How to Speak English without an Accent: Phonetic Differences Between Chinese and English

English pronunciation for Chinese peopleWhile it is true that more than one-third of all Chinese speakers use the Mandarin dialect, it is also true that there are many other dialects of Chinese, including Cantonese, Wu, and Taiwanese. The differences in these dialects can mean a difference in the various challenges when it comes to learning how to pronounce English correctly and with confidence.

With that said, there are many essential commonalities that make English pronunciation for Chinese people difficult at times. For example, Chinese has far less vowel sounds than American English, and can therefore present an issue when it comes to phonetics and speech patterns that are common in English, and not so common in Chinese.

One of the most fundamental and interesting differences between Chinese and English is that in Chinese dialects, changes in tone and pitch can completely alter the meaning of a word that is otherwise pronounced exactly the same. Now try and imagine this in English. For example, no matter how loudly or quietly, and no matter what octave your voice is in, if you say the word “dog” in English, it means the same (unless you’re speaking in terms of contextual differences like slang) thing—a furry, four-legged mammal prone to chewing bones and chasing cats. In Chinese, the slightest change of tone can be the difference between polite conversation and salty language.

These issues and differences between Chinese and English can make even the most well educated Chinese professional or student sound like they do not speak English. It is often incorrectly assumed by many Americans that pronunciation is the same as fluency or comprehension, and this is simply not true. But for those whose English pronunciation is a problem, a thick accent can deter work associated and defer promotions and other opportunities.

Being able to be understood is the most important part of speaking any language, and that’s why Pronunciation Pro focuses on listening to each English language learner as an individual to determine what his or her unique challenges with English speaking are.

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