AE 472 – Interview: Learning Languages, Slang, & Pronunciation with Pronunciation with Emma
G’day, you mob! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English today. I have a great episode with Emma, Emma Walker, from pronunciation with Emma. So, I sat down and had a bit of a chat to her over Skype recently about what it was like going through university and studying linguistics, and Emma as a pronunciation coach.
But, I think you’re really going to like this chat, guys. We talk all about pronunciation, about learning foreign languages like Portuguese and Spanish and our personal experiences, especially, with regards to learning the pronunciation of these languages.
She’s got an interesting accent because she comes from a certain area in Britain. So, it’ll be interesting to see if you guys notice where that accent is from. And it’s also obviously good practice for your ears just to get used to different accents.
And we also have a bit of a chat about different slang, especially slang in Britain, and a few… I think, a term she used that I had never heard in my life. So, that was interesting.
Anyway guys, let’s get into it. Emma Walker from Pronunciation with Emma.
G’day, guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. Today I have Emma Walker and I don’t know what to… I know on yours Instagram is pronunciation with Emma, but is that your specific business name or how does it work? Because I know you’ve got a different web site, right? That’s Emma Walker instead of Pronunciation with Emma. So, can you just tell me about your whole business. How does it work and how did you get it?
So, my website is also Pronunciation with Emma, so I don’t know if there’s another teacher Emma Walker around.
Sorry! my bad, my bad alright, so it’s only Pronunciation with Emma, got you.
Yeah…Someone was trying to copy me. So yeah, I focused more on pronunciation but it kind of it hasn’t always been that way. I studied English language and linguistics at university and I absolutely loved my pronunciation and phonetics, some phonology modules. I was really interested in those…
And what did they cover exactly for those who aren’t linguistically inclined? What were those sorts of modules covering in the English language and pronunciation?
Yeah, I still remember like, the first kind of introductory modules they were based on just learning the IPA. So I still remember this PHD student who used to do the seminars with us and she used to sit at the front of the class, just basically trying to replicate, trying to replicate some of the sounds and we would copy her and we would be sitting with little mirrors, trying to mimic exactly what she was… what she was saying and it’s was just so funny.
Did you have to learn all of the different sounds in the IP. Like everything the human vocal tract is capable of or…?
Everything, everything. The first one was just knowing the British phonemic charts which was easy. At that time, I had a very strong Yorkshire accent because I’m originally from York which is in Yorkshire, which is in the north of England.
I was going to ask you, is like, is it, it’s not Scottish. I know that’s not Scottish. I can’t tell.
No, it’s… yeah it is quite a few hours from Scotland still, there’s, you know, still a few miles in between Yorkshire and Scotland, but…
So, if we were to break this down in Game of Thrones, if your accent was placed on the map where would you be in Game of Thrones? Because I know that the accent gets stronger the further north you get, right?
Yeah it would be the north. Yeah it is interesting, cause the northern characters actually have northern accent.
Yeah exactly. So, you’d be a wildling?
What? Yeah! What’s her name? Oh. Ygritte.
Yeah, with Jon Snow, got you.
Yeah, like that kind of accent, that’s my original accent. But it’s funny because that’s not the actress’s original accent.
Ah, so she had to learn it.
Yeah, the same with Jon Snow or Jon Snow.
Yeah, Snow, you know nothing.
You know nothing Jon Snow. It is just so funny. But I had to change my accent a little bit because no one was understanding me.
Where was the University? Was that further south or…?
No, so I studied in York as well. I studied it at one of the universities in York and it wasn’t until I went to Spain when I started noticing that people were not understanding me because of my accent. So, I worked as a language assistant and I basically only took the modules as a language assistant because I didn’t want to do an exam. That was the only reason. So it was literally like, okay Emma, this is the list of classes, choose what you want. And I thought, oh my god I don’t want to do any exams, like, what could I do? So, I saw that I could take a module being a language assistant in a secondary school. And I thought, okay easy. No.
What did you have to do? What did it cover, like, when you were doing that class?
So, I was teaching teenagers and, which is really hard when you first start, because…
Even in your own language, right?
Yeah, yeah it was so hard, but luckily the kids they were so nice so like, strangely nice. So, it was like, what are you planning? So, they were so friendly and so curious, like, I still remember, like, my first few days working that, they would come up to me like touching me like your skin and it is so white, your eyes are so blue, you hair. So, people who can’t see me, I have blond hair, blue eyes and super white pale skin.
She is touched by fire. Right?
So, they were like, Oh my goodness, your legs, they are so white, because it was just the first few weeks that I had been in Spain. So, of course, my English body had never seen the sun and yeah, they were so shocked. And I remember, in a lesson, I mentioned the word pub. And I said, yeah okay, so it’s quite typical for people to go to a pub in the evenings. And there were like, teacher, like, what?? Pub. What is “pub”, teacher?
What is the typical think that you have to do to win when teaching English overseas? because you don’t want to end up teaching them a really specific accent, right? where they’re going to learn the Yorkshire pronunciation and then go anywhere in the world and people are going to be like, what??
Yeah. Yeah exactly, exactly. That’s what I didn’t want, I didn’t want a generation of learners to go around saying pub, we are off to the pub. And you know, honestly, I did it for them.
So how quickly did you have to adapt and change your accent and was it an easy process or…?
Yeah…so it took me maybe a few weeks and, luckily, I was living with a girl who had a very, very posh accent at the time, so I was able just to mimic her and this is the technique that I teach to my students, is to mimic and for those who don’t know what mimicking is, it’s basically when you’re copying someone. So, I would just listen to my flat mate I would, of course like, listen to BBC radio and I started to realise not only were the sounds different, but the intonation was different.
I think that’s the quickest way to clue in to get used to the intonation too, it’s kind of like, you have to fake it until you make it, You’ve got to keep pretending acting out, pretending like you’re in a movie or something and saying these lines with the same intonation even if it sounds strange, because that’s put up with me in Portuguese when I first started learning and I remember hearing them saying like I’d be like, trying to say the word as well or too, “também”, and they would always be like “também”, with this like inflexion going up and I’d be like that sounds so freakin’ weird, “também”, like and I just had to spend ages practicing that kind of intonation so that when I speak I say it more naturally like that, which sounds strange to me when I was learning but to them sounds more natural.
Exactly, exactly. So how did you improve your Portuguese pronunciation and intonation?
It’s just listen, repeat, as you say. I was initially using Duolingo and every line that they would say with a real native, you know, using strange sentences, the bear kiss the tree or something, I would just copy, copy, copy, as much as possible especially when starting a language it would just be pronunciation all the time. And even now with my fiancée, my fiancée is Portuguese or, Brazilian speaks Portuguese and I’m always like, just correct me if I pronounce something wrong and it’s pretty, it’s pretty amazing how quickly you get the hang of it though, especially with Portuguese we have different emphasis on different parts of the word. So, like you would you don’t say like in Spanish, I guess it would be like dictionario, you would say dicionario, you have to do this * DE de de *. and eventually you get used to and it feels natural and it’s sort of like, * ditititi *.
Yeah, you know what I’m finding now, though? Now, because I’ve been learning Portuguese for just over a week, it’s now day eight, that I’m on my Portuguese adventure. And now when I speak Spanish I’m starting to use that kind of intonation that they use in Portuguese. So yeah, my poor boyfriend, who’s Spanish…
And he is like, What? What are you doing? Like, why are you speaking this way?
That must be the hardest thing because I remember trying to learn Spanish after I started Portuguese and was just like, this is so one the words and the grammar and everything is so similar that I was sort of confusing myself. But then you’ve got Spanish that is very tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Like it’s kind of consistent, with the sounds you don’t really change the emphasis a lot in sentences, right? And in Portuguese it’s the complete opposite, where you’ll be like * dit ra dit dit ra *, and it’s just… it was weird, at first I was like, oh I always love Spanish and I wanted to learn it and thought when I first heard Portuguese, it was like this language sense so fucking weird, with this like a whoop, whoop, but now you go, I listen to Spanish and I’m, like there’s no there’s no like immersion to it, it’s just like * trrrriii *.
I know, I know… It’s funny, because someone said to me the other day, like, why are you learning Portuguese?! It’s such a dull sounding language. I’m like, have you heard Portuguese? What language have you listened to? It’s the least dull language I’ve ever heard.
So, what made you decide to learn Portuguese after learning Spanish? Tell us about that story, because I only noticed that, a few minutes before we got on the call and then I was like, oh wow, okay. And you were like five days in, I think, on your Instagram. So, what made you start that and how are you learning it and what have you experienced so far?
Well, I already speak Spanish, so to learn Portuguese, it’s kind of like why not? You know, it’s like a shortcut almost, like, I think. So…
I just modify my accent fluent.
That is it! I basically feel fluent in Portuguese. But the problem is that, I keep mixing. And I was telling a friend this as well and she is Brazilian, she’s an English teacher and I said, like, I just confused little words like but, however…
Ah that is right, ‘cause you have the word “mas” in Portuguese for but, but than it is like “pero” or “pero” in Spanish, like, they are completely different. You’d be like, what?
Exactly. So, as I’m writing to friends or whatever in Portuguese, I mix and surprisingly they still understand me. But I’m kind of learning it just because it’s so close to Spanish and on top of that I have quite a lot of Brazilian followers on Instagram and I thought, it would be so cool if I could understand some of these guys and understand their comments and stuff, cause their comments…
There are pretty rabid with regards to being fans of people too. So I think, I think you tend to receive a much bigger warm welcome if you’re someone learning Portuguese that if you were learning Spanish, where I think they’re so used to it they’re just like nah, another gringo, another gringo learning Spanish, whatever. Whereas the Portuguese is to me, no offense to anyone who speaks Portuguese, but it’s almost like they’re the little brother of Spain or Spanish and they kind of ignored by most of the world as a language and so when you learn it they’re always like, yes! you know, finally, yes!
Yes, you are exactly right and it’s sort of surprising, because a lot of people who don’t really know me, they just see, Oh you’re learning Portuguese. They actually messaged me, quite a few people messaged me, like why are you learning Portuguese? Why don’t you learn Spanish? And it’s like a completed, mate, like…
Speak it, mate! and the Portuguese people who message you, would be like, I’m happy to teach you. Do you need time, like we can do Skype, cause I’ll help you… I’m… I’m happy to like, what can I do to make your life easy?
Yeah exactly. It is incredible.
And the funny thing is, I always find people don’t realise how many people speak Portuguese. You’ll be like, so you know how many people there are that speak it? You know, there’s more speakers of Portuguese in South America than there are Spanish-speakers, right? and there’s about 300 million of them worldwide. Like…
It’s crazy. I had a look at just the population of Brazil and it was something like 200 million or 207 million. It is a funny number. You know, but let’s round it off 200 million and then I feel like wow that’s a lot of people.
So, what are you doing to current learn it? How, how did you go about beginning a new language from scratch or from near scratch, considering you know Spanish?
Yeah, yeah, I cheated. Sorry guys, but…
All those years learning Spanish was cheating. wasn’t it?
Yeah, but with Spanish, I picked up Spanish very, very quickly, very quickly. And I think it’s because, with Spanish I was immersed, so you know, I took a course in Spanish. So, yeah, I went about learning Spanish very differently to how I am learning Portuguese. With Spanish. I took a course and then I went to Spain. I immersed myself and I have to speak, to eat. I had to speak to survive.
How long were you there for during that immersive period as well?
Ah, one year.
Oh wow, ok.
And I went from like a zero. I went from…
To here. Yeah.
That’s my level currently guys. And I went from that kind of level to about B1 in a year. Just from immersing myself. I did go to classes but I didn’t take them very seriously and at the same time I was also doing Catalan classes.
Oh wow. You animal, man. You just keep tackling all the languages, all the romance languages.
I know, it’s so funny because people, when they saw my Portuguese video, they are like why didn’t you learn Russian? Why didn’t you learn Farsi? What about Arabic? I’m like, wow, come down guys, like…
But that is… I’ve heard that a lot of times as well, like sorted, sort of changed the subject a little bit. I had that when I was, I was studying and I had, there was a secretary there when I was telling them I was learning, I think it was Portuguese, and she was like, she was Indian and she’s like you should learn Hindi. I was like, well but I don’t know anyone who speaks Hindi, do you? And she’s like, No, no I just speak English, but you know, she was like, Pete Hindi’s got more people and I’m like, but Chinese’s got more, like you can always play that argument about different languages having different benefits you just have to pick one that you’re interested in and have a passion for. Right?
Exactly. Yeah exactly. So that’s the key is to find the reason why you’re learning that language and to have that motivation and once you find that motivation you, you cannot be stopped, like I am studying Portuguese now. Ah, so I never moved on to how I’m learning Portuguese.
I got sidetracked as well. So yeah, I haven’t taken a single class in Portuguese,
it’s only have been a week, there’s still time.
I know, I know, but I’m doing it for a very good reason, because I want to kind of challenge myself. But nowadays not much of a challenge, because there are so many free resources online that it’s not even that much of a challenge. But I wanted to challenge myself to learn as much Portuguese as possible without paying loads of money, because, of course a lot of people that follow me and follow you, they’re not rich, they’re not from rich countries. They maybe don’t have access to a teacher. They don’t have the resources in their classrooms or whatever, you know, they don’t have that access.
That’s a really good experiment though to show what can be done without any assistance or at least, no monetary assistance, where you’ve had about to pay for lessons because you could, you could have effectively, if you wanted to pay someone to teach you or go to class every single day and that would you know give the results most people would expect, but it would be good to see what you can do without that.
Exactly. The only thing that’s happened is that, it was my birthday recently and so my boyfriend or my best friend got me some books, so I haven’t paid for those books I asked for them for my birthday, but I started with those books and they’re fantastic, they’re really, really good.
Which books did you get? If I can, if I can ask for selfish reasons…
But well, actually the, this company. Can we call them a company? They do English books as well so if people are interested they’ll have to let me know how the English version is. But I’m, sorry, I’m using this one.
I saw that today. Awesome, awesome.
Yeah. I’m using this one complete, the complete series of Teach Yourself Brazilian Portuguese.
Oh my God. And you are learning Brazilian Portuguese. The European Portuguese speakers are going to be pissed.
I know, I know…Sorry guys, but I am. I keep hitting that spoon. Why is there a spoon there? Looks like random stuff around my computer. Yeah, but I am. This is the thing as well I wanted to show my followers, is you can’t just stick to one variety. So, I’m listening to European Portuguese radio. I’m listening to materials in European Portuguese and I’m getting familiar with that accent. And I realized that Brazilian, Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese are very, very different in terms of pronunciation. You know I find that European Portuguese is very * shhhh *.
Yes, it sounds more like Russian to me when I hear it, I am like, wow there is a lot of * shhh shhh *. It’s just, it’s very different, very different that I’m not used to, because I’m surrounded by Portuguese speakers, from Brazil, from Brazil, sorry.
Yeah. And I find that Brazilian Portuguese, it reminds me a lot of South American Spanish. So, I just feel like I have to change my Spanish accent to sound a bit more South American and then just add a few more kind of * shh * sounds, you know and I basically got the pronunciation but, yeah, that’s it. And this other book that I’ve never heard of before, but my friend got me that one.
Is that the everything…
It’s Everything Learning Brazilian Portuguese book and I thought, everything.?! Well that’s got me covered.
That should cover most things.
And it says, I love this, it is speak, write, and then you’ll sound Portuguese in no time.
So, you don’t even have to open it.
Oh no, in no time. I’m fluent already. But yeah, it’s really good book for vocabulary, very, very good book. And the other book is good for…
What’s the time sort of that you’re setting yourself, how long do you want to… Like you could obviously let it go forever, but you want to do it within six months, a year, two days, like what’s the limit you’ve set yourself?
A month, holly molly, ok.
Yeah in a month I want to be able to have a basic conversation in Portuguese. So yes, I found some victims to, to take part in this little study and then we’ll see how that goes. Just speaking after a month, because I just want to show it to people, I don’t know if you’re the same, but I get so many people messaging me and saying, Emma how do I learn English as fast as possible and what’s the easiest way? And it’s like… there is no easy way, there is no faster way.
That is one of those things that it would be good to talk about for a bit, because it’s kind of like losing weight. It’s kind of like you’ve come in with the wrong attitude if you see it is how do I do this overnight thing. Personally, I think it’s more, you need to reassess how you’re viewing this activity and it’s almost like it’s a lifestyle activity, you have to change the way that your life fits around this language now and think, okay this is not a week, this is not a month it’s not even a year task, it’s something that’s ongoing potentially forever, that you just chip away at slowly and that’s kind of daunting but at the same time I feel like that’s really sort of, it releases you a bit of stress, because you know you’ve got so much time, you know and you just keep trying to get one step ahead every single day and it’s kind of like ok, I don’t have to make massive strike. I don’t need to lose 10 kilos this week as long as I lose a little bit, I’m sort of on the right path, right? Do you have any advice, with regards to English learners, who ask you those questions, what do you normally say to them?
Yes, so I normally say to them, set a goal and this is what I’ve been doing. So, my first week, my goal was to be able to introduce myself in Portuguese and say something about why I’m learning Portuguese. That was my goal and I did it. And I put that video on the internet for everyone to see and yeah, I got some amazing feedback and that encouraged me more. Of course, you get one or two negative messages and you’re like, pfft, whatever man, I’ve got like four hundred positive ones, so I don’t care. And so, I was kind of showing people look, if you’re not confident it doesn’t matter. I’ve done this. I put my video and my face out on the Internet speaking Portuguese after week, if I can do this then you can do it as well. You know, I don’t mean putting your video on the internet but I mean just speaking …
I think that emphasis too on not worrying so much about making mistakes, making a fool of yourself. If you can let go of that and makes such a difference and I noticed that recently I told my fiancée, no English until the end of the year. Just only Portuguese from now on and we’ve moved into a house where there are three other guys who are from Brazil and like they talk to me a little bit in English but I try and always turn it back. But I noticed that initially I would, she would say things and my eyes would kind of give her that you know that vague look where she’s like you don’t know what I’m saying and I’ll be like, Yeah, yeah, I do and then she’s like “what do they say?” and I’ll be like, “Yeah you got me”. But yeah it only took a day or two and then I started feeling okay, like I don’t mind making mistakes anymore I’m comfortable saying “what did you say?”, “Can you repeat that?” And it was surprising how quickly once I let go, conquering those issues was no longer a big problem and now I don’t feel embarrassed at all. Now when I don’t understand and because it’s almost like it’s so common now for me to say “What does that mean? and “What was this word?” “how do I say this?” or “what is this?” that it’s just not even an issue. So, I think, for people listening if you’re having fears about that just do it more. It’s literally like diving in the deep end of the pool, you do it once and you’re kind of like okay it’s not that bad.
Yeah. No, exactly and the kind of mistakes I made in Spanish, you know I, I just have no shame anymore.
I feel like I experienced all the horrors in Spanish and all the kind of mistakes that I could have made in a second language, like I made some really, really bad mistakes where I got myself in trouble or I said some very rude things, very sexual things, numerous times and I didn’t mean to.
That is when you say things like “excitado”? I made mistakes so many times. I am trying to say I’m excited and they’re like no that’s not what it means. It’s not a sexual orientation, you like ahhh.
Yeah, I still remember when I was in Teneriffe and I said to… I was living with a family and I said to the dad of the family ” Estoy caliente” as I was saying “God, I’m so hot, like as in the temperature, is very hot in this country and my temperature is rising so I want to say “Estoy caliente” and his eyes were like “What?”. And I realized, oh my God no I said it wrong “tenho Calor, tenho calor”. And I had to quickly change like, explain myself, no I am not horny, not in this temperature my friend. It was embarrassing but I said much worse and…
So what, would you I wanted to ask you when you were learning immersively what, as an English teacher, what sort of experience did you have? Do you have any advice for people who are in that same position now and how to get the most out of it?
Yeah. So, the thing is I don’t know how hard it is for people going to Australia. But I find that when people come to England the same thing always happens and they say “English people don’t want to talk to me”. “English people don’t want to be my friend”. “They’re so close and they just want to be friends with each other”. “They don’t want to talk to me” and I think that’s kind of true to a certain extent, because it’s kind of like, well why should they be your friend just because you’re a foreigner.
You need to remember too I go outside most Australians aren’t my friends, they don’t want to talk to me. They would ignore me, I walk up to them be like “Hey you want to chat” and they’ll tell me to f off.
Oh yes this is exactly the same for me. I have very few English friends, because I just haven’t found the right people who have things in common with and I find as well, I’m 26 now and I find that most 26-year-olds are not making YouTube videos, that they have their own companies, they are running their own business and teaching, they have travelled, They speak x number of languages, so I find it quite hard to find people my own age who have similar experiences to me. So that’s quite tricky.
What advice would you give them if they say to you, how do I best engage with or become a part of the community in England or I’m sure the same advice would apply here in Australia. What advice would you normally give them?
I encourage my students, like I have students, like I have to really force them to go out to like meetings, to join clubs, like join your local sports club, even if you don’t play sports just go. Play tennis and see who is around or join a football club or something, or if you enjoy painting, go to a painting class, start talking to people and I think people put too much pressure on other people to start talking to them but they also need to think that they need to start communicating with other people as well. They need to initiate that conversation, because you know, when I was in Spain I found people are quite accommodating and they would be asking me like “Are you okay here?”, “If you need anything I’ll help you” and you know they were so understanding because they travelled. But here we, many people maybe haven’t traveled or they just haven’t learnt another language, we don’t understand. It’s not every one, but yeah, I wouldn’t expect to make friends on day one just because you’re from another country.
It’s hard work, you’ve got to go out. I’ve been in Canberra now for ages, like six months, ages for me I’ve just moved to this city and I’ve just been inside the whole time we’ve made like, Quel and I’ve made like two friends, I mean, and goes to show we haven’t been working our arses off to try and meet people or anything like that, but we’ve, you know, so he goes to show that even native speakers, for me at least, in this country find it difficult, if you don’t put in that effort, so you have to find some kind of social thing that you can go to and just be the person that goes up to people and introduces yourself and starts those conversations and eventually, it’s almost like dating, right? You just have to keep doing it until you find someone you get along with and then you kind of like ok, I’ve found my person and I could ignore the ones that I didn’t get along with, right? Because you can’t be friend with everyone.
No, exactly and I think that’s what people make the mistake of doing, they try to make friends with everyone and then they realise that they’re not spending enough time. Like, one thing I found with a lot of my Spanish and Italian friends is that they would say to me, “I don’t have time this week” “Oh sorry I’m working so much”, but then I would see them on Facebook with other friends and it’s like “Oh so you have time to go out with your Italian friends or a Spanish friend but not time to go out with me and you know I just, you have to keep, I don’t know, you have… It’s like a relationship as you say, you know. You have to keep in touch with those people and find people that you’re interested in you have the same interests and that’s why clubs are really good idea. When I was in living in Spain I joined a language exchange and I met some people there and then we found out that we had common interests, we liked, I don’t know, just going out, doing stuff you know, so we would go out hiking or go out into the mountains or whatever. You know, I you being at the mountains in my life, so.
Exactly, one of the good things too is just after, if you do go to some kind of, event like, you know or some club or you’re doing a sport or something, ask people out afterwards, that’s when you get to sort of chat and just take it easy and find out, you know, who are the people that are worth hanging out with and they’ll put their hand up for it right if they’re up for going and getting dinner after a match or whatever it is that you’ve gone to at the club, then you’ll be like okay this person came to socialize as well. I want to ask you though, accents in the UK, like insanely diverse, compared to places like Australia. What advice do you give students who come to England? Whether it is about which accent to learn and how to learn it or how to just get the listening comprehension down for all the different accents in England? Because this could obviously apply to learning any accent or at least becoming accustomed to it. What do you suggest they do?
Yeah. So, I suggest listening to, like, local radio stations for one, you know, you could literally just go on Google and type Yorkshire radio stations and just choose one.
Thanks for the Internet.
Yeah, yeah. What is really good as well is, we also have regional news. So, you know, you can just look for like BBC Yorkshire or BBC Northumbria or whatever, so we have different ones there and I just suggest people listen to that. The BBC also has a really good website where they give like, what is it? like a glossary of all the dialect terms.
Oh wow really?
Yes, I do not recommend that people do that, unless they are moving to that area. So, you know, if you’re moving to for example, Bristol, it may be good to learn some of the dialect in Bristol, just so you know what people are saying to you.
When you say that, do you mean it’s like slang or something, it’s not just standard English with a different accent. It’s specific terms to that area and not anywhere else?
Exactly. Yeah like in Bristol, I heard for the first time in my life, I heard “gert lush” and I was like…
I have no idea of what that is…
Exactly, what it is “gert lush”? That’s well gert lush! I was like, I don’t know what are you saying?
What does it mean?
I just asked. It means, lke it’s really nice, it’s really good like, oh this cider is “gert lush” and they use that rrrr here, so I’m trying to, trying to mimic and pick that up. But yeah, they would say stuff like that. And actually, there is a pub close in the center, that’s called “gert lush”. So now I know what it means.
That sort of stuff is crazy. I guess it is important to sort of focus on that more when you get settled in a place, than try and learn everything, because if you do that 90 percent of it probably won’t be useful, you know if you learn Australian slang and move to Bristol or you go to somewhere in the US it’s going to be effectively useless. So, focus on slangs as a secondary thing, but what about learning English, Standard British English, which accent do you get them to focus on? And do you still encourage them to try and listen to other accents?
So, the one that I teach is almost like a mixture between Yorkshire and standard. But I tend to teach students what we call RP which stands for received pronunciation and that’s the one that you will find in the dictionary. That’s the one that you will find the news presenters use, who are based in London, not the regional news stations etc. But I still keep some of my Northern sounds you could say. So, for example I don’t say path, glass, grass, I say path, glass grass, which I find is just easier for students to do. You know.
It’s actually funny. That’s a point that’s different between you and I, because I would say path, grass and glass instead of path, path, yeah that would sound more American or as you say British to me. And we have that, but we have that sometimes, there are certain things, I think like baths and baths and Castle and castle. Some people will say either one of those in Australia. So sometimes there are those words which are strange.
Yeah. So, when you teach though, do you find those students are mimicking you and they do say like glass?
It depends, it depends on the student, because quite often they’re not specifically after an Australian accent, they might just want to understand it and learn just basic English with me, like grammar and that sort of stuff which applies everywhere and yes, to some of them it’s difficult because they’ve got multiple teachers as well. They’d be learning from an American and a Canadian and I’ll be like I just don’t want to correct your pronunciation because you’ll get to the next class and then be told something different. Yeah, I would just tell them how I said, that’s pretty much my caveat every time, I’m like I’m just going to tell you how I pronounce things, because there’s always going to be someone saying “That’s not how you say it”. “This is how you say it” and you will just be like ah, whatever.
Yeah, I’ve had the same.
What would you have, finishing up, what tips would you have for students, whether they’re learning Australian English, British English or American English to improve their pronunciation? would you, What advice would you give them?
Yeah. So, I would start off with learning individual sounds first, then trying to perfect those little sounds, get those, get those, get those right. You know, you can do that by… You don’t even have to like, study the IPA like, hard core. You just have to be familiar with the sounds and the symbols, you know, just get familiar with those and learn to really kind of tune into sound. Stop listening for for words and grammar and understanding and start listening for sound and then start to mimic and a really good trick to also kind of test your pronunciation is to record yourself. So find a very short, like this podcast, for example, people could take a very short section, literally like three seconds, listen to that, repeat, record, compare your recording to the original and see how your pronunciation is. Do they sound the same or are you having problems with a certain sound? For example, a lot of students have problems with the, “the” as in that and they say like “that” or “tsat”, you know, so if you find those kind of things are affecting people understanding you then do something about it practice it. Watch, there videos online like, I’m learning Portuguese for free but I know people can do it for English too.
Are you aware are you aware of the sounds you find difficult? Because that’s what I tend to say to people like you should, you probably know which sounds you’re finding the most difficult and that you need to focus on, you know. I don’t think it’ll be a complete shock when some people realize, oh man I can’t say a * th *. So I just avoid it and it’s like, no, you need to sit down in your own time and just keep practicing it. You know, you don’t need to do it in front of other people, but just don’t, don’t avoid the things you’re finding difficult, but which sounds did you find it hard in Portuguese so far? The nasal vowels?
You know what’s the hardest? It’s actually the “hhh” sound, which we have in English. But, I just, I just cannot like, you know, the word England. I can not say that because it has the double R which is a a ha. Yeah. And then you have the r at the end which is also a “rra” …
And is that Spanish that is screwing it up because you would see that and think Inglaterra, wouldn’t you?
Exactly. I think it might be that. So, I would naturally read it as “Inglaterra” with an English way it would be “Inglaterra”. So to read Double R as rr, I can’t seem to close my vocal chords in time to do it, I have to say…
That would come with time though and you will be able to do it at the start of the words. It’s just that you’re not used to especially in English, I think we do that H deletion if it’s in between words, right? Or any time… so we would just remove that H. So, you almost have to turn that back on and say “Inglaterra” and get used to it’s like. But I love that sort of stuff and it’s for me I focus in on that. Like when I first started Portuguese I was finding the nasal vowels freakin’ hard, that * aun, ain, oun * and it took months for me to perfect, especially, especially when reading or wanting to speak quickly I would have to think and be like okay there’s an n after this vowel. So that means that it’s an * oun * sound instead of r sound… it is just like. But I think eventually it comes right and it’s like you just need to keep for me at least with those languages I just focus on just doing it passively. I’m not going to try and remember the sounds when I’m talking, it’s more I just sit down, Practice, say it, say it, say it, so I hope the muscle memory in my mouth will eventually get there.
Exactly, a really good trick as well and I don’t recommend this for everyone, because it does involve alcohol. Is, is to have like, next time when you’re out with your friends you know, and you and you drink alcohol. I’m not saying that you should get super drunk, okay? Do not go around and say “Oh but Pronunciation with Emma so I could get drunk”.
That is it! You practice when you are waisted.
Yeah, it is the best time. No, but if you drink just a little bit of alcohol, what happens is your muscles become more relaxed and you yourself become more relaxed and you don’t care so much about making mistakes and what other people think. And if you can just have a little bit of alcohol, okay but, very little bit, just to kind of relax your muscles, it really helps and this is how I learned the * Rrr * in Spanish because I kept saying like a “jamon”, you know with a * Ha *, an English one, and it wasn’t until I started, you know, like having beers with friends and as I was drinking the beers I realized, “Oh, I can do the * Rrr * now.” I mean it’s so much easier, ’cause I became less, what’s the word, not paranoid. Conscious.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You just don’t care as much. Right? And that happened, I had a funny story that I wanted to mention, you made me remember that, one of my students Carlos, was telling me he took the IELTS exam five times, failed it four times, and the final time his teacher said, have a glass of wine before the speaking test, ’cause that was the thing, the thing he was failing and so he just skulled like a glass of red wine right before the test and smashed it, ’cause he was… it was all in his head and he wasn’t relaxing.
Yeah, yeah, it… honestly it works, so if you can drink alcohol and you know, don’t get drunk, but just have enough to become less self-conscious. Honestly, it helps. It helps me and I think that’s the next step for me with a Brazilian Portuguese is I need to sit with a glass of wine and one of my books and just practice by myself and hopefully I’ll see a difference.
Exactly! I’m sitting there constantly talking out loud to myself and that’s another thing that I think really helped pronunciation wise, because I was just constantly working it. It’s one thing and I have quick story with regards to my French. I used to I used to speak French pretty fluently and now I haven’t studied it in a year and a half, two years and I haven’t really spoken. I can notice when I’m listening I hear everything fine, but the muscle memory isn’t there because I haven’t been talking out loud. So, if I read something if I watch something that’s fine, but I can’t spontaneously respond whereas with Portuguese it’s overtaking my French, which is very weird for me. So it is one of those things where it is amazing how much how important it is even if you’re not in a country that speaks a language you don’t know anyone just talk out loud as much as possible. It’s like doing pushups in your room. Just keep doing it. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
Exactly. And when I was in Spain as well, I just used to walk around the house talking to myself and I used to say things like “Un mobel” “Un libro” “ordenador” “las caixas”. Yeah you know I would just…
You name things, right?
Exactly I would just do that, and as I was doing actions I was thinking to myself you know like, I’m putting the sugar in and that would help me practice grammar and yeah, I just developed fluency that way and I started to think in Spanish and occasionally I do think in Spanish. It’s strange because it, it tends to be when I’m really stressed or really excited about something, I don’t know. It’s like English for me is the serious language. And then as soon as I get like really excited about something or very emotional, or angry, I start thinking in Spanish and it’s so weird. I don’t know why.
I think that the brain and languages, is an amazing thing. But we better wrap it up Emma. Where can people find out more about you and if they’re after British pronunciation where can they learn this from, from you?
Yeah for me. So, you can find me on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. I’m more active on Instagram and of course YouTube I post every single week. You can find me, if you just type in pronunciation with Anna.
Into all of those different social media platforms?
Yep and my website is also the same it’s not Emma Walker. I don’t know who it is. I must have been smoking something. I think I must have just gotten it wrong, because I remember finding you. I think maybe I’m confusing Facebook, because your name was that on Facebook and then I looked on Instagram and was like, okay. But yeah, pronunciation with Emma guys and I will put all the links into the transcript. So, thanks so much Emma.
No problem, thank you for inviting me. It was good.
So, that was the interview, guys. I hope you enjoyed it. Big thanks to Emma for coming on the Aussie English Podcast.
Remember, guys, you can find out more about Emma via her PronunciationwithEmma.com . If you would like pronunciation tutoring for the British accent, you can get lessons with her. You’ll also find her on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Just search pronunciation with Emma. The links will all be in the transcript as well if you guys are interested in learning more about Emma.
Anyway guys, I hope you enjoy the episode and I hope you have an amazing week, and I will talk to you soon. See ya!
Watch Aussie English Interviews Here!
Here's what you get when you sign up!
- Read while you listen using the Premium Podcast player.
- Understand every word in every episode.
- Download all PDF transcripts and MP3s for 600+ episodes.
- Get access to bonus member-only episodes.