Word of the day – výslovnost

Výslovnost is the Czech word for pronunciation, and appears in this week’s Czech lesson. I’m currently working my way quite slowly and thoroughly through Colloquial Czech and am spending a week or two on each lesson. I don’t move on to the next lesson until I’m familiar with all the slovníček (vocabulary), mluvnice / gramatika (grammar) and výslovnost.

Some people advise you to listen to a language a lot before you try to speak it. Listening to the languages you’re learning as much as possible is very useful and beneficial, but I don’t know if you should put off trying to speak the language until you’ve listening to it for several weeks or months.

What are your thoughts on this?

8 thoughts on “Word of the day – výslovnost

  1. I think you should immediately put whatever you’ve learned into practice. If others are there to talk, all the better. If not, then talk to yourself. There’s nothing like it for improving memory and comfort with a new language. Just don’t talk to yourself in public.

    I think Russian is one of the hardest languages to pronounce correctly. I assume Czech is similar. But, I’m still well understood by others in spite of my lousy pronounciation. Talking also helps to build up the connection between your memory, your ears (‘cuz you can hear what you’re saying), and your mouth.

    So yapp away without delay!

  2. I also don’t see the reason, why you shouldn’t start talking as soon as possible!? Why not listen to something first and then try to immitate. Maybe you should know some of the basics of what sounds there are at all in the language and how you write and how you pronounce them exactly. Then I think you can start talking at latest: When you know, what you’re talking and how the word looks like; thus you can combine listening and talking with writing and reading. (Except for languages that are either completely illogical in orthographic concern or that don’t have an alphabet at all 😉 )

  3. I think you should start speaking as soon as you can. I’m constantly amazed how I can hear exactly how something should sound in my head, but when I actually try to articulate the sound, it comes out all wrong.

    When I was a teenager learning Spanish on a farm, I would talk to the animals in Spanish. It gave me a chance to try to pick up some fluency, but since it wasn’t a real conversation I could go back, reflect on what I just said, and then correct it if I screwed it up.

  4. I still think the old adage “You learn from your mistakes” holds true. Just start talking. You’re going to make mistakes, but your interlocutor will usually correct you and that’s when the correct usage “sticks” to your brain like a post-it note. It also helps you to overcome the desire of speaking perfectly from the get-go. You’ll be surprised at how much you can actually manage to express, albeit not entirely correctly at first. As the others here said, talk to anyone or anything.

  5. I think it depends completely on the person or persons on whom you are going to inflict your trial runs. Otherwise, my attitude is “Do it, right now, immediately”.

  6. I read an interesting article that said that until you’ve had enough input from your target language to have built a full phonemic inventory from hearing the language constantly, you will mispronounce and continue to do so. Also, I think it’s damaging to mispronounce things because you build up that muscle memory and ingrained mistakes are some of the hardest to correct. And once you’ve made the mistake many times, then are corrected, you may pronounce things correctly for a little while, but you are more than likely to fall back to your incorrect previour pronunciation. And I have witnessed this phenomenon in the classroom with my students. Correct their pronunciation and it’s okay for 5 or 10 minutes, then they forget. So, I think it’s better to build up the sounds in your head, and then speak later.

  7. There’s an interesting essay on the “Silent Period Hypothesis” at http://homepage3.nifty.com/park/silent.htm. According to the different studies cited in the essay, fluency and pronunciation are usually better in the long run if a silent period is respected at the beginning of language acquisition.

    I’ve never personally used a silent period when studying a second language, but it makes intuitive sense to me. If a student starts speaking right away, there’s a risk of practicing incorrect pronunciation or construction, which can eventually turn into a “fossilized” habit that’s hard to break. Children naturally use a silent period both both when they acquire their mother tongue and when they acquire a second language, which is another piece of evidence.

    If I were to start on a completely new language, I would find a way of allowing an initial silent period before starting to speak.

  8. Havig learnt three languages in a classroom, and one on my own, I think that you have to practice what you know, but only when you are able. If you learn three or four words, then they should be repeated in your head out loud over and over again, until they are ingrained, and your muscles do not have to think of where to go.

    Somewhat relatedly, when I learnt Gregg shorthand, the book I used said that you should not write for a month or so, but instead practice reading and knowing what the shapes. Though as my Pitman book did not suggest this, I think that whether to have this silent period is personal choice, and depends on how you learn the language, and whether you want to be able to read it, or speak it, or both.

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