How to Improve Pronunciation: 10 Tips
1. Learn to Listen
The best way to learn how to improve pronunciation is to be an active listener. In the English language, there are many words which sound similar but have very different meaning like sleep or slip, chin or shin.
Therefore to differentiate between them and use them effectively later one needs to be an active listener first. To become an active listener you can watch good videos and movies with subtitles for the beginners.
2. Notice how your Mouth and Lips Move
When you speak, you move your mouth. The way you move your mouth affects the pronunciation of the word.
The first step to correcting your mouth shape is to notice it and pay attention. In the following ways you can check the movement of your mouth and lips:
- Use a mirror. This is by far the simplest way to tell what your mouth is doing while you talk.
- Put a finger in front of your lips (like you’re saying “shh”). As you speak, don’t move your finger. You should feel your lips moving away from or pushing against your finger.
3. Pay Attention to Your Tongue
Learning how to improve your pronunciation involves paying attention to small details such as how your tongue moves. When you speak, your tongue moves in different directions to make sounds. You probably didn’t even notice that since you do it without thinking. To improve your pronunciation you need to keep a check on what your tongue is doing.
Some very difficult sounds for beginners are the sounds of the letters “L” and “R,” and the sound “TH.” Pronouncing them correctly is all in the tongue!
- To make the “L” sound, your tongue will touch your front teeth from the back and the top of your mouth, just behind your teeth. Try it now: Say the word “light.” Say it a few times and feel where your tongue is in your mouth.
- To make the “R” sound, your tongue should not touch the top of your mouth. Pull your tongue back to the middle of your mouth. As you pronounce the “R” sound your lips should be a little rounded. Try it now: Say the word “rare” a few times. You would be feeling air blowing between your tongue and the top of your mouth while pronouncing it. You should also feel your lips get a little rounder when you make the sound.
- Now for the “TH” sound. This one may seem to be a little strange if you don’t have a similar sound in your native language. To make this sound, put your tongue between your top and bottom teeth. When you pronounce this your tongue should stick a little between your teeth, and as you push out air from your mouth, let some air escape between your tongue and teeth—that’s what makes the sound. Try it now: Say the word “thought.”
4. Break Words Down into Sounds
Words are made up of syllables, or parts. The word “approach,” for example, has one syllable: approach.
To check the number of syllables in a word, place your hand flat just under your chin. Say the word slowly. Each time you’ll pronounce a syllable your chin will touch your hand.
Now try saying the word. Say it slowly and pause after each syllable.
5. Add Stress to Sounds and Words
Learning how to improve your pronunciation involves understanding that English is a stressed language which means you need to emphasize some words and sounds compared to others.
You can change the whole meaning of the word by putting the stress in different alphabets. Say this word out loud: “present.” If you said “PREsent,” you are talking about a noun that means either “right this moment” or “a gift.” If you said “preSENT,” you are talking about a verb that means “to give or show.”
Here’s one rule:
- When there is a two-syllable noun then the stress is on the first syllable and when there is a two-syllable verb then the stress is on the second syllable.
That’s just like the word “present.” Here’s another example: the noun “ADDress” is the place where you live, and the verb “addRESS” is to speak to someone.
6. Record Yourself
Use a camera and not just a sound recorder because it’s important to see how you speak, not only hear it
Watch a video or ask some experts to check. Retrospection is very important when learning how to improve pronunciation. If your pronunciation doesn’t sound the same, ask yourself some questions: Are you moving your mouth the right way? Is your tongue in the right place? Are you putting stress on the right part of the word?
7. Practice with a Buddy
As always, “Practice makes perfect!” And it’s easier to practice with a friend. So find a friend to practice with.
Practicing with a friend is fun and it gives you a chance to practice everything learned till now and learn new things.
8. Slow Down
Many people want to know how to improve their pronunciation and many English learners believe that to speak fluently they need to speak fast which is wrong. While speaking too fast the speaker sounds nervous and indecisive, speaking slowly will give you time to breathe and think about what you wish to say next.
9. Picture It…
Close your eyes and think about how to make a sound before saying it. Visualize the positioning of your mouth and face. If you have used diagrams of the mouth and tongue, think about the shape you need to make inside your mouth if you want to make the sound correctly.
10. Sing a Song
Singing helps you relax and just learn the pronunciation by singing them, as well as helping your rhythm and intonation. Because you don’t need to construct sentences for yourself, you can simply concentrate and work on making your pronunciation sound great!
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