/pronunciation may sound similar to ‘rolling r’. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘R’ sound”

The art of elocution

Elocution – The secret of effective speaking

In movie The King’s Speech (2010), while watching a clip of Hitler speaking in German language:
Lilibet: What’s he saying?
King George VI: I don’t know but… he seems to be saying it rather well….

And, you ofter hear people saying:
“Choose your words carefully; you may have to eat them!”….

“Be careful what you say; it may come back to bite you!”….

Yes, it is important what you say. But equally important, perhaps more important is how you say it. After all, it is not what comes out of your mouth, but how you deliver it. Your style, your tone, your body language….all that adds up to the actual message.

Elocution is the basis of effective communication skills. Elocution is the art of clear and concise manner of speaking, with clarity of meaning and thought. Elocution originates from the word ‘eloquence’ – fluent, elegant or persuasive speaking. It is the knowledge of expressing strong emotions in striking and appropriate language and with the power of persuasion.

Effective speech has deep roots in elocution – the pronunciation, the accent, the grammar, the tone and the gestures play a key role in forming a meaningful and desired message. Elocution is been considered a key aspect of learning the art of communications. The art of elocution has been dissected, studied and taught in the schools for a long time. According to McGuffey’s New Sixth Eclectic Reader of 1857, the key principles of elocution are:
I. Articulation
II. Inflections
III. Accent and Emphasis
IV. The Voice
V. Gesture
VI. Instructions for Reading Verse

I. Articulation: How you phrase your message and enunciate it, how you put your thoughts into proper words is the most important aspect of effective speech. By definition, articulation is the act of vocal expression and enunciation; it is the act or manner of producing a speech sound. Continue reading “The art of elocution”

From desi Hinglish to fluent English

Those of us born and raised in India speak a very different English than the one spoken in Europe or North America or Australia..a plain fact.If you don’t believe, record yourself and listen!Try it!!

And it is natural, we are molded and shaped by our surroundings; we are always influenced by our mother tongue. As a result, the influence of our first language – often Hindi, is naturally present in our English speech, hence the term Hinglish.

On this site – The Indians Abroad, there are quite a few articles that address the usage of Hinglish and how to minimize it. Speaking Hinglish is not a mistake or something to be overly concerned about, it is just a habit – the way we speak in our own neighborhood. Think about it, even Australian spoken English is far different than the American English. The local factors and the local slangs are bound to influence the way we speak.

Hinglish usage is quite common in India, it is natural. No one cares, and no one should, as long as two parties can understand each-other. However, when we speak the same Hinglish abroad, not everybody is able to understand or comprehend the complete meaning, especially for those who are not familiar with desi terms and desi idioms. Continue reading “From desi Hinglish to fluent English”

Self-help tips on minimizing Hinglish usage abroad

10 easy Tips on how to minimize the usage of Hinglish (Indian English) overseas

Many of us, especially those who grew up in India, speak ‘Indian English’. This version of desi English – the Hinglishis, is heavily influenced by Hindi, other languages from India and desi terms. It is a common habit; and like many other habits, some times we don’t even realize that our English speech is often affected by our mother tongue.

Just like any other habit, the use of Hinglish is not so easy to get rid of. Habits die hard. In many cases, it may take a lot longer to get used to avoiding Hinglish completely. It needs a conscious effort to navigate away from any set routines, especially the ones developed during childhood –  our communicating or speaking habits.

While living overseas and away from India, we may not realize this but we are always adapting to the local ways of life. This process goes on even when we are not trying. This is a human nature; we are always adapting to our surroundings. Our language, our communication style and even our thinking – every aspect of our day-to-day life is slowly but surely impacted by the local culture and the society we live in. However, this adaptation and change is often very slow. The same applies to our habit of speaking Hinglish, the change is very slow unless we consciously try.

Listed below are some of the most effective ways to minimize the use of Hinglish. There are many simple things that we can do to speed up this adaptation to local English slang and language instead of continued habit of speaking in desi English – the Hinglish. Continue reading “Self-help tips on minimizing Hinglish usage abroad”

After-school daycare

“I don’t wanna go to the daycare after school”, she had told her mom before the bed time.
“We will pick you up soon after you get there. I promise.” Mom tried her usual trick.
“Yous said the same yesterday!”
“I promise, I will remind your dad to make sure!”
“I don’t like it there.”
“I am sure you will make new friends.”
“I already made two new friends – Hailey and Shira,” she said in a less complaining, and more of a bragging tone.
“See, I told you! Now get some sleep.”
“Goodnight mom. Love you.” As if she already forgot the quarrel from moments ago.
“Goodnight Isha, love you too.” She gave her a big kiss and tucked her in for the night. Continue reading “After-school daycare”

Unmourned Death of a Mother Tongue

The dusk crawls on the suburban town of Fairfield. The evening chill of February is starting to sting on his wrinkled hands.

Arjun sits on the park bench, watching over his grand-daughter playing on the swings.
“Let us go now, Pooja” he paused, “It’s time to go home”. He speaks broken English, with Indian accent. Over the years he has adapted to the foreign tongue, the only language his grand kids understand.
“Not yet Grandpa! Can you push my swing please – one more time,” says the little girl with big black eyes, as she struggles to keep the swing going.
“We have to go now, Pooja; the sun is going down.”
“It’s still light. One more push grandpa, please!”
Her delay tactics continue; she is winning every round of the exchange, or he is letting her.

After a few more swings and a long bargaining, they finally walk off the park. She skips along the sidewalk; their long silhouettes dragging behind them. Continue reading “Unmourned Death of a Mother Tongue”

Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills

At home or overseas – Importance of communication skills

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”~ Lee Iacocca

“They don’t seem to fully understand me”
“Am I speaking a foreign language or something?”
“How come no body is listening to me?”
“Is it my accent that is limiting my range of communication?”

Your ability to communicate defines you as a person. You can be the most knowledgeable person around, but if you cannot share your ideas – if you cannot communicate – your knowledge may not mean much.

One of the main hurdles in adapting to a new place or becoming a part of the new culture is the difficulty of integrating into the new society. Our ability to effectively communicate with other is very important in adjusting to a new place, or a new culture. In fact, our success or failure in any walk of life often depends on how well we communicate with others. Any business, any workplace, any relation, any family, any society… built around communication.

In the basic sense, a communication takes place when two or more people share or exchange information, ideas, gossips, knowledge etc. The main ways of communications include:
Verbal or oral communications: This is where we talk and listen. The ideas are exchanged, the rumors are discussed, a mother sings a lullaby to the little one, a leader delivers her vision to the followers…..Most of our daily communications are oral, unless you are a writer hiding in the basement – writing away your ideas or fantasies, waiting to be discovered. The oral communication almost always involves personal contact with the audience, with some exceptions such as talking on the phone.
This is the area – the verbal exchange – where most of us struggle in a new place or in a new culture. The verbal communications are often different place-to-place, even if the same language is spoken. Every place has its own ways of communicating:

  • local slang
  • local style
  • local dialect
  • use of local terms that an outsider may not understand

Continue reading “Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills”

12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command

Self-help suggestions and tips on improving Indian-English or Desi-English language abroad

“Are you enjoying the movie?”
Translated literally from Tamil, simply means absolutely.

There is nothing wrong with the above conversation if both sides know the intended meaning. Now, move that conversation to somewhere in USA or Canada or England, with someone who does not know the ‘Tamil-English’, the actual meaning is lost in the translations. 🙂

English language and English grammar is a bit tricky for those who are not used to it, for those with English as a second language. The basic mistakes we make are when we ‘think’ in our mother-tongue, and then translate in our head (Many of us say ‘translate in my mind 🙂 ), and then speak in ‘translated’ English. Here are some self-help tips on improving desi English overseas:

1. Knowing and Having – the problem of the progressive tense: many Indians often translate and speak with excessive and often inappropriate use of progressive verb form.

For example, consider this:
“I am having a fever.”
“I am having a small family”
“I am knowing that you are having a party without sending me invitation.”

Of course, the correct way of saying is:
“I have a fever”
“I have a small family”
“I know you are having a party without inviting me.”
Continue reading “12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command”

Crossing the language barrier abroad!

“The language barrier is probably the most difficult and takes the longest to overcome.” ~ Stephen Lee

Most of the times, the phrase ‘Language barrier’ refers to the difficulties people face during communicating if they don’t speak the same language; or if the speech or accent is too different to communicate effectively.
Almost everyone who ventures out to the worlds far-far away, the language barrier is one of the many hurdles encountered in the new land. For people migrating from India, even though they speak and understand English in most of the cases, the communication problems still exist. The fact is that spoken English in America or other Western countries is not the same as in India. The style, the slang, the acceptable norms…everlasting is different. One is bound to feel out of place in the beginning of the overseas journey.

The key issues surrounding the language barrier and the best ways to approach or alleviate them are:

The language knowledge: Knowledge of the English language is the most important step toward adjusting and adapting to the English speaking culture and society. The understanding of grammar and a sound knowledge of vocabulary are necessary to build a reliable foundation for any language. For people from India, this is not a major issue because most of us learn English in the school and have a good command of the language itself.

The ‘thick’ accent: The accent is natural; this is how we talk and speak in our native country growing up. The Indian accent of English –commonly called ‘thick’ accent- is very different from the way they speak English overseas. While there are ways to soften the accent or dramatically reduce it by practice and with conscious effort, it takes time to lose the accent. For details on this topic, refer to the previous post titled ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent!’. Continue reading “Crossing the language barrier abroad!”

10 Tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement!

Key tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement for people from India:

This post focuses on the specific difficulties that people from India encounter when speaking English, or during pronunciations of certain parts of English speech. For overall accent reduction and how to lose your accent, refer to the posts at the bottom of this article.

Based on common observations by everybody and feedback, here are some of the main problem areas, along with the tips to improve them:

1. The pronunciation of ‘Rs’, ‘Ts’, ‘Ds’ is not clear or hard to understand/distinguish:

‘T’ sounds almost like ‘D’: In some parts of American/Europe Pronunciation of ‘t’ is supposed to be less crisp. It should sounds more like a ‘d’ in many cases, especially between vowels. Katie is pronounced almost like KaDie, water like waDer.

R’ pronunciation: There are varying observations on the sound of ‘R’:

-Let the sound of R flow; don’t put too much stress on this sound especially in the middle or in the end of a word.

-Don’t totally chewing up the sound of ‘R’ in other cases. Practice the stress on this sound, and listen to how your American/English friends use it. In ‘Robert’, the stress is on first R; let the second ‘r’ flow, without any pronounced stress.

2. ‘Vs’ and ‘Ws’ sound: This is a common problem for many Asians and Europeans, so don’t take it personally. There is a clear difference between ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds. Even though most of Indians understand the difference, the distinction is often not carried out in spoken English. Let us try this:

For the sound of ‘v’, place lower lip gently on the upper teeth and say the word. Don’t press it hard, you should be able to exhale through, while making the sound. Most of us find this hardest to get used to.

For ‘w’ sound, it’s a different than ‘v’, the lips are supposed to be rounded and puckered like when we say ‘u’, and with no contact between the teeth and tongue. Move your lips in the forward direction as you vocalize the sound.

-The key distinction between the w/v sound and the ‘B’ sound is the fact that the lips are closed when we start to vocalize ‘B’. Continue reading “10 Tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement!”

A self-help guide to lose your accent!

NRI Tips: A complete guide on accent reduction and English language accent improvement!

Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hands on the strings to stop their vibration as in twanging them to bring out their music. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is one of the final segments of a series of articles written on how to lose your accent. This article includes a brief summary of earlier posts, tips based on personal experiments with different approaches and some additional tools on accent softening.

Before we start, it is very important to remember that:

-Our success or failure depends on our commitment. However, it is easier to make a commitment toward a goal, if we know that ‘help’ is around the corner – ‘help’ such as this information.

-Nobody can help us better than ourselves.

With that in mind, the information below is a self-help or a guide on accent softening, accent reduction and how to lose your accent ultimately:

Accent is normal: We all have accent, it is the way we speak; it is the way we used to talk in our neighborhood growing up. It only becomes an accent when we leave our neighborhood and go far away where they speak differently. Even within the same country, the same language is spoken with different slang, and in different style. Have you ever seen a white person in India trying to speak Hindi? Now, that is an accent; it is more than an accent – most of the time it is a slaughterhouse 🙂 ! So don’t feel too bad if someone tell you that you have a ‘thick’ accent. This is normal. You can read more about accent basics in this linked post.

How to lose or soften your accent: The main process and methods are detailed in the post titled ‘How to lose your accent’. It has received some very good reviews all around. Out of all the segments mentioned here, if you have time for only one article, this is the article you should go to. The process of accent softening – as outlined in the linked article – involves following key steps:

a. Break the habit of old speaking ways

b. Be a good listener Continue reading “A self-help guide to lose your accent!”

How to lose your accent!

Communication Tips: Accent softening & accent reduction methods
Accent improvement for effective communications is a key part of personal growth and personal development. As I said before, changing the way we speak is equivalent of breaking a habit.

How to lose your accent!
How to lose your accent!

To break one habit, we need to develop a new one -to ultimately affect the way be speak. This is not going to happen overnight, but you will see an improvement right away, that is if you are serious about losing your accent.
Here are some of the routines to help reduce, and ultimately lose your accent:

Plan ahead: If you are still in India, in the planning stage of immigration, one of the best thing to do is to expose yourself to the spoken English language, Western style and slang, as much as possible. Some of the simple suggestions include: Continue reading “How to lose your accent!”

Accent softening and accent reduction Tips!

NRI Tips: Language barrier -the  issue of ‘thick’ accent!

Many surprises await a new immigrant. The challenges of adapting to a foreign country can be very discouraging.
One of the main hurdles that the NRIs face in the Western world is the language barrier and the Indian accent of spoken English. Even if you have a graduate degree in English from India, you are bound to have this problem. The issue is not the knowledge of language, but the way we speak English – the Indian accent; the inability to communicate effectively while talking to a native English speaking person.
The Indian way of speaking English is often branded as a ‘thick’ accent. That basically means that it is not refined for the American/Western ears; it sounds very foreign, like an ‘outsider’
Yes, the spoken language barrier or thick accent is an issue, but it is not your fault. It is a part of the journey; a part of new culture and new rules of living abroad. It is a part of adaptation into the local culture abroad.

The spoken English in India is heavily influenced by our Indian language – our mother tongue. In India, the English teachings mainly focus on grammar and spelling with very little focus on actual pronunciation. Continue reading “Accent softening and accent reduction Tips!”