Lunes, 15 Febrero 2016 10:18

Tackling Nasality in Speech

When we talk about accents, we are talking about more than just pronunciation of letters. You have probably encountered intonation practice in class, but there is another feature of accents that can be neglected.

Important Vocabulary:

  • hold your nose: tápese la nariz con los dedos
  • practise makes perfect: la práctica hace al maestro
  • air flow: flujo de aire
  • breath: aliento
  • yawn: bostezar

So, what is nasality?

Nasality is when the sound you produce comes through your nose, instead of through your mouth. Although this won’t stop a native speaker from understanding the meaning of what you are saying, it makes you sound very Spanish and can make it difficult to hear exactly what you are saying.

How do I know if my accent is nasal?

Hold your nose and say the following sentence:

In the beginning, many things were made.
/ɪn ðə bəˈgɪnɪŋ, meniː θɪŋz wɜː(r) meɪd/

You will feel your nose (and maybe your ears) vibrate and find it hard to say the sounds /m/, /n/ and /ŋ/ (<m>, <n> and <ng>). These are THE ONLY sounds in English that should cause your nose to vibrate.

Now say this sentence.

The flower is red but the sky is blue.
/ðə flaʊə(r) ɪz red bʌt ðə skaɪ ɪz bluː/

This sentence has none of the sounds from above, so your nose should not vibrate.

My nose didn’t vibrate. Congratulations, your voice probably isn’t nasal, but you should read on and practise the exercises just in case.

My nose did vibrate. Don’t worry. Practise makes perfect.

How do I fix this?

Exercise 1: Yawn. Feel the back of your mouth go up. This closes the air flow to your nose.

Contracted VelumRelaxed Velum

Exercise 2:

  1. Say the vowel sound /iː/ and hold it. Make it as nasal as possible so that it makes your nose and ears vibrate.
  2. Keep saying the vowel sound /iː/, but try to make only your nose vibrate. What did you do to change the sound?
  3. Keep saying the vowel sound /iː/, but try to stop your nose from vibrating. What did you do to change the sound?

Exercise 3:

Practise Exercise 2, but change the vowel you use. Try it with

  1.  /aː/, /uː/, /ɜː/
  2. /æ/, /e/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/, /ʌ/

vowel reminder