Sorry, could you repeat that, please? If that’s a question you hear a lot, maybe it’s time to focus on improving your English pronunciation. Don’t worry – it’s easier than you think! With a wealth of resources available online, just 5 minutes’ practice a day can yield tremendous results.
Become a pronunciation pro with our Top 10 tips:
1. Master the sounds of English
Getting to grips with the sounds of English – or “English phonemes” – is vital for clear pronunciation. Although it can seem daunting at first, training your mouth to form the sounds of English is very doable. All it takes is quality learning materials, practice, and – most of all – the confidence to give it a try. Check out these amazing resources for working on your phonemes:
- The British Council’s interactive phonemic chart
- BBC Learning English’s The Sounds of English
- Cambridge English Online’s Phonetic Focus learning games
2. Pay attention to word stress
In the English language, not all syllables are equal. There are three types– main stress, secondary stress, and unstressed syllables – but only longer words contain all three. The main stress syllable is louder, longer, and higher pitched than the others. Consider the following words (stressed syllables in bold, main stress syllables underlined):
Most online dictionaries will show you which syllables to stress. They also have a play button, which will pronounce the word correctly.
3. Pay attention to sentence stress and intonation
Just as words have stressed and unstressed syllables, so do sentences. Content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some pronouns) are usually stressed, but function words (articles, conjunctions, prepositions, auxiliary verbs, etc.) are usually not.
That is, you could just say the stressed words, and though your grammar would be bad, most people would understand you.
It’s a boy!
Where do you come from?
The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables within words gives English its melody. This musical pattern is called intonation. If you don’t pay attention to intonation, you’ll sound like a robot!
4. Take advantage of online learning resources
There are many excellent online resources designed to help you with your English pronunciation. The best news? Many of them are free!
5. Take advantage of materials designed for native speakers
For intermediate to advanced students, real world materials can really improve your pronunciation. Movies, TV series, YouTube clips, radio shows, or podcasts can all be very beneficial.
You can also find amazing presentations with interactive scripts on TED.
The key is to pick something fun or interesting, so that it doesn’t feel like work.
6. Practice speaking
This may sound obvious, but many learners simply don’t do it enough. To improve your pronunciation, you’ve got to speak aloud. Focusing on pronunciation for 5 minutes a day is better than doing it for 45 minutes once a week.
Read books, newspapers, and online articles… aloud. Talk to yourself in the shower or while you’re cooking. Find and join an English study group. Or, if a friend or family member is learning English too, why not set yourself a daily 15-minute English chat challenge?
7. Get into the habit of self-correcting
When talking, try to notice when you make an error and correct it. Sooner or later, this will become more tiresome than simply preventing the error, and you’ll start to internalise the new behaviour. Practice makes perfect!
8. Record yourself speaking
Nowadays, most people have a smartphone or laptop. These devices come with built-in microphones and recording software, making it easy to record your practice. Recording and reviewing is a tremendous way to notice strengths and weaknesses – and to track your progress.
9. Use dictation software
One way to get instant feedback on how clearly you’re speaking is to use speech-to-text software. Siri, Cortana, and Google Keyboard have brought these to smartphones, and there are other online options like Dictation.io. Simply touch the microphone button and speak, and these tools will convert your speech to text. Be warned, though: the technology is still not perfect. You’ll have to speak slowly and clearly for it to work.
10. Practice with a native online teacher
A great way to work on your pronunciation is to speak with a qualified professional. You can get guidance and corrections with a native English-speaking teacher – as well as vital speaking and listening practice – at any of these sites:
Improving your English pronunciation can be a fun and rewarding experience. If you have any more tips, let us know in the comments section below!