Jay Hirshberg on Learning a New Language: Improving Pronunciation Jay Hirshberg has studied a number of languages, focusing on those spoken in the Middle East and Europe. Hirshberg has also learned a number of Arabic dialects. As such, he has developed expertise in learning the proper pronunciation of a language, which forms a key component of communicating successfully. Jay Hirshberg suggests that language students begin by listening to the dialect, even before they have studied a single word. In addition to the sounds of the individual letters, languages also have different shapes and rhythms. Paying attention to these contours can provide an intuitive sense of how native speakers pronounce a language, even without understanding the words themselves. Once a student starts learning a language, Jay Hirshberg recommends he or she try mimicking the accent of a native speaker. Young children can naturally produce most of the sounds of the human voice, but many people lose this ability over time as they become accustomed to the sounds of native languages. Hirshberg therefore notes the importance of trying to replicate exactly the accent of a speaker of the other language to relearn the precise movements of the tongue and mouth. Over time, these patterns will start to become more comfortable. To avoid learning incorrect sounds, Jay Hirshberg suggests working with recorded pronunciation guides. Avoid simple tables that try to compare sounds from one language with those from another. In most cases, Hirshberg has found that these comparisons do more harm than good. The human voice can create more than 800 sounds, yet most languages include far fewer than that. Often, no true comparison exists, and a student must instead learn a sound by hearing and practicing the tone. As an additional recourse, Jay Hirshberg has seen some success through the use of phonetic techniques. The international phonetic alphabet (IPA), designed by linguists, covers all the sounds of the human voice in a scientific manner. By studying IPA and practicing unfamiliar sounds, a student can begin to incorporate the tones into his or her language study.