How can I learn the English sounds that don't exist in my mother tongue? I have troubles with distingushing between the long and short sounds, but also it's very hard for me to get the difference between rug and rag and bold and bald and so on.

I know I should practice. And I do - I watch movies and I talk a lot at work. But I would be grateful for any practical tips or books which cover the topic very well.

  • Easily confused words are not a big problem depending of context. For instance, Look at that bald guy, you don't say that bold guy.
    – Schwale
    Dec 13 '15 at 16:24
  • @Subjunctive, I know I can live with that and it's easy to figure out the right word out of the context. But I don't want to sound crude to native speakers and people who distinguish these sounds. Dec 13 '15 at 16:31
  • If you do not wish to appear crude to native speakers, edit your question and change english to English since in English (not english) that is how we write it.
    – user20792
    Dec 13 '15 at 16:45
  • 2
    I have an experimental training program which I believe can enhance your listening in another language, especially when that "another language" is very different from your native tongue, but it takes a lot of patience. If you're interested in it, contact me in one of our chat rooms. (It's okay if you decide not to, btw. :-) You may be interested in a similar, but more well-known technique called shadowing. Dec 13 '15 at 16:54
  • @NES, thank you for your remark:) I edited the question. Dec 13 '15 at 17:22

A book will probably not help you since there is no way to hear the sounds.

These days, there are many dictionary applications and websites which sound out words, and of course, there is always Google translate (though it may sound a bit robotic).

There is also the possibility of forming a close relationship with a native speaker...

  • I can look up the words bold and bald in an online dictionary, but it doesn't help me since I hear no difference. And forming a close relationship with a native speaker just to improve my English doesn't seem fair to me. Dec 13 '15 at 16:33
  • @user2738748 But that depends of the dictionary if it has a speaker for the word to be heard. For instance, WordReference allows that and gives you a clear difference on pronunciation.
    – Schwale
    Dec 13 '15 at 16:37
  • You could hire a tutor specifically for pronunciation and diction instead of general language lessons. Another thought might be if you have a more recent Apple appliance, you could speak to Siri and see if it understands you, it will point you in the direction of standard American pronunciation (there is a viral video of Scots trapped in a voice activated elevator, hysterical)
    – Peter
    Dec 13 '15 at 16:41
  • I'm not sure if using Siri is always a good idea, because, as far as I can tell, Siri guesses a lot too, though it's very good. I have the same feeling when I try Apple Voice Input in my first language, too. It's good for things we speak in typical conversations, but it's not very good when I dictate technical stuff (though it's not that bad either, but when it comes to speech input, even 5% error can be annoying already). Dec 13 '15 at 16:45
  • Another way to think about it: if you are also interested in the cultural aspects of how the language is used, many native speakers would be more than happy to help explain the meaning and also the intonations used (and as a by product the pronunciation). Intonations are a big part of meaning and context in speaking. I'm sure they would not feel used.
    – Peter
    Dec 13 '15 at 21:54

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