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DavidK
Comments on “The Perfect Sentence Method”?
I was wandering through TED talk world and came across a talk entitled “How to Talk Like a Native Speaker”. The speaker argues that speaking a foreign language like a native is a worthwhile and achievable goal.

In particular (at 10:30) he gives advice for learning to speak with a native accent by using what he calls “the perfect sentence method”. In short, the learner sits with a native speaker, picks a sentence at random from a book, and then reads the sentence to the native speaker who then grades his accent. Then the native speaker reads the sentence and the learner attempts to copy him, and the native speaker again grades the learner’s speech. This is repeated indefinitely, with the suggestion that the learner will eventually sound native.

I’m curious if any of the language teachers and learners here have any experience with or comments on this or similar methods. Does it work? Is it efficient?


May 17, 2019 5:13 PM
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Comments · 10

I think it makes sense. We are talking about pronunciation. It is a matter of repetitive training until it becomes an automatic fine-tuned process. Doing it with a native speaker helps, and if you learn a bit of phonetics it would be even more straightforward.


May 17, 2019

I use a related modeling technique with immigrants in my high-beginner English class.

One key aspect of the class is doing regular extensive reading and extensive listening with stories from A1 to B2 levels.  Twice a week, students have approximately 30 minutes of reading while listening to the story.  The students take the books home to read and listen to.  They get approximately three hours per week of reading while listening.  The listening practice leads to obvious improvements in listening comprehension and speaking after 8-12 weeks.

For speaking practice in class, we do both choral reading aloud and individual reading aloud. I read a sentence and the class of about eight students repeats.  We continue for approximately a page.  Then one student continues for the next page.  I work with the student on the most serious pronunciation problems.  Then the cycle repeats with each student getting a turn at individual reading (activity time is about 45 minutes total).

Afterwards, we do some targeted pronunciation exercises on difficult phonemes (usually vowels).

During other activities, I pull individual students out for 20 minutes of pronunciation work.  I model, they repeat for a page, then they read the next page independently.  We work on pronunciation problems.

When the basic pronunciation is reasonable, I focus more on intonation.  When the pronunciation is good, I eliminate the reading aloud activities and add more listening activities.


May 19, 2019
I've listened to this TED talk and while it may work for some, I find the method too basic and unlikely to work.  I think Phil, above, makes some good points.  It's crucial to know that in most country's, tone, dialect, accent and other nuances change dramatically by region. In order for this method, then, to be successful the learner would have to sit with multitudes of "native" speakers.     
May 19, 2019
That’s a good start, but relies on a lot of trial and error (it’s pretty much just a type of “shadowing” with primitive feedback). Instead of giving a 1-10 score, the native should actually understand phonology and know how to teach it — that is a lot more effective. I discuss this in one of my course descriptions:

https://www.italki.com/teacher/1356999/course/27304
May 19, 2019
I've never tried this, but as a native English speaker I really don't think there is an advantage in time and energy cost to sound perfect.  The only advantage in my opinion is if you are in a high level professional capacity and use English predominantly.  But even then most accents I come across are fine even at a B2 level.  It depends on your goals. If you want to sound native that's awesome, I'm just saying as a native English speaker accents don't bother me and I don't really think about them if someone has one unless it's really thick and hard to understand.
May 17, 2019
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DavidK
Language Skills
English, French
Learning Language
French