practicing pronunciation

I distinctly remember the feeling of horror that rushed through me when a classmate last year told the class that she recorded her language lessons so that she could go back and listen to what she had done. I did not have the guts to put myself through that. It's bad enough hearing my own voice in English, I thought. No way could I suffer through listening to myself in Luganda.

I am here to tell you that I was (sort of) wrong.

Well, I was wrong in that it turns out I am capable of doing such an activity. I'm not wrong to say it can be a bit painful, though!

When I recorded a snippet of my conversation with Simon a couple weeks ago and was horrified about how it sounded, I resolved to dedicate some extra effort to pronunciation. Given my slightly more relaxed week/weekend (compared to the last three), I thought it would be the best time for me to try out some new activities and think more deeply about my pronunciation.

First, I happened to find a book in the library titled African Accents for Actors which has a chapter dedicated to the English accent of Luganda-speakers. (Here's a bit more info about the book. It's a pretty cool project!) I thought it might be interesting to flip through and see if there are any tips that might be useful in my pronunciation. Even though the book is meant for those speaking English, there are some interesting observations about how the tongue, jaw, etc. move for most Luganda speakers. There is also an online component, with recordings of Luganda speakers talking in both English and Luganda. Though the English bit isn't particularly useful to me, the Luganda passages are great listening tools. I spent some time on Tuesday beginning the chapter in the book and exploring the online components; I intend to do more soon.

Second, I recorded my speech and reviewed the recordings on two separate occasions. On Wednesday, I used the Peace Corps drills, available online. In the drill, the speaker says a sentence or phrase, pauses, and then repeats twice more with pauses in between. I recorded myself repeating the phrases, and then when I listened to the recording, it was easy to hear what I was supposed to sound like versus what I actually sounded like. The sentences were, for the most part, pretty simple. But it was useful to both practice copying the accent of the speaker and then to actually hear how closely I was able to approximate the pronunciation.

Then, today, I recorded myself as I read a children's book aloud. This time I did not have anything to compare my speech to, and the words and sentences in the book were much more complex. Even though I didn't have a comparison, it was still useful to hear my rhythm and tone and think about how my speech differs from Ugandan speech. And now that I have a recording of it, I can do it again in the future and compare to see if my fluency is increasing and accent improving.

Though listening to both types of recordings was at times cringe-worthy, I found that the longer I did the exercises, the more I got used to hearing myself speak, so it became tolerable. It was also kind of fun to mix things up with some new activities! I hope to continue to do more of this in the future.

Apart from the pronunciation work, it was a fairly typical week. I was successful in reaching my Omuzannyo goal, reaching 80 points. Here is what I spent my time doing:

Monday: 1 hour with Simon, texting with friends, 5 minutes of deep listening
Tuesday: 150 long-term-learning words on Quizlet, read African Accents book
Wednesdy: 1 hour with Simon and Kevin, texting with friends, pronunciation recordings
Thursday: Texting with friends, 100 Quizlet words, 1.5 hours listening to radio
Friday: 2 hours listening to the radio, 15 minutes of deep listening, watched 1 news video, played a Quizlet game for 5 min.
Saturday: 100 Quizlet words, 1 hour listening to radio, read 1 Bukedde article, contributed some Facebook translations
Sunday: Texting with friends, 100 Quizlet words, read & record a children's book

This coming week includes some more travel, so it'll be time to put my traveling study skills to the test yet again!


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