By Manuel Ascanio on Apr 3, 2017 12:28:00 PM
One of the most difficult aspects of learning English is mastering proper English pronunciation. It takes time and practice (and practice and some more practice after that). To get you started, we’ve compiled a few easy tips that will help you on your pronunciation journey.
Learn To Listen
We know what you are going to say, “What? I already know how to listen!” But can you quickly tell the difference between sheep, ship, chip, and cheap? Obtaining great English pronunciation can be much harder than becoming proficient in grammar or syntax and learning to listen is key for you to improve your speaking skills.
Children first learn by listening to others, by identifying the differences between words and sounds; and although you are an adult, there is really not much of a difference. Remember, if you want to learn to fly one day, you must first learn to stand and walk. One great way to get started is downloading an English language podcast of your interest, or rewatching your favorite TV show with English closed captions.
Cherish the IPA
And no, I’m not talking about the beer here. IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet, and it is one of the most valuable tools you can use in your English learning journey. Why? Well, do you know those strange symbols that appear in dictionaries right next to the word you are looking for? Those are IPA symbols, and their function is to show you how to pronounce correctly. And don’t worry, you don’t need to memorize everything, this particular dictionary was created for linguists and translators, so learning the basics will help you go a long way. Check out this great video to help you get started with the IPA.
Mimic your way up
Whether you are watching a movie or you feel like singing a song with your friends, use every opportunity you have to imitate native speakers’ way of talking. Don’t be afraid to grab a mirror and practice in front of it. Try to repeat what your favorite TV characters say, imitate the way they move their mouths, their lips; the way they locate their tongues; the way they use intonation and rhythm to convey meaning.
It has been said that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” and the best way of improving your pronunciation is by recording what you say. So, now is the time to put all of those karaoke hours to good use. Recordings don’t need to be very long, just enough for you to compare with the original and start hearing your mistakes.
In the beginning, different sounds may seem very similar but as you record yourself, play back and listen, you will develop a keen ear for subtle differences. And we know that this process can be a little tedious at times, but stick with it and you will be rewarded. This will be your first step towards a great pronunciation.
Master “The Chaos”
Poetry reading won’t only boost your game, but also your language skills. Said to be the hardest poem in the English language, The Chaos was written by the Dutch teacher Gerard Nolst Trenité in the early 1900’s. His intention was to show the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation — which he accomplished. Master this poem and everything else will seem like a piece of cake. Check it out!
Now, regardless of what you choose to do, the most important part is daily practice. It doesn’t really matter if you learn all IPA symbols and master The Chaos poem in a single day, just to forget it all the week after due to lack of practice. As with everything in life, learning English requires everyday exercise, repetition and exposure. That is why you have to use every single moment to improve and make it fun by turning your leisure time or your media obsession into learning opportunities.
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