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December 11, 2019

Hi friends! Every week, I generate a quick brief about 5 interests for the week relating to accent mo
December 11, 2019
By Kristopher Wan • Issue #36 • View online
Hi friends! Every week, I generate a quick brief about 5 interests for the week relating to accent modification and English learning. If you have a few minutes on your commute to work or lunch break and want to consume some interesting content in the world of English learning, enjoy!

🧠 Journal Club
Alice Y. W. Chan & David C. S. Li (2000) English and Cantonese Phonology in Contrast: Explaining Cantonese ESL Learners’ English Pronunciation Problems, Language, Culture and Curriculum, 13:1, 67-85, DOI: 10.1080/07908310008666590
I will apologize in advance for the specialized terminology in this post. I will come back to this one day to explain it further but I can’t fully discuss the terms in a newsletter format.
The research from Chan & Li (2000) specifically deals with Cantonese English communicators. Here are a few snippets of information worth gleaning to contrast Cantonese and RP English
  • There are 24 consonants in English and 19 consonants in Cantonese (missing consonants include ‘v’, 'sh’, 'z’, 'th’, 'tch’, 'dj’ 'zh’ and 'r’). Cantonese has several consonants that don’t exist in English (which is why the math doesn’t add up)
  • Cantonese has 3 fricatives. English has 9. All Cantonese fricatives only occur in syllable-initial position.
  • Cantonese has 2 affricates 'ts’ and 'dz’. These are different from the 2 English affricates 'tch’ and 'dj’. The defining difference between the two is Cantonese uses lip-spreading whereas English uses lip-rounding. Cantonese affricates are also syllable-initial only.
  • English has 12 pure vowel sounds - 5 long and 7 short whereas Cantonese has 8 pure vowels, only 1 is long.
  • English has 8 diphthongs. Cantonese has 10.
  • English is an intonational language. This means that changing tone does not change lexical meaning. 'Yes’ still means 'yes’ with a low-rising tone or high-rising tone. Cantonese is a tone language. Each tonal pattern is distinct and changes the meaning, so 'yes.’ and 'yes?’ would be different words.
  • English has stress-timed rhythm. It has a rhythmic pattern that occurs at regular intervals. Cantonese is syllable-timed. It means every syllable gets approximately the same amount of time.
  • English has strong and weak forms for function words depending on whether these words are stressed. Cantonese has no parallel.
  • Cantonese has no consonant clusters. That means that they have no exposure to multiple consonants in a row like in strength, product, or slip. Cantonese learners will tend to skip a consonant or add a vowel to fit Cantonese pronunciation rules (consonant + vowel + consonant + vowel alternation.
Being aware of these differences between the two languages can help provide empathy, compassion, and ultimately rationalize the behaviors demonstrated by Cantonese English communicators. Paying attention to these differences can also help you target those specific skills as an English language learner to improve your own pronunciation and challenge yourself in specific contexts.
💬 Thoughtful Quote
“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”
― Dr. Seuss
The simplicity and wisdom of Dr. Seuss quotes is always a pleasure to enjoy. For me, this is simply a grounding quote to remind you that your days should be fun, good and positive. Now I understand that some days will be better than others, sometimes you will feel more confident or communicate more clearly, but every day should be seen as a positive and a time for gratitude.
Tomorrow will come around. And you’ll have the opportunity to make it great too.
📖 Vocabulary Word
concinnate (v.) - think KONsinate
to arrange or blend together skillfully, as parts or elements; put together in a harmonious, precisely appropriate, or elegant manner.
Now, I will preface this with the fact that I’ve never used the word before. What I do want to highlight is your ability to learn new words and learn how to learn them via their pronunciation.
Learning these words is less about the word and more about knowing how to figure out syllable stress and realizing that the extra time you spend on the pronunciation can go a long way with your pronunciation skills.
💎 Tech Finds
Voice Actor Shares Secrets To Changing Your Voice (ft. ProZD)
Voice Actor Shares Secrets To Changing Your Voice (ft. ProZD)
ProZD offers an interesting mastery of sounds and voice quality that can change the overall feel of your communication. These are qualities that aren’t necessarily captured in the content words but in the sound quality, which is manipulated by his mouth shape, mouth and throat tension and volume control.
Pay attention to his posture, and mouth shape. It changes over time as his sounds change.
Add this to your list of things to try and explore to build your confidence and comfort in experimenting with sounds.
❌ Message Mishap
Know your context!
Knowing your audience and considering the context of your speech is necessary to correctly lead your listener with your words.
I recently spoke with a client, who highlighted the huge difference that context can make. And when I say context, I mean everything. Business. Casual conversation. Presentation. Country. What you were talking about 5 minutes ago. All of it can have an impact on how your words are interpreted.
In this case, the phrase was shit kicker - someone who is charged with menial tasks for employment. Not doing anything important? You’re a shit kicker (apparently).
As a city boy, growing up in Markham/Toronto and moving to Vancouver, I have never heard the term before. Using that slang around me isn’t going to communicate your point clearly.
Furthermore, for me, shit kicker makes me think shit disturber or kicking the shit out of someone - neither of which are positive or neutral terms.
shit disturber (Canadian slang) - Someone who aggressively and actively agitates or escalates a situation, dialog or event.
kicking the shit out of someone - to attack someone physically in a very violent way.
Now, the moral of the story isn’t to teach you a new idiom or slang.
The moral is that I, as a native English speaker, did not know what shit kicker meant. It is not a word I use, nor is it a word I’ve heard before because I don’t live in Australia and I’ve lived my life in a city.

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Kristopher Wan

Hey friends, I'm Kris, a speech-language pathologist interested in and pursuing a side-hustle in accent modification. Every Wednesday I send out a "5-bullet brief" email newsletter with some thoughts, research and internet treasures relating to accent modification and English language learning.

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