Pronouncing words correctly in English can be tricky. There are many different accents and ways of speaking depending on where you are in the world. But there are techniques and tips that can help you improve. Try out a few of these tips and you’ll be sure to see improvement in your English pronunciation, and feel more confident speaking the language.
When it comes to learning another language, your ears can be just as important as your vocal chords. You might be surprised to learn that one of the key skills to becoming a better speaker is to practice your listening. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Listen to native speakers: When you’re in a social situation, pay attention to the way native English speakers talk to each other. You’ll start to notice methods of pronunciation that you can’t get from a textbook.
- Listen to movies, radio and podcasts: You can try closing your eyes with films and TV. Hear what people are saying and the way they say it.
- Listen to yourself: Close your eyes and speak. Can you notice a difference between what you say and how a native speaker might say it?
2. Notice your tongue
Pronunciation often comes down to how you position your tongue. Every language asks the tongue to do different things, and after decades speaking one language, it can be difficult to train your tongue into speaking another.
It takes practice, for sure. One good exercise to get you started is to focus on the difference between the ‘L’ sound in the world ‘light’ and the ‘R’ sound in the word ‘right’.
- ‘L’ is made by putting your tongue behind your front teeth so it is touching the roof of your mouth.
- ‘R’ is made by moving your tongue towards the middle of your mouth, almost as if it was resting. Your lips also play a part, becoming slightly rounded as you pronounce the letter.
3. Sound it out
Words are comprised of sounds or syllables. Finding how many syllables there are in a word can be tricky. Fortunately, there’s an easy exercise to count how many sounds are in a particular word. Simply place a flat hand beneath your chin, speak a word, and count how many times your chin touches your hand. Every touch is a syllable.
How does knowing the number of syllables helps you pronounce words better?
Well, every syllable has a sound, and by breaking down a word into syllables, you can figure out how the whole word should sound. Each syllable is a building block you can use to bring the word together. Knowing common syllables will also help you learn new words faster and pronounce them better.
You can complement this exercise by writing down words and breaking them into syllables with your pen.
For example, the word ‘syllable’ would look like this:
- Syl / la / ble
Most syllables have at least one vowel in them (a, e, i, o, u). In the above example, we see the first sound doesn’t. In English, a ‘y’ is sometimes like a 6th vowel, as it sounds similar to ‘i’.
Practice your pronunciation by sounding out each syllable, and then putting them together to form the word.
Here is a video that provides some useful tips and tricks for practising your English pronunciation.
4. Record yourself talking
Practising your English on your own is a surefire way to improve your vocabulary and pronunciation. You can also record yourself and listen back to your own voice to identify where improvements can be made.
One way to do this is to find a recording that you like – a podcast or audio of people speaking naturally – record yourself speaking samples of the same audio. That way, you can listen to both of them and see how your pronunciation compares.
Visualisation is a strong method for learning, and it can work with pronunciation too. Close your eyes and visualise yourself saying the word you want to say. Focus on sounding it out. Think about how your tongue, lips and mouth should be positioned. It’s a simple technique you can practice anytime, and compliments the recording exercise above.
6. Use a mirror
Practice your pronunciation by standing in front of a mirror and observing the shape of your mouth and lips as your pronounce certain words. You can compare this to videos of native English speakers doing the same thing.
Singing popular songs will help you relax and feel less stressed about your pronunciation. Because you don’t have to come up with the sentences yourself and there’s a catchy melody to go along with it, singing will help you conquer any doubt or self-consciousness you have about practising pronunciation in general.
Practice makes perfect
Learning to pronounce English words correctly can be one of the hardest parts of learning English. But with practice, dedication and perseverance, you will find yourself becoming used to these new sounds in no time!