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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: ERICA HILL -- Interview a Broadcaster! -- American English Pronunciation

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Hey guys. Welcome to the new Rachel's English mini series, Interview a Broadcaster!

>> Hi guys. I'm here with Erica Hill.

Erica, can you tell my fans a little bit about what you do?

>> Yes. I am the co-anchor of the Weekend TODAY show, on NBC,

and I'm also a national correspondent for NBC News.

>> Awesome. Well, I don't know if you know this,

but another term for the standard American accent is 'broadcaster English'.

>> I'm just learning this, actually.

>> So people all over the world are looking to the people in America who are delivering

the news as a standard, as an example for how to speak American English.

So, where do you come from? And, did you have to change anything about your accent when you

came into this field? >> I didn't really need to change anything.

I grew up in Connecticut. >> Okay.

>> Um, sort of, almost directly in between New York and Boston. So there was a lot of

influence around us, and probably, definitely, within people's families. My mom's from

New Hampshire, so she says words a little bit differently than maybe some of my friends'

parents did. My dad is originally from Connecticut. >> Okay.

>> But the town where I grew up, it was fairly standard.

I think we all pretty much speak like I do. >> Right. Okay, well that's nice, that's easy.

>> Yeah, it was easy. >> And, when your'e preparing a script to read online,

or, to read on camera, um, do you have anyhow do you practice it? How much time do you

spend with it, do you have any certain tricks you use?

>> You know, it depends on the script and how much time I'm given. So, sometimes if I'm,

if I'm doing what we call a 'day of turn', or, a piece that needs to air that day,

your'e very limited on your time. >> Yeah.

>> Um, one of the most important things you do as a broadcaster is,

you write to your pictures. So you want to make sure that you're writing to what the

people are seeing on their screen. >> Okay.

Let's take a second to talk about the contractions Ms. Hill is using.

Sometimes my students shy away from contractions because they think they're less

clear. Check out this series of videos that compares conversations with contractions

to conversations without. Ms. Hill has used 'I'm' and 'you're' several times.

In 'I'm', nothing reduces. But, it's still quick. I'm, I'm. In 'you're', we're reducing

the vowel to the schwa, which is absorbed by the R sound. So, it's really just two sounds,

yy, er, yer, yer. And it should be quite fast. You're. Listen again to this section.

>> It depends on the script and how much time I'm given. So, sometimes if I'm,

if I'm doing what we call a 'day of turn', or, a piece that needs to air that day,

your'e very limited on your time. >> Yeah.

>> Um, one of the most important things you do as a broadcaster is, you write to your

pictures. So you want to make sure that you're writing to what the people are

seeing on their screen. >> Okay.

>> Um, so you want that language to be visual. And you want it to spark someone's

imagination, so that it can help give them a more full picture of the story that you're

telling. Um, so, but when I do have time to really craft a script, I like to take my time

with it. I love words, I love writing. Um, so that's a roundabout way of saying,

there's never an exact amount of time that I have, um, but in broadcasting, I think the

goal is not only to write to your pictures, but you also want to keep it simple, um,

because it's a spoken story. So, you have maybe 30 seconds,

or even 15 seconds to tell a story. So it really needs to be about the facts sometimes,

and not as much about the flowery language. >> Uh-huh. There you go.

>> What do you do when you come across a word that you don't know how to pronounce?

>> If I don't know how to pronounce it, I'll look it up. So, I will either call the

international desk, and see if there's someone there who is familiar.

If it's a different language, who speaks, who's a native speaker of that language.

>> Right. >> …so that they can say it for me.

Ms. Hill's speech, as with all native speakers, is filled with reductions.

Here, she's given us a great example of the reduction of the word 'can',

'So that they can say it for me.' Here 'can' is a helping verb. And 'say' is the main verb.

Most of the time, 'can' is a helping verb. In these cases, we reduce the pronunciation

to 'kn'. So we change the vowel to the schwa. But just like in 'you're', the next consonant,

here the N, absorbs the schwa. So it's just two sounds: kkn, nn, kn, kn.

She says it incredibly fast. But the main verb, say, has much more length,

and that nice shape of a stressed syllable. Can say. This rhythmic contrast

of short and long syllables is very important in American English.

>> So that they can say it [4x] for me. Um, or I'll look it up online, if I can't find it.

You know, if it's a regular word, I'll go to one of the dictionary websites.

And oftentimes you can hit a button and you can hear that word. >> Right, yes.

You can hit. Again, a great reduction of the function word,

the helping verb 'can'. You can, you can.

>> And oftentimes you can hit [3x] a button and you can hear that word. >> Right, yes.

Another 'can' reduction: can hear.

>> You can hear [3x] that word. >> Right, yes.

>> I'll do that. Or I will go and listen to whatever I can find in terms of video online.

Another 'can' reduction: can find.

>> I'll do that. Or I will go and listen to whatever I can find [3x] in terms of video

online, to hear, if it's a name, to hear that person saying their name.

>> So it can be time-consuming. >> It can be, yeah.

It can be time-consuming. Here, we're stressing the word 'can'. Not always,

but it can be. So, we're not reducing the word. We're keeping the AA as in BAT vowel.

>> So it can be [4x] time-consuming. >> It can be [4x], yeah, but it's worth it.

I think one of the worst things you can do is mispronounce someone's name.

>> Yeah. So when you, when it's someone's name that you don't know,

or a word in a foreign language and you hear it, what do, what do you do with that?

Do you just practice it repetitiously? >> I do. I, um, I'll listen to it a few times.

Did you notice her 'I'll' contraction? It sounds great when we reduce it to 'all',

so it sounds just like this word 'all'.

>> I'll listen [4x] to it a few times, I'll say it out loud a few times.

If there's someone, if it's not just hearing it online but there's an actual human being

>> Yeah. >> … who's giving me the pronunciation,

I'll say it back to them until they tell me that I have it correct.

Because I think it's really important to take that time and make that effort.

>> Yeah. That's great. Now, are there any words in American English

that you find especially difficult to pronounce?

>> Yes. I am almost incapable of the following phrase.

And I literally have to think about it before I say it. War of words.

>> Ok. War of words.

>> Which is pretty much the only thing that I have asked anybody who ever writes a script

that I have to read to please not put in it. >> Leave that out.

>> Because I have a very difficult time. >> Interesting.

War of words. This refers to a long debate, either spoken or in writing.

The stress pattern is DA-da-DA, DA-da-DA. 'Of' should be very short.

War of words. War of words.

>> When you write something, you want to make sure you say it out loud. >> Uh-huh.

>> To make sure that it works when you're, when it's a spoken word. >> Good tip.

>> Um, and, you know, it's just in doing that exercise that I've realized,

I have to pause and think about each one of those words separately. >> Interesting.

>> And it's, yeah.

>> Yeah, you don't have time to do that. >> I don't like that phrase!

>> Okay, well, what about a phrase or a word that you especially like?

>> Um, one of the words I love the most is 'mama' because I like,

I like hearing my kids say 'mama'. >> That's, that's beautiful. >> Yeah.

'Mama' is a word that very young children often use for their mother.

Mama, DA-da, mama.

>> Well, thank you so much for the time. >> My pleasure.

>> I think my users are going to really enjoy this.

Follow Ms. Hill on Twitter and check out her segments on TV or online

for a great example of American English pronunciation.

>> And, uh, that's it, and thanks so much for using Rachel's English.

Check out all the videos in the Interview a Broadcaster series

by clicking here, or on the link in the video description below.

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