Korean Accents

If Korean is your first language, you may be using the Korean “sound system” when you speak English.  But the Korean sound system does not use stress in words and sentences in the way English does.

the Korean sound system does not use stress in words and sentences in the way English does. Click To Tweet

English consonants, especially final position, are a challenge. There are important stressed-syllable vowels in English that don’t exist in Korean, so mastering these will help your listeners also. You may not have learned much about this if you studied English as a foreign language. Some of these differences won’t have great impact, but others can interfere with your ability to communicate.

You may get feedback that listeners can’t understand you, that you talk too fast, or that your sound is flat, or unfriendly, or impersonal.  Perhaps you’ve gotten feedback at work that your presentation style confuses your audience, or is monotonous.   These, and other problems, result from applying what you know and use successfully in Korean, to English, where it doesn’t work as well.  You are applying a set of Korean “sound rules” to English, which has its own sound rules.

Some common interference points between Korean and English:

  • Vowel system differences, especially varying length of vowels; the accordion effect of stretching and shortening vowels, and why to do it, is important to learn. Also those vowels that are not in Korean but are used in stressed syllables in English
  • Consonant system differences, like b/v, f/p, r/l, and of course, r/l. Also voicing and unvoiced consonant differences, and final consonants, especially unvoiced like T, K, P
  • Speaking pace
  • Pitch and intonation ranges
  • The purpose and use of pausing or breaks in sound
  • The how, what and why of syllable, word and sentence stress
  • Tone use (melody)

Another potential source of interference may be that your presentation design, pace or organization doesn’t match your listening audience’s needs.  Furthermore, your intonation and sentence stress provide cues for your listeners about your topic development, so you must learn to understand and correctly interpret these signals when you hear them.

In our work together, we will diagnose your current pronunciation habits, define your goals, determine your skills and knowledge in target areas, and create a plan that guides your accent reduction practice and leads you to a better sound in English.

Tired of repeating yourself? Contact me to discuss customized private online pronunciation classes.

Peggy Tharpe teaches, coaches, and publishes about English pronunciation and intonation. She believes that if you understand why something is happening, you're better able to address it and change it. She teaches the "why" of pronunciation as well as the "what" and "how".