By PinShiuan Lee
Edited by Natalie Grace
[3.5 minute read]
Currently, I am a postdoctoral trainee working on biomedical informative research at USC for the past three months. Prior to this, I received all of my education in Taiwan. My English is in no way perfect and I am not the most talkative person, even when I speak in my native language. When I started my work at USC, I would do research all day without talking unless I had meetings where I needed to discuss aspects of my work. Since I didn’t have many opportunities to improve my fluency, I was urgently searching for a class I could enroll in to improve my pronunciation. This led me to enroll in ALI 252, an advanced pronunciation course.
I was initially surprised by how interesting advanced pronunciation was. I liked the classmates I met, and class was full of a diversity of perspectives and an abundance of topics to chat about. One topic we always seemed to return to was popular movies and TV shows. I heard of the show The Office, which is a mockumentary sitcom television series, for the first time in this class. I learned a lot of sentences and phrases that depict the everyday work lives of office employees. Although I worked from home, it was funny to imagine having colleagues like these characters. Every class we watched clips from The Office ended in peals of laughter.
Besides having a great time watching and observing characters on shows, our professor also provided us with many innovative tools to help give us more confidence in oral expression such as games, competitions, or playing roles. We tried to create sounds, produce voices, and understand our vocal range and stamina. It is difficult to articulate clarity if you don’t spend time practicing sounds. Using interesting and funny ways to articulate the words you would like to express encourages me to be more talkative. During this time, I could refine my personal speaking style in small groups and classroom settings.
In class we also practiced perfecting our use and knowledge of vowels, consonants, speed, and pitch. I particularly enjoyed tongue twisters and playing different theatre roles. For the first time, I could be both an audience member and an actor because of this class. I never thought of being an actor before. I thought being an actor was so simple when I saw characters in TV shows or movies. Once I started reading lines in character, however, I felt it was very difficult to play different characters, and to be creative through imagining and imitating that character. Sometimes I felt my brain couldn’t connect with my mouth and body! I had a lot of funny experiences in this class and learned about things I needed to work on.
For me, this class was not just about learning advanced pronunciation. During the 3-4 days per week that our class would meet in the summer, we developed an emotional bond. Learning about storytelling helped me communicate with an audience, and I felt comfortable sharing stories about myself to my friends and felt that I could relate to their stories as well. Sometimes a small story someone shared brought us together. Especially after spending so much time at home during the pandemic, I found listening to people and sharing stories was worth spending time on.
PinShiuan is a recent USC postdoctoral trainee who majors in Biomedical Informatics and is a member of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). She is from Taipei, Taiwan, and enjoys yoga, reading, and traveling. She has always had an interest in Buddhism and various cultures, and is working towards improving her academic English writing and speaking. PinShiuan thoroughly enjoys traveling and working on research, and looks forward to opportunities to present her research later in participating in medical imaging conferences. She loves observing human society and learning about other people’s backgrounds as well as discussing science news.