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How to Improve your English Pronunciation

 

Many English learners feel overwhelmed when they start learning the language. English comes with its set of challenges, especially related to pronunciation. But don’t worry, there are some great ways to make sure this doesn’t hold you back. 

 

1- Notice how your mouth and lips move

Pronunciation is a physical skill. You’re teaching your mouth a new way to move and using different muscles. So, when you practice speaking, notice how your mouth, lips, and tongue move and how they affect how you pronounce a word.

Watch native English people and notice the shape their mouth and lips make when they talk and try to mimic them in front of the mirror.

Close your eyes and think about making a sound before saying it, then practice by repeating the facial shapes and words. For example, to make the “th” sound, put your tongue between your top and bottom teeth and push the air out of your mouth. Once you know this, it’s easier to say words like “thanks”.

To make the “L” sound, your tongue should touch the back of your front teeth and the top of your mouth. Try it now: Say the word “love.” Say it a few times. Feel where your tongue is in your mouth. Make sure it touches the top of your mouth.

Now, for the “R” sound, your tongue should not touch the top of your mouth. Pull your tongue back to the middle of your mouth, near where it naturally rests if you weren’t saying anything. As you say the sound, your lips should be a little rounded. Try it now: Say the word “rocket” a few times. You should feel air blowing between your tongue and the top of your mouth as you speak. You should also feel your lips get a little rounder when you make the sound. Be aware that there are two different positions for the “R” sound; this is just one of them.

 

2- Break down big words into syllables

Rather than trying to pronounce the whole word all at once, try speaking the syllables first. 

For example:

  • Sunset: sun/set.
  • Bathtub: bath/tub.
  • Attention: at/tent/tion.
  • Incomprehensible: in/com/pre/hen/si/ble.

 

3- Learn when and where to stress words and sounds

Stress and emphasis are often tricky for non-native speakers to pick up because you can’t tell by looking at the word where the stress will be. 

When it comes to pronouncing words, sometimes it makes a difference if you emphasize a certain syllable within that word. For example, the stress in the word ‘product’ is always on the first syllable. Many non-native speakers mispronounce it and say ‘proDUCT.’ Errors like this make your English unclear to listeners.

Start to listen specifically for stress and emphasis in a native speaker’s speech. Then, pay attention to stress and emphasis in your speech; correct it and repeat until it comes naturally.

Sentences get stress, too; some words are more important and are said with more clarity and strength than the rest of the sentence. Try reading this sentence aloud (the bold words are the stressed ones): “He ate some toast with jam in the morning.”

Notice how you slow down every time you get to an important word and quickly pass over the less important ones?

So, how can you be sure which words to stress? You need to know the difference between function and content words.

Function words are those you use for everyday grammar. They include pronouns, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliary verbs like be, have, and do. 

Content words are adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and nouns. 

When determining whether to stress function or content words, it’s usually content words. 

 

4- Speak Slowly

Speaking fast tends to slur their speech and reinforce bad habits. On the other hand, speaking slowly will give you time to think about what you are saying and how you are saying it. 

Pay special attention to the words you have trouble pronouncing. It’s always a good idea to exaggerate your sounds at the beginning. This may seem a little strange to you at first, but don’t worry. It’s an excellent exercise for improving your pronunciation.

 

5- Try some tongue twisters 

Tongue twisters are a time-tested method of improving pronunciation due to giving your mouth and tongue muscles a workout.

 

6- Read aloud and record yourself

When you’re concentrating on communicating, it’s sometimes challenging to hear errors in your pronunciation. 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.  

Listen back and note any sounds that you have problems with, practice these words/sounds slowly, and re-record yourself. Shadowing is a powerful technique.

 

7- Get to know your minimal pairs

Minimal pairs are words that have almost the same pronunciation but with one sound that is different, for example, ship and sheep; berry and very; bus and buzz.

 

8- Speak as much as you can

English pronunciation practice alone is not enough; you need to get over your nerves to feel comfortable speaking in front of others. Nerves can lead to a lot of mistakes, especially regarding pronunciation.

You must speak English to yourself at home. To start, try just narrating what you’re doing when you’re cooking dinner or getting ready for bed.

Find someone to practice with, either in person or through online communities. Getting feedback from an outside observer is crucial.

 

WEEKLY VOCABULARY 🗣

Accent: a distinctive mode of pronunciation of a language, especially one associated with a particular nation, locality, or social class.

 

Tongue: the fleshy muscular organ in the mouth, used for tasting, licking, swallowing, and (in humans) articulating speech.

 

Incomprehensible: not able to be understood; not intelligible.

 

Misapprehension: a mistaken belief about or interpretation of something.

 

Self-consciousness: nervous or uncomfortable because you are worried about what people think about you or your actions.



PHRASAL VERBS ✍

Cope with

“You have to cope with good communication skills, as it’s a primary condition of the corporate world.”

 

Dawn on

“It began to dawn on him just what he had said.”

 

Sound off

“He always sounds off about how he thinks Chinese people should pronounce English.”

 

Throw light on

“Please throw light on specific details rather than generalized statements.”

 

Come up

“Opportunities like studying abroad don’t come up every day.”



TONGUE TWISTERS 🤪👅

She sells seashells by the seashore.

 

A big black bug bit a big black dog on his big black nose.

 

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

 

The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.

 

Denise sees the fleece,

Denise sees the fleas.

At least Denise could sneeze

and feed and freeze the fleas.

 

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?



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