Learn English Pronunciation: Our Top 5 best tips!
When it comes to learning English, one of the most important things to get on with is how to properly pronounce words. Who never read some words and immediately thought “How am I supposed to pronounce that?!” Well, fear no more because here we will be jumping into top tips and strategies on how to sound like a native English speaker! Here is our top 5 tips to improve your pronunciation:
Top tip #1 The importance of rhythm
First, the English language is one that relies a lot on emphasis. In order words, intonation, stress and rhythm are equally important, just like any other feature. Be sure to learn and focus on your intonation, the way the words are stressed. Pay attention to the way the words are pronounced not only in sounds, but also in the rhythm:
Which syllable is stressed? Which one is not? How important is it?
Well, some words like “read” /riːd/ (present tense) and “read” /rɛd/ (past tense) or “contrast” /ˈkɒntrɑːst/ (noun) and “contrast” /kənˈtrɑːst/ (verb) change their meaning depending on their stressed part!
Top tip #2 Know your sound alphabet
But wait… what were those weird letters ? If you don’t know about this yet, make sure to learn your IPA/phonemic chart too (the International Phonetic Alphabet chart). It’s a very useful chart about the English sound system. It will help you a lot: knowing sounds specific to the English language will help you improve by knowing exactly how the words are pronounced, even if you’ve never heard them before! This can allow you to spot and focus on the sounds you have the most difficulties with. Especially if it is sounds you are not used to pronouncing in your native language. Learning grammar will help you develop this skill as well.
Top tip #3 Train your muscles!
The IPA can also help you to really concentrate on how and where the sounds are made in your mouth. Being aware of how a sound is made is the key to a proper pronounciation. Because muscles in your mouth are not used to move in a certain way (just like when you learn a new language and a new pronunciation) you have to train your muscles to move in a new way. There are a lot of charts that break down where the sounds are made in your mouth, like this one which is very visual:
Top tip #4 Listen closely:
Now that you have identified stresses, sounds and their placements, it is very it’s important that you listen to yourself. It is something that is really easy to do and is so helpful! Pick up your phone or any recording device you may have, pick something to read aloud and record yourself while doing it. This will allow you to pay attention to the way you pronounce and reproduce sounds. Then, note down any sound or stress you can improve and focus on practicing those. This is one of the quickest ways to improve how you pronounce english words!
Top tip #5 Be confident!
We can not stress enough the last tip: be confident. Learning a new language and especially its pronounciation is not an easy task, and a lot of people lack confidence while doing so.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes, do not be afraid to mispronounce words! Trust us, the majority of people you will be talking to will be very happy to help you if you make any mistakes. People will generally just be happy to hear a stranger speak their language! Learning a new language is a long and wonderful process that not everybody is willing to do. So be proud of yourself and talk like you’re a true native!
Strategies to help you improve your pronunciation:
After you’ve mastered these tips, there’s also a lot more strategies you can adopt to help improve your pronunciation even more:
Listen to native speakers
People that are the best at pronouncing English are… well, English speakers! The English speaking world is so vast you can’t imagine how lucky you are. There are tons of movies, audio books, singers, podcasts… there’s something in English for everybody. If you’re more into watching movies or series then fine, pick something you’ve watched already and re-watch it but in its original english version and put english subtitles on. This will allow you to focus on the language without losing the meaning if there are difficult words: you’ve already watched it! If you feel very confident, pick something you’ve never watched. ;)
The same goes for audio books, interviews, songs, podcasts… the possibilities are endless!
Practice tongue twisters
Tongue twisters are a fun way to practice your english pronunciation: read them aloud, focus on the sounds and try to read them over and over again without mispronouncing! If you make a mistake, start over. Remember: start slowly, focus on your pronunciation and go faster as you improve. Do not start fast from the beginning! Tongue twisters are also a great way to learn how to sound like a true native speaker : linking sounds!
Linking sounds are the ultimate way to sound like a native speaker, they are tiny modifications you can add between words to ease and improve your fluency. Say, “Next year” /next jɪə/. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, this is an example of how the /t/ sound and the /y/ sound often merge to form an other sound, which is /ʧ/. Try saying “Next year” with this linking sound now: “Nexchyear” /nexʧɪə/. This one sounds so much more natural! Get the help of a friend to practice other linking sounds, there’s plenty of them!
It’s also really fun to practice this with friends. Which leads me to another very important strategy:
Do not stay alone and practice aloud
Whether it be with native speakers or with friends (or other learners!), practice your pronunciation with other people. You can have the best pronunciation in the world, but if you never speak out loud and practice your amazing skill, you will never improve! Speaking with other people is also very important because it will help you gain confidence, improve your conversation skills and even allow you to make friends all over the world!
English is a very rich language, beware! This also means there are a lot of different accents and dialects, make sure you pick one and stick with it. Words won’t be pronounced the same in British English, American English or even in an Australian accent! You can pick any one you’d like, just remember to be consistent (do not change from a Canadian to a Scottish accent in the same sentence…)
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Why is pronunciation important and why should we focus on it?
There are so many ways to learn English, and out of all the available resources, you should focus a lot on pronunciation. It is VERY important to practice your pronunciation anyway: like we saw on our first tip, some words can be very different depending on how you pronounce them. The more accurate your pronunciation is, the less mistakes you will make while communicating with others.
How are vowels pronounced in English?
Mind you, vowels in English can be especially tricky: can you correctly pronounce words such as “Beet” or “Bit” ? “Sit” or “Seat” ? These words contain either a short vowel (like Bit /bit/ or Sit /sit/) or a long vowel (like Beet /bi:t/ or Seat /si:t/)
Even trickier: diphthongs! One of the particularities of English is to be full of diphthongs (in other words, double vowels that act as one) and you can find them everywhere : pear /peə/, away /əˈweɪ/, boy /bɔɪ/ etc.
You can pronounce even the hardest of words if you try!
Knowing your API along with where a specific sound is made in the mouth, combined with our other tips and strategies can really help you get through the most difficult words. You have no clue on how to pronounce “through”? “squirrel”? “brewery”? even “Antidisestablishmentarianism”? Well, with our tips, now you CAN! Pay attention to each of these words’ features, break them down, focus on what you find the most difficult and practice their pronunciation, over and over. Don’t forget to listen to yourself too ! Also, learning new vocabulary and phrases is also very useful, because you should learn how to pronounce them as well at the same time.
General English Program: Practice your pronunciation with GlobalExam
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