Friday, September 18, 2009

Phonemic Awareness

German pronunciation is driving me insane. There. I said it.

When I was growing up, all 4 of my grandparents spoke Yiddish. My maternal grandparents were Russian and my paternal grandparents were Hungarian/Rumanian/Transylvanian depending on where the lines went on the map at any given time, but they spoke Hungarian and Yiddish. So they all spoke Yiddish to each other and to my parents. And of course any time my parents were talking about something they didn't want us kids to know about, they switched to Yiddish. Yiddish sounds sort of like German, and I think has some of the same phonemes and pronunciations. So after being exposed to so much Yiddish during my formative years, why the heck can't I pronounce these German words? Of course looking at that link I see they list alternate pronunciations of Yiddish words depending on the region the speaker is from. So perhaps Yiddish and German are not as closely related as they seem to sound? I realize that they are two different languages, and speaking one does not mean that you speak or understand the other. In fact, I recall my aunt telling me about one of her music students who did a German translation (into English, I think...) but used Yiddish instead and got it all wrong. But I'm not talking about meaning. I'm talking about sounds, about phonemes. So maybe my subconscious knowledge of Yiddish sounds is actually interfering with my ability to pronounce German. There must be a link somewhere between my brain and my mouth that's either helping or hindering my pronunciation. I just have to find it and adjust it. And I better do it fast, because my next voice lesson is tomorrow and my teacher is picky picky picky about pronunciation to the point where she'll cut me off to correct it.

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