About Jay Hirshberg

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.

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