Whether you are a non-native minority language (ml) parent wishing to perfect your ml skills, or a parent to a bilingual child that is shy about speaking in the ml, I would like to share with you a tip to perfect your pronunciation.
Having learnt my 2 other languages (English and Spanish) aged 10, I was more self-conscious of my less than perfect pronunciation than if I had become trilingual from birth.
As most bilingual kids, I was required to read a lot and became a bookworm, and enjoyed reading aloud to myself.
To be honest, I am not sure where I got the idea from, but I liked to read aloud a couple of pages from my reading books to perfect my pronunciation. I enjoyed -and still do- the melodious sound of well-spoken languages and wanted to do the same as those nice voices I could hear on telly or in films. I also wanted to narrate the stories to myself, a bit like the voices of narrators in some movies.
At the time, I only saw the advantage of practicing. With hindsight, I now see the bigger picture and realise the numerous benefits of reading aloud in the minority language:
- It trains your vocal cords to vibrate correctly and utter the sounds right – have you noticed that when you do not speak a language for a long time you might struggle to pronounce right and/or that your voice does not sound as before? The voice box includes muscles that work with the vocal cords. So the more you train your pronunciation, the better the muscles and the cords get at pronouncing right. The less you train them, the weaker they get.
- It teaches you to breakdown the sounds, articulate and chain them.
- It gives you the chance to trial and error – unlike in conversations.
- Hearing your voice helps you tune your pronunciation – just like singers do with their singing using earpieces!
- Hearing yourself pronouncing right is motivating.
- Hearing yourself pronouncing right develops your self-confidence.
- It relieves you from the time pressure you feel in conversations.
- It removes the discomfort of feeling judged – had you been in a conversation instead of reading.
- It makes you feel in control – you have time to focus on the words rather than having to juggle all the aspects (grammar, conjugating, sentence structure,…) of the language as you would in a conversation.
If your bilingual child feels shy about their ml pronunciation, reading aloud could be a nice solution as they can read alone without having to endure the discomfort of public self-consciousness. It can act as a springboard as over time they might have developed more confidence in their ml to use it more in public.
As a non-native ml parent, it is a nice technique to perfect your ml skills and that can easily fit in your busy schedule. A couple of pages a day before going to bed or on any regular basis can really help.
To this day, I still occasionally read aloud. I still derive a lot of pleasure from the silence in the room, hearing my voice, and tuning my pronunciation, repeating again until it comes out right… 🙂