When you speak English do you say ‘avare’ instead of ‘aware’? Does ‘phone’ sound more like ‘fon’ or ‘faun’? Do you say ‘proDUCT’ instead of ‘PROduct’? These are all English pronunciation errors that that are common for speakers of Farsi.
Recently I have been contacted by a surprisingly large number of Farsi speaking IT and Engineering professionals living in Australia who want to speak English more clearly. I’m a Speech Pathologist who specialises in English pronunciation for non-native speakers. If you have ever wanted to improve your English Pronunciation and clarity, these tips are a great place to begin.
First you need to consider the question “do you need or want to improve your English Pronunciation?” You probably need to improve if your colleagues or clients don’t understand you easily. Consider how often people ask you to repeat or misunderstand you. Maybe you sometimes get the feeling they have understood only part of what you said, or worse – they pretended to understand or guessed your meaning! If so, speaking more clearly could make a big difference to your work performance.
If you don’t have any trouble being understood, that’s fantastic. Accents are a really important part of who we are and our cultural identity. If people understand you easily you don’t need English Pronunciation training. That said, some people seek training because they lack confidence and others because they want to sound more like a native speaker, but clarity is the key.
Here are my 5 tips for Farsi speakers for clearer English
Tip 1. LISTEN
Listen more carefully to your speech. Pay careful attention to how you pronounce words – what sounds you make and what rhythm (music) you make. Try to compare it to your native speaking colleagues. Think about what’s different and what’s the same. For many people the first step is learning to hear the difference between their own speech and a native speaker.
Tip 2. FEEL
Start to pay attention to how you move your mouth to make sounds in English. In order to improve your pronunciation you will need to change some of your mouth positions. This means you will need to have control of your tongue and lip positions when you are talking. Start by paying attention to the way you pronounce the sound /v/ (like in ‘very’ and ‘over’) and the sound /w/ (like in ‘when’ and ‘way’). Many Farsi speakers confuse these sounds, for example they say ‘vun’ instead of ‘won’ or ‘avare’ instead of ‘aware’. You need to become more aware of your mouth positions before you can change and improve them to make the correct sounds.
Farsi speakers often make a number of the long vowels in English too short – but we won’t go into those today!
Tip 3. MOVE and OPEN your mouth
In general Farsi has a more closed mouth position than English. English has a lot of sounds that require an open mouth and jaw position like ‘ar’ in the word ‘part’ and ‘o’ in the word ‘phone’. Often Farsi speakers don’t open and move their mouths enough and this makes their English unclear. Try to open and move your mouth when speaking English. Your English will be much clearer and your voice will travel better.
Tip 4. Don’t speak too FAST
If you speak English fast you should slow down. Give people time to take in your message, not struggle to understand you. When you speak English very quickly you are more likely to make flatter stress, mispronounce words and make errors in grammar. Try to control your rate – you will find that people understand you more easily and also other things like your expression, word choice and grammar will improve too! using a good rate of speech is essential for clear communication.
Tip 5. LISTEN to the ‘music’ of English
Do you feel like your English is too flat or you stress words incorrectly? Farsi is spoken with a flatter, more even tone (pitch) than English. In English the pitch of our voice goes up and down to make stress. Stress in words is called “word stress”. Making the correct word stress is essential for speaking English clearly. Research shows that it is the most important area affecting how clear your English is to listeners. Flat English is unclear English…. So from today start to pay careful attention to way that native speakers go up and down with the pitch of the voice (the music) of English speakers where the stress is in words. Here’s an example. In the word ‘product’ the stress is on the first part ‘PROduct’, many Farsi speakers pronounce it incorrectly and put the stress on the last part (proDUCT). Another example is the word “development”. The stress is on the 2nd syllable; deVELopment. If you use flat stress or incorrect stress in words like these people will have difficulty understanding you.
We provide Online English Pronunciation training using video and audio practice materials, see our Farsi page for more information. Alternatively do you know what the difference is between the words ‘coat’, ‘caught’ and ‘cot’? Learn to pronounce these sounds correctly by taking a free video lesson. And of course you’re always welcome to have a chat to us about your English pronunciation on 03 8618 6868.