Using SoundCloud for Pronunciation Feedback

I’ve been playing with different software, looking for good tools that help English learners and practitioners improve their pronunciation.
Today’s post is about SoundCloud. I found the following clip on SoundCloud, put up there by someone else, and it’s the same problem I’m working on with two clients–one speaks Japanese as his first language, the other speaks Spanish (Venezuela).

Look at this sound image of someone saying the name “Ty Segall”. Notice the “S” formation.

The clarity of the S in his first pronunciation (0:02) is easy to see. The visual bump is large and high. In his second pronunciation, his S is “mushy” or “soft” (0:04). The clarity is missing that should be formed by a strong force of air pushes through a narrow space. The visual bump is small and low. In the second pronunciation, the speaker’s tongue tip is too soft and too close to his teeth. In the third pronunciation (0:07) he’s using less volume and stress, but there is sufficient air and tongue tip tension to provide clarity, enough of a visual bump, and it clearly sounds like an S.

In English, we use the tip of our tongue more muscularly: we tighten it and curl it and flute it. We like to keep our jaw relaxed, if possible, but I think we use our tongue tip more than many other languages. Not all Americans speak clearly, when talking with each other in English, but we have other strategies to use, that compensate for clarity, such as intonation and stress and rhythm. But if you working on your accent in English, and get feedback from others that you should work on your articulation of sounds, then maybe a visual cue using something like SoundCloud will add some fun and be informative!

SoundCloud has another great feature: you can mark a place on the recording to discuss further. If you look on this clip, you can see two small head icons that sit above the soundwave. I tried to mark places I wanted to discuss, but I missed the timing on the second one. But you can get the idea. Students: if you listen to your own voice, and hear yourself mispronouncing, you can mark it for your teacher and write a comment below, asking for feedback on your sound and for suggestions for improvement. Teachers: you can listen to your students and mark spots where their sound is unclear or mispronounced, and give them guidance on what to change.

Next post will be about another soundwave software tool. If you have something that is working really well for you, please let me know. If you share it here in a comment, I’ll try to find it and get it posted.