In today’s guest blog post Jovana from Saundz will explore different ways to master English pronunciation.
Learning English pronunciation can be tough, especially for students who do not have a regular contact with native speakers.
Unlike grammar rules and vocabulary items, pronunciation cannot be mastered using books only. Instead, pronunciation practice relies on interactive learning and constant spoken communication, which enables students to start speaking the language more naturally.
Of course, some theory is also involved and it mostly revolves around learning the basics of English phonology. By combining some theoretical knowledge of English sounds with consistent practice, you can significantly improve not only your pronunciation, but overall spoken English skills. Among the most efficient pronunciation learning techniques, the five listed below are essential for students of English, regardless of their current proficiency level.
1. Discover the power of lyrics: listen to the English music.
One of the simplest ways to increase your exposure to natural English is by listening to foreign artists who sing in English. Find a favorite band and keep listening to it on a daily basis to improve your perception of syllable lines and general language melody, as well as enhance overall comprehension skills. Music is one of the most powerful language learning resources and is frequently used by language tutors. Moreover, most polyglots would tell you that it’s precisely through music that they managed to learn a foreign language.
Additionally, this specific experiment revealed that “the extra information provided in music can facilitate language learning.” Although they suggest this isn’t a requirement for learning a language, it can help you master pronunciation. Similarly, research from the University of Edinburgh also found that singing is a great way to improve spoken skills:
“We thought we would explore whether there was a benefit and found singing was more much effective, particularly when it came to the spoken language tests,” notes Dr Katie Overy, who supervised the study at the University’s Reid School of Music.
2. Learn the basics of the English phonology to pronounce individual sounds more comfortably.
One of the main challenges for students of English is recognizing the differences between English sounds and the equivalents in their native language. Many students tend to simply replace such sounds with those that come more natural to them, which is why they often retain the foreign accent. This is why they often make mistakes that can cause misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations.
By learning the basics of the English phonology, you will understand the subtle characteristics of specific sounds in order to utter them the way native speakers do. For example, General American has 40 basic sounds, out of which 16 are vowels. This is probably not the number you have in your own language, right?
Even if your language has the same number of sounds, chances are they differ in several key aspects. To understand these differences, you can watch YouTube videos to understand how sounds are pronounced. Rachel’s English features a range of videos that can help you improve this critical skill. With this pronunciation software, on the other hand, you’ll be able to record your pronunciations and compare them with native speakers immediately.
3. Connect to people online to find a language partner.
Communicating with other people in real-life situations is the best way to learn a language. However, many students are unable to find an adequate language partner, which greatly limits their abilities to improve spoken communication.
As one of the aspects of spoken English, pronunciation too should be practiced in pairs. Fortunately, finding an international language partner in the age of global digital communications is easier than ever, which is why every individual should try it.
The language communities such as LiveMocha and iTalki let you find a native speaker with whom you can communicate on a regular basis in exchange for teaching him or her your own language. This can be a great fun because it also enables you to share your thoughts with people who may have similar interests as you. However, if you’re too shy to talk to other people in a foreign language, there’s a great alternative that you can do on your own.
4. Read English books and magazines out loud.
Probably the best technique for those who either prefer self-studying or are too shy to communicate with strangers is reading favorite books out loud. Of course, this also helps you improve your reading comprehension, which is why it should be a habit of every motivated individual. If you turn this into a daily habit, you’ll soon get used to the sound of your own voice in English and thus feel more comfortable speaking in the foreign language.
The best thing about this is that you can start today by grabbing your favorite book and reading specific paragraphs until you get the sense of the average length of the English sentence. Also, you may try combining this approach with listening to audio books to improve your sense of the way English sounds when spoken by native speakers.
5. Set your language goals and find a way to stay motivated.
For many language learners, it will take time until these simple tactics become a habit. However, for the most ambitious ones, this is probably the only way to actually improve pronunciation skills. Therefore, if you truly want to see results, schedule your pronunciation practice at a specific time every day and try to make it a real fun. If you start with boring materials, chances are you’d get sick of practicing within few days. Perhaps you should make a list of topics you’d like to deal with and use different materials that discuss these topics.
This will help you learn more about your interests and will make pronunciation learning more fun. It will make you feel good about your new habit and motivate you to continue with it in future.
One last piece of advice – don’t get lazy. If you truly want to learn English and benefit from what this knowledge offers, you should dedicate some time to practicing. With pronunciation, this is more important than anything, so promise yourself you’ll start now.
Jovana has graduated from English Language studies in 2012 and has been teaching English ever since. She currently works with a team of software developers as a language consultant.