2nd November 2020
The best way to improve your pronunciation is, obviously, to listen and then to copy.
Practice, practice, practice
IELTS students in particular need to demonstrate a variety of speaking skills: intonation, stress, chunking, elongating words for emphasis, not to mention body language, eye-contact and gestures.
Therefore, without further ado, here’s a number of clips for you to practice, and don’t forget … have fun !
First off the bat, President Obama speaking in Florida, October 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UoPB7SvCGk&t=364s
I want you to focus on the speech from 05:44 – 06:15
“I just want you to know it, it’s a good idea to have an answer to this question … it’s a good idea if you’re running for re-election to say, ‘Here’s what I want to accomplish.’ What did Trump say ? He got mad and walked out of the interview. He thought the questions were too tough. Too tough ! Miami, listen, if he can’t answer a tough question like, ‘What would you like to do in your second term ?’ then it’s our job to make sure he doesn’t get a second term.”
From a linguistic point of view, notice the differences between British and US English, words such as ‘interview’. Notice how President Obama paces himself … leaving space between sentences, how he stresses certain phrases (“Too tough !“). Finally, listen to the ‘music’ of the last sentence. His voice is building up to a climatic, “Doesn’t get …” which is an incredibly powerful way of speaking.
Now, let’s have a speech from President Trump: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVG1uR9wr-A
I want you to focus this time from 00:53 – 01:20
“…and ensure more products are stamped with that beautiful phrase: ‘Made in the USA.’ And next year will be the greatest economic year in the history of our country … under my leadership our economy grew at the fastest rate ever recorded, 33.1%, just announced. We created a record 11.4 million jobs in the last five months …”
Naturally, not everybody agrees with President Trump, nor his style of debating. Here’s how Vice-President Joe Biden reacted to being constantly interrupted:
Watch from 0:40 – 0:44
“Will you shut up, man !”
Time to bring it closer to (my) home, and British politics. You saw how polished and professional President Obama was … but that is not always the case. Here is former Labour (left wing) politician, Diane Abbot who was famous, or infamous, for making mistakes in the media.
In this clip, the politician is forced to listen to a recording of a radio interview where she couldn’t answer the question. This can make you cringe.
Watch from 0:37 – 1:18
The question was how much would 10 000 extra police officers cost ?
“Well, if we recruit the 10 000 police men and women over a four-year period, we believe it will be about £300 000 …”
Interviewer speaks …
“Haha, no, I mean, sorry, they will cost … they will, it will cost … um about … about £80 million … yeah !”
Now, the British Parliament may be regarded as an icon of modern democracy and free speech but it can get out of hand. Politicians, like children, can be noisy and in need of discipline. A strong presence is required to maintain order. Here’s Mr John Bercow, former Speaker of the House reprimanding a politician:
“If you don’t like it, you’re perfectly entitled to your view, I couldn’t give a flying flamingo what your view is.”
Let’s wrap up with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden:
From 0:34 – 0:46. PM Arden is talking about winning the election and the votes or ‘seats’ that she needed in order to secure victory.
“We have seen that support in both urban areas and in rural areas, and seats we may have hoped for but in those equally we may not have expected.”
To the ‘students’ that talk during my class, here’s a word from Vice-President Biden: