Hear your favorite actor read a children's book.
Free Resource for Improving Listening and Imitation of Intonation:
Storyline Online https://www.storylineonline.net/
I like finding free websites that aren’t designed to teach English but can totally be used that way. Storyline has videos of children’s books being read. There are lots of those kind of videos on Youtube, but this one has some special qualities.
This is a great resource for parents reading to their kids, but I also think it’s a good practice resource for all adults. The readers of the stories are actors and are using good pace, pitch range, intonation, pronunciation, and sometimes change their voices to play the characters. These features are more easily noticeable when reading children’s books than adult books on audio. The extra emphasis used in reading children’s books makes it more of a challenge for you to control your voice to do something different with it by imitating the intonation and using more of your pitch range.
How to use it:
1. Choose any story.
You can click on “All Books” at the top and then click on “Sort by” and chose from:
Run Time (how long the video is)
I particularly like choosing by Reader - See if there’s an actor that you like how they speak. You can choose the letter of their last name from the Index row of letters or just scroll down to see them in alphabetical order when you don’t know who to search for.
The one I have screenshots of is “Harry the Dirty Dog” read by Betty White because it was in the top row in “January’s Featured Videos” and I like her.
2. Turn on the Words
When you click on the book, first go to the toolbar at the bottom of the video window and turn on the closed captions in English so you can read the words as you hear them.
3. Choose the Speed
You probably want to listen to the story first in regular speed to hear the whole story.
Then, slow down the speed to make it easier to hear which words are being emphasized with higher pitch and longer vowel duration. The emphasis is exaggerated the slower you choose. This also makes it possible to hear connections between words and vowels that are changing to the schwa /ə/ “uh” sound in unstressed syllables.
3. Imitate the Reader
Practice saying each line in the slower speed so you can also have time to use emphasis, connections, and sound changes. Then do it again in normal speed.
Record yourself, just a few lines at a time.
Compare your recording to the reader’s and listen for these specific speech features:
Pitch Range - Did you go as high and low in pitch as the reader did when emphasizing words?
Intonation - 1) Direction of pitch at ends of sentences - Did you go down at the ends of statements and up at the end of yes/no questions? 2) Words chosen - Did you emphasize the same words?
Word Stress - Did you stretch the vowel in the stressed syllable longer than the vowels in unstressed syllables? Did you increase your pitch (not volume) on that stressed vowel?
Pronunciation - You don’t have to judge every single sound. 1) Listen for consonants that you know are difficult for you. 2) Listen for the vowel sounds in stressed syllables.
Connections and Sound Changes - Did you make connections between words that end in consonants and the following words that begin with vowels? For example, in this part of the sentence, “and buried it in the backyard” the /d/ from “buried” connects to the /ɪ/ in “it” and the /t/ in “it” changes to a /d/ and connects to the /ɪ/ in “in.” It sounds like, “behr-reed-did-din.”
You have a lot to listen to when comparing your recording to the reader’s but focus on just one speech feature at a time in short segments at a time. It is time consuming at first, but once you train your ears on what to listen for, you’ll start noticing it more often and more easily the more you do it.
The tab at the bottom of the book choice on the homepage will say “Activity Guide” and when you click on it there will either be two choices, “For teachers” and “For parents” or a lot of times it’s just “For teachers.” Look at any of the options it gives you because they’re usually very similar. The guides for questions to ask kids as you read are really helpful for getting kids to predict what will happen and give descriptions of characters and the themes in the story.
If you are a parent who has been told by your son or daughter that you’re not saying words right when you read them a story, it could really increase your confidence to hear the book read by someone else first and even practice before reading to your son/daughter. There are many options for this online, but if you like the sound of the person’s voice who’s reading it, such as your favorite actor, you’ll have a good example to imitate.
By the way, I have no connection with this website, I just like it and wanted to share it with you. Help me identify readers that you like the sound of their voices! I’ll keep a list going for future recommendations.
If you have free web resources that you’d like to recommend, please send them my way! I’m always looking for new ones.