viernes, 12 de septiembre de 2008


We recently got an email from an enthusiastic 24 year-old student. He wanted to know whether it was possible for him to learn and get to master the English language like a native speaker. Specially regarding oral skills. He wanted a direct and honest answer.
Given his interest and enthusiasm he will, with the help of a good teacher, no doubt learn English well enough to read, work, write letters, travel and enjoy films in original version. But the road that leads from there to fooling someone into believing you were born in Sussex is long and winding.
English pronunciation is a sticky matter. One of the best paid jobs I ever had was helping a top executive to read out a speech for a video that would be viewed by the directors of the multinational company he worked for. He was obsessed with sounding like a true Englishman. (We did not discuss whether this referred to the Queen's English or he had a specific accent in mind). After working on his pronunciation and intonation for one long week, I'm afraid all we achieved was to make him sound like a foreigner who spoke perfectly understandable English. All through the week he kept asking every English speaking person who walked into the studio: "Do you think I sound like an Englishman?" And when the polite answer was "yes" (Oh, the importance of subtlety in English manners!)he'd embarrass the person further by asking "Where would you say I was from?". This led to hums and haws and well... until one person actually asked him: "Does it matter?" and politely refrained from adding "who cares?"
I must admit that hearing Meedows instead of Meadows in Spanish newsreels can be highly irritating but then again, English pronunciation is a pain.
Here go a few examples that would dampen any future student's enthusiasm:
We must polish the Polish furniture.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
I did not object to the object.
They were too close to the door to close it.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes

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