St. Paul SLI Favorite TQs

When you’re learning a language it can be really easy to get bogged down trying to pronounce everything correctly, especially when you’re learning entirely new sounds. For example, if English is the only language you speak then you’ve got a rather limited inventory of sounds that you’re used to making and if you’re learning a new language there are likely several sounds that are going to be new to you. Trying to both hear the new sounds and pronounce them can be quite a challenge and if you let it, it can seriously delay your language learning. The main goal of learning a new language, especially if you’re using WAYK, is to achieve conversational fluency as quickly as possible, which means you’re trying to spend as much time as you can in the language without having to return to another language to translate. When you hear a new sound it can be very easy to fixate on it and feel the need to practice saying it over and over until you’ve got it right, but every minute you spend doing that is one less minute you’re actually speaking with the person teaching you. Your best option in this situation is to pronounce the sound/word as best you can and keep the conversation going.

Technique: Mumble can be helpful in this situation because it alerts the person that you’re hunting or learning from that you know you’re not saying the sound/word correctly but you want to keep going. By acknowledging that you’re not saying the sound/word correctly it gives you permission to keep going and also reminds your brain not to get used to saying the word that way. This is incredibly beneficial for learning because it allows you to stay in the language and keep learning more and practicing what you already know. This technique is especially effective is you’re hunting from an experienced WAYK player because they will encourage the Mumble and help keep you going. While I have been learning chinuk I have been Mumbling lots because I’m really struggling with pronouncing some of the ejective sounds and the barred “L”. Every time that I stop to think too much or try too many times to pronounce a word “correctly” Sky, or Evan, or Susanna encourage me to push on so that I keep speaking in chinuk instead of getting hung up on perfecting my pronunciation.

Casey, Robyn, and Sky Chinuk Hunt

It can be difficult to embrace Mumbling when you begin learning, especially if you’re a bit of a perfectionist or used to learning from someone who corrects your pronunciation repeatedly. Here’s some advice from the seasoned WAYK players and me:

  • Firstly, say things instead of thinking. When you overthink a word it gets harder to pronounce but if you don’t think your mouth can usually pronounce words better than when you try too hard.
  • Secondly, say what you do know instead of what you don’t. Focus on using words that you are comfortable with and if you get to a word that you’re struggling with go back to talking about something else to help unfill before you try pronouncing it again.
  • Thirdly, when you are ready to or if you want to practice your pronunciation, which is perfectly reasonable, ask a speaker if you can record part of your conversation so that you can listen to them speaking and yourself. This is helpful because it allows you to hear the correct pronunciation and what you are doing wrong. Then you can re-listen to the pronunciation and practice speaking. This is a good independent project so that you don’t “waste” time practicing pronunciation when you’re with a fluent speaker when you could have been hunting new language.
  • Lastly, once you reach a point of fluency you can begin to incorporate other techniques like accent adjustments (asking for a fix to your accent) or correction response (saying something wrong so that you can hear it said correctly).
  • And of course, remember “close enough is good enough…for now”!

Post authored by Robyn.

Written by Evan Gardner