While the entire planet is learning English, most seem to be struggling with pronunciation. Shakespeare's language does not sound Mediterranean (like French, Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian), nor does it sound like Eastern languages, such as Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Arabic, Farsi, and Russian speakers are no better off. Indeed, everywhere you look, wherever you come from, you will see English learners struggling to pronounce it right.
Some might say it's a question of accents, and sure enough there is a variety of English accents in the world today. Whether you travel to Scotland, Ireland, the US, India, Canada, Australia — without forgetting the variations within the regions of England itself — you will encounter a broad range. Still, accents are not the main cause. True enough, they might make your difficulties worse, but the heart and core of it all is elsewhere.
First of all, the English language contains many sounds that you will not encounter in other languages, such as TH sounds or diphthongs and triphthongs (when two or three vowel sounds are combined with each other.)
Second, English is a stressed language, whereas many other languages are syllabic (this is the case with most Mediterranean languages). As a result, some syllables sound like they actually disappear when you pronounce the word, which makes oral comprehension tricky for non-native speakers. In the following list, for example, most English learners will have no difficulty understanding the words they read, but would they understand them in a conversation: different, interesting, monarchy, tourism?
On top of that, phonetics is rarely taught these days, and tricks such as silent letters or how to pronounce endings are lost to many (as in plumb, European, psychology, or treasures.)
So we designed this method in the following manner: each lesson is dedicated to a special sound or stress. The left page contains a few words of explanation, followed by possible exceptions, and a basic chart. The right page is made of Read Aloud Exercises: words, nominal groups, sentences, and finally a short dialogue. This is the fun part: you can actually memorize the dialogues and practice with a friend!
Every single word in this book (including this text!) has been previously recorded in MP3 format, so once you download the file, you can start working on your own. For most multisyllabic words, the stressed syllable is printed in bold type, which will help you visualize where to place the emphasis in a word. Finally, each lesson will offer you a suggestion of another, related lesson to consider (bottom of right page: "See also").
Our advice: you may follow the method's progression or target a special sound according to your difficulties. Select a lesson, then read and listen to the explanations. As you move from one lesson to another, you will notice some words have already been pronounced in another lesson. (For example, teacher appears in Lesson 4 (ʃ) / (tʃ), Lesson 20 (ɪ) / (i:), and Lesson 35 Endings in –ar, –er, –or, and –our). This has been done on purpose, so that you are brought to repeat the item in a different context. Don't forget: revision and repetition are the basics of learning!
We hope you enjoy this course as much as we have enjoyed designing the project.
J-P. Rouillier, France
Lauren J. Styczynski, USA