Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New York at Christmas is one of the most beautiful sights in the world--the city is lit up twenty four hours a day with multicolored Christmas lights, thousands and thousands of them, from Harlem to Wall Street. People watch movies like "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life". We give to the poor and the homeless, and we are grateful for the things we ourselves have.

Pronounciation tip: Christmas is pronounced with a hard "k" sound at the beginning: Krismas (the 't' has no sound; it is silent.) But often in English, the 'ch' is a voiceless 'j'--take the front of your tongue, put it to the roof of your mouth, and vocalize in the back of your throat using your vocal cords--say, "judge" or "joker". Now try it without your vocal cords, just using your mouth and throat to shape the sound, so there is no vibration when you put your hand to your throat. Try "joker" without your vocal cords. It should come out "choker"! Now, try "jeer"--sounded with the buzz at your throat, with your vocal cords. Now try "cheer"--same word, sounded without your vocal cords.

Again, I am going to post some YouTube vids, or at least some sound samples, as soon as I am able. Stay tuned! ("Stay tuned" means, keep watching this blog--it comes from something radio hosts would say--"Don't touch that dial!" meaning, "don't change the radio station!")

Monday, November 9, 2009

If you are a native Arabic speaker or a native Hebrew speaker, or a speaker of Persian or Pashto, you should be aware that the glottal stop as an accented consonant--ie the "ch" in the Hebrew "chrain" (horseradish) or "chai" (life or the number 18)--or the "h" in the city name Bahrain or the "ch" in the Arabic for "after tomorrow" (baad bachra) does not exist in American English as a separate consonant.

Those of you used to greeting people with "shalom alechem" or "was salaam aleichem" will find that when Americans do pronounce these words they come out as "shalom alaikum" or "salam aleikum". If you are learning English and your native tongue is Arabic or Persian or Hebrew or Pashto, you'll find that you'll have to get rid of the glottal stop to truly sound American or unaccented.