I thought I would tell you a short story to illustrate how important it is to pronounce your vowels correctly.
While I was visiting Taiwan a while ago, I went to an international flower show – as I love flowers. After walking around the vast, beautiful exhibition areas all morning, I headed to the food stalls for lunch. To my delight, I found one selling fish ball soup and duly waited in line with everyone else. It was a popular stall!
To speed up the service, one of the Taiwanese people from the stall was coming along the line and asking “1 ball or 4 balls?” I was quite hungry and said 4 balls please. She looked at me strangely, held up 4 fingers and said “4 balls?”- or at least that’s what I thought she said. So I held up 4 fingers and said, yes.
Finally, I got to the front of the line only to be greeted with 4 bowls of soup on a tray for me! I apologised, and made it clear that I only wanted 4 balls and one bowl. They shook their heads in confusion, but were kind enough to only make me take one bowl of soup.
So as it turned out, she was saying bowls and I thought she said balls!!
Some people who come to my clinic speak English clearly, with hardly any accent. They come to work on their pronunciation because they may lack confidence, or don’t want to be constantly asked where they come from.
One of the first things we work on is improving their ability to produce their vowels more precisely.
Pay attention to your vowels and don’t neglect them! These will give you away!
Tip: If you can’t ‘hear’ the difference between similar vowels in English, it is hard to say the vowels. Therefore, listening and repeating till you get closer and closer to the target pronunciation is important. Continue to say the word the old way and then the new way till you get it.