English pronunciation can cause many problems for English learners from beginner to advanced level. Pronunciation in English is irregular, and the spelling of a word doesn’t always help you to know how it should be pronounced. This is because English is a language that constantly develops as it is influenced by many languages.
As English teachers and language learners, we know how frustrating it can be to master English pronunciation. Many students tell us that their goal is to sound like a native English speaker. As someone who has achieved this goal, let me share with you some of the lessons I have learned along the way.
1- Slow down!
Many students are scared of speaking slowly, thinking people will stop paying attention. Some believe that speaking fast is a sign of fluency. Both of these beliefs are incorrect. Slow down. Many native speakers speak slowly too. Articulate speakers speak clearly, enunciate clearly and they don’t rush. Slowing down helps others to understand you, but it also gives you more time to think of what you want to say next. When learning new words make sure to first learn to say them slowly, then speed up. Many websites with podcasts, audiobooks, and videos let you slow them down. Take advantage of this function. That way you can make sure you catch everything, even if the speakers tend to speak quickly or have strong accents.
2- Write down words you struggle with and study them
Every time you come across a word you’re not sure about, write it down. Look these words up in a dictionary. You can use the free online version of the Oxford English Dictionary available here. When you search for a word, you can see its phonetic transcription and you can listen to a recording of the word. You can also put the word followed by the word “meaning” into Google search. For example, if I want to learn how to pronounce “nation” I would google “nation meaning”. You can then see the pronunciation and a recording. If you click on the recording, it gives you an option to learn the pronunciation which shows you more detail. The more words you know how to pronounce the easier learning a new one becomes.
3- Read aloud and record yourself
You don’t have to have a conversation with someone to improve your pronunciation. You can read your favourite books aloud when you’re alone. Don’t forget to note down any words you struggle with. You should record yourself and try to find any mistakes you make consistently. Record yourself once a week. If you ever need a bit of encouragement you can go back to old recordings. If you study hard and practise lots, you should be able to see progress. Finally, you can use voice assistants on your phone or computer to train your pronunciation. You can practise asking questions until they understand you without problems. You can also ask them to pronounce something for you or even read a short text to you. Of course, you should not rely on voice assistants for guidance on natural speech, but they can help you practise when you don’t have access to a teacher or a language partner.
4- Listen to podcasts, audiobooks and music (especially rap songs)
I am sure you’ve heard this a million times already but if you want to improve your pronunciation, you need to listen to lots of spoken English. You can listen to audiobooks and podcasts, or even English news. Of course, we recommend listening to the Intrepid English Podcast, and lots of our students agree!
Listening to music can work especially well because we are more likely to listen to the song more than once. Every time you hear it, you remember a bit more of it. You can learn the pronunciation of words and phrases from songs. More importantly, you can observe how we connect words together and vary the rhythm and intonation depending on the context. Rap songs are especially useful for this, they are mostly spoken word and they use natural English rhythm. While many songs use a lot of swear words and violent language, you can search for “clean rap songs” to find ones that are more suitable for learning English.
5- Practise with someone
This may be an obvious tip but it’s an important one. You can learn the most through using the language. Don’t be scared of making mistakes. Use what you know and pay close attention to the way that others speak, especially when it comes to putting stress on words and using intonation to change the meaning of their message. You can practise with a friend or find a language partner for casual chatting online. For best results, you should also make sure that you have regular lessons with a teacher. Book a trial lesson with one of our Intrepid teachers who will give you expert advice about your pronunciation.
6- Be kind to yourself
Students often don’t want to speak to native English speakers because they are worried about their accent and pronunciation. This fear causes them to miss out on chances to practise with people who can model the correct pronunciation that you are trying to achieve. Most native speakers are used to hearing a wide variety of accents and can usually understand what you’re saying. Just like you would be kind to someone who is trying to speak your language, native speakers will be kind to you and will be happy to help if you ask politely. It’s important to be aware of the areas you need to work on, but you should make sure you’re not being too hard on yourself.
7- Study the IEA Pronunciation Course
The Intrepid English Pronunciation course goes over each English sound separately. You will learn how to make the sounds correctly and the most common spellings for each sound. You can listen to the Intrepid English teachers and practise your pronunciation along with them. In addition to recordings, there are many images and videos created to help you produce English sounds easily and correctly. This course is the perfect resource for English students of any level who want to improve their pronunciation.
These are only some of the things you can do to work on your English pronunciation. Do you have a favourite technique? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.
This blog was written by Intrepid English Teacher, Lida.
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