For many English learners, pronunciation is a big issue. Some struggle with odd rules, such as the silent H, while some struggle to shrug off the accent from their first language. You may be one of them. How to improve English pronunciation?
Here are 5 ways to improve English pronunciation:
- Listen to native speakers
- Take note of the stress and rhythm
- Practice pronunciation with online resources
- Record and listen to yourself
- Practice speaking with someone supportive
Here are 5 tips that have worked out for me and the students I have worked with.
Listen To Native Speakers
As a start, try to spend time listening to native speakers. You can watch TV shows, listen to podcasts, and all.
The key is to listen to them and take notes on how they pronounce words. You can also observe how they use tones, stresses, and pauses when speaking.
These are the finer points of speaking English learners may miss.
You can also listen to how they express themselves and pick up some localized expressions. This would add some ‘color’ to your English and make it less rigid and formal.
For example, if you listen to enough Australian speakers, do not be surprised if you end up with words such as ‘mate,’ ‘servo,’ or ‘chippies’ in your vocabulary.
Take Note On The Stress and Rhythm
One of the things about English is that it is a stress-timed language. This means when someone speaks English, you may hear some long ‘draws’ or ‘stresses’ between ‘bursts.’
The easiest way to describe stress-timed language is the pattern of a Morse code.
Suppose your first language is not stress-timed. In this case, getting your English pronunciation and speaking right may be a challenge.
In fact, one of the reasons you have a heavy accent is that you are trying to speak English using the timing of your mother tongue.
For example, suppose you speak a syllable-timed language such as Italian. In that case, your English may sound like Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
However, do understand that accents are not as important as getting someone to understand what you are saying. The key is to avoid too much accent, to the point that people do not get you.
To improve on this, you should spend time listening to native speakers. When listening to them, note when the ‘draws’ or ‘stresses’ come in.
After a while, you may notice some patterns, and you can try to use that in your own speech.
Practice Pronunciation With Online Resources
What is biggest hurdle for language learners to improve their pronunciation?
The fear of making mistakes. Many learners are also shy and do not want to make mistakes when speaking.
This means they never really give themselves a chance to check if their English is good enough to be understood by others. As a result, they find it hard to improve.
If you are one of these folks, you can consider using online resources to help check your pronunciation.
Language learning apps like Rosetta Stone have built-in technology to listen to your pronunciation and tell you if you are getting them right.
You can also use websites such as Pronunciation Pro or ELSA Speak to work on your pronunciation.
With these resources, you should be able to get instant feedback on how your sound. You can then improve from there. Once you believe you are good enough, you can go out and try speaking with people.
Record And Listen To Yourself
Want more tip on how to improve English pronunciation? listen to yourself.
You may cringe at this idea — not many of us like to hear ourselves anyway.
However, you are not listening to yourself for pleasure. You are listening to yourself to identify where you can improve.
Perhaps you may notice your tendency to pronounce the silent H. You may sometimes forget to pronounce the ‘s’ to indicate the plural form.
Another way you can record and listen to yourself is to pick up an audio text read by a native speaker. You transcribe the audio into text, and then read it yourself.
Then you compare your reading and the native speaker and identify areas you can improve on.
Speak English With Someone
The fastest way to improve your English pronunciation and speaking skills is to use them daily.
This is the reason why ESL/EFL countries with an English-speaking culture tend to do well in proficiency rankings. The citizens speak English frequently with each other, improving their skills as they do that.
You may want to do the same.
Many would advise you to speak with native speakers. However, I do not think you need to insist on that.
Many English speakers may not speak the language as their native tongue, but they are very good at it.
In fact, since these speakers have also spent time learning the language, this means they understand your struggles better than native speakers. They may even share tips that can be more useful for you.
The key with a conversation partner is to have someone patient and, preferably, have a higher proficiency than you.
Generally pronunciation can be improved, with practice and patience. The key is to find time to practice, such as when working, having lunch, or driving even.
On another note, if you are in the earlier stages of learning English, start by ensuring your English is understandable by others. That is the main key in pronunciation. There is no need to go get accents yet, that can come later.
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