Book of the Month
Perfecting Your English Pronunciation

Publisher: McGraw Hill
Author: Susan Cameron

ISBN 978-0-07-175077-2


Many language students would like to have 'perfect' English pronunciation. However, there is really no such thing. What is a perfect English accent in one part of the world may be very hard to understand in another. Therefore what a student should aim for is pronunciation which helps to make speech clear and avoids confusing the listener. This is the objective of Susan Cameron's book. Ms Cameron is a teacher who at the time of publication of this book (2011) held the position of Chair of Voice and Speech at the CAP21 conservatory in New York. With the book you get an accompanying set of CDs and a DVD. The point of the DVD is that students can observe the position of the tongue at the same time as they hear the sound. In order to avoid use of a mouth-cam readers will be relieved to know that Dr Cameron uses her hand to indicate what the tongue positions should be. The CDs contain audio exercises and ear training. 'Ear training' is particularly important as one cannot make a sound if it cannot be distinguished from what appear to be similar sounds. Therefore - for example - oriental students might need practice in distinguishing 'w' and 'r' sounds.

The actual book contains 233 pages but no illustrations, and a part of the text is basically an instruction manual for the audio CDs and the DVD. However there are a number of lengthly word lists with markings to show the appropriate sounds and stresses (stresses are the part of the word you pronounce most firmly). The main emphasis of this course is on tongue placement. Once the tongue and lips are in the correct position, the right sound will emerge. Thereafter it is a matter of training so that the sound will be made automatically during speech. For this the book has four parts. Part one - Getting Started - also introduces the phoenetic alphabet. This is something that some 'modern' pronunciation books omit, and is a welcome sight in this book. The next introduction is to the various muscles in the tongue that are going to be doing the actual work.
Once the reader is familiar with these items the book goes into the longest part - sixteen sections describing the different types of sounds in the English language (Engish has a set of around 40-45 phonemes). These descriptions are meant to be accompanied by the exercises and practice listening on the CDs and DVD. Thereafter the book has a third section describing syllable and word stress. This is important because - for example - if you stress the first syllable of 'record' it is a noun, and if you stress the second syllable, 'record' is a verb. The final section is about what the title says 'Putting it all together', to show how what has been learned works in actual speech.

Who is this book for? Many EFL students are self-conscious of their accent, and would like to at least reduce it. This is particularly important if the student is planning to work in a field which requires clear speech in English. It is important to note however, that this book concentrates on what might be called 'standard American', and will be of less use in the southern USA or in Great Britain. Nevertheless, given the clarity and quality of the teaching here, this book is a worthwhile purchase for anyone having trouble with pronunciation.

Verdict: Great for American, still good for everyone else.
Assessment 9/10
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