By Paola Pascual on Jan 13, 2022 12:00:00 AM
Pronunciation is, for many English learners, the hardest skill to get right. If that's your case, it may be because you learned English filling out grammar exercises, reading, or writing essays at school. While those can be great, you need to use the language in order to improve your pronunciation. You can't really study pronunciation –rather, it's a physical skill (much like playing football or videogames) that you need to practice regularly. In this post, you will get some tools to improve your pronunciation that actually work.
Firstly, there is nothing wrong with having a unique accent. You learn more about accent reduction it or work on making your speaking easier to understand, but remember that there are many different varieties of spoken English all over the world, and each one has its own unique flavor. There is no better or worse and people should embrace language diversity as a positive. However, it is important that your accent is clear and that people understand what you are saying.
This free guide, therefore, is not trying to change your identity. The mission of this guide is to make you speak more clearly in a business context. And, as you’ll see, improving your pronunciation has a host of powerful benefits that can help you take your career to the next level.
How to Improve Your English Pronunciation
Improving your English pronunciation has clear benefits. First of all, you will save time, as you won't need to repeat yourself as often. You will feel more included at work and experience less native speaker bias, also called accent bias (read what this is in the pronunciation guide above). And most importantly –you will feel more confident speaking English.
If you are ready to improve your accent, here are some effective strategies to get you started.
#1 Focus on speaking, not reading
Just like you can't really learn to dance without dancing, you can't improve your pronunciation without speaking. Use every opportunity you have to try speaking with other speakers. Chat with colleagues from work, attend a local language meetup (as soon as Covid allows), talk to yourself! Saying things out loud will help you build your confidence quickly and give you a better intuition for the correct pronunciation.
#2 Sing a song
Read the lyrics of the songs you like and sing along. Try to pronounce sounds correctly and imitate the singer's accent. It might be challenging at the beginning, but this is a great way to learn how to link words and find out how native speakers speak informally.
#3 Identify your problem sounds
The first step is to identify your problem sounds. These are the sounds you may not be pronouncing correctly and that make your speech less clear. Read a text outloud and try to single out those sounds that you find difficult and practice them with videos and podcasts. If you are not sure about your problem sounds, you can start here: How To Pronounce The Most Difficult English Sounds Correctly.
#4 Record yourself
You will find recording yourself as uncomfortable as helpful. Once you have identified your problem sounds, record yourself while practicing them. This is an effective strategy because it allows you to compare your pronunciation to the target sound.
Read fragments out loud and spot the mistakes you make. Then, repeat them over again until it starts to sound right. Keep some of your recordings and listen to them every now and then –you will find out how much of a progress you are making!
#5 Learn in chunks (rather than isolated words)
Each phrase has a melody, like a piece of music. This melody is important because it is how native speakers decode what you’re saying. While there are great pronunciation guides that teach you how to find the stressed syllable, one quick and easy way to improve your melody is to learn entire phrases rather than isolated words. This way, you will learn how those words should be pronounced together.
- Practice linking words with Lisa's video on YouTube.
#6 Try audio shadowing
Take your favorite podcast or radio show and try repeating a fragment of the audio mimicking the speaker. This is called shadowing, a powerful technique that will help you feel more in tune with the language and better understand pronunciation and intonation patterns. It's basically the next level to singing a song, as you imitate actual conversations.
First, prepare an audio file and its transcript (you can use TED talks, a book and its audiobook, or a podcast with the transcript available). First, listen to it as you follow the text. Then, practice mimicking the speaker, repeat exactly the same words with the same pronunciation and intonation.
- Find some inspiration on your favorite audio resources here.
Keep Improving Your English Prounciation
Download the full guide for free to access all the videos and tips. If you are looking for help from a experienced instructor, get in touch with Talaera and we will match you with the right teacher.
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- How To Pronounce The Most Difficult English Sounds Correctly
- How To Effectively Reduce Your Accent in English
- How to Express Yourself Confidently in Meetings When English is Not Your First Language
- How To Ask For Clarification Like A Native English Speaker
[Note: article originally posted in October 2019 and updated in January 2022]