Improving one’s English pronunciation can be challenging. If you’re an adult who wants to perfect your pronunciation, be kind to yourself. Remember that it took you some time to learn your language and develop the accent you possess, and you may have just discovered some sounds you don’t have in your own language. Plus, although there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are 44 sounds. Before you stop reading this blog and just give up, allow me to calm the fear in you. Here are my top 5 ways to improve English pronunciation. They’re very easy and fun, too.
Top 1: You can remember the pronunciation of a word by writing another word that rhymes with the part of the word you often mispronounce.
When I was studying in Australia, I noticed my lecturers kept saying organisation in a different way. The ‘i’ in the middle of the word organisation is pronounced with a long i, not a short i, which is how Americans and Canadians say it. In my desire to remember it, I wrote the word ‘nice’ just above the word ‘organisation’, so every time I looked at it, I was reminded of how Aussies pronounce it. When you learn a new word, think of a word with a similar pronunciation in English or your language and do the same.
Top 2: Copy the actors’ pronunciation in English movies and TV series and presenters’ pronunciation in English podcasts.
You might think it doesn’t work, but it does. As a non-native speaker myself, I grew up watching Sesame Street, American films and TV series and mimicking the actors. If listening to podcasts is more of your thing, you can copy the presenters’ pronunciation instead.
Top 3: Record your voice and compare it with a recording you can get from reputable online dictionaries.
Sometimes, you don’t know when you’re mispronouncing a word. Repeatedly saying a word isn’t a sure-fire way to improve your pronunciation because you may just be repeating the wrong pronunciation. In the comforts of your room, say a word aloud and record it. Then, compare it with a recording of the same word from online dictionaries like Cambridge, Oxford and Merriam-Webster. If they’re not the same, do it again and again, and possibly again, until you get it right. Once you get it right, memorise the position of your tongue and your lips. Keep doing the whole process until you can say the word correctly at least five times in a row.
Top 4: Sing along to English songs.
Listen to an interview with the world-renowned band, The Beatles. Then, listen to one of their hit songs. Notice that their strong British accent vanishes when they sing. If you keep singing English songs and taking note of how singers pronounce words, you can improve your pronunciation. If you don’t like singing because you’re tone deaf, remember that you don’t have to be in tune since you’re not auditioning for Australian Idol or The Voice.
Top 5: Talk to people from other countries or native speakers.
When you chat with people in English, you’ll know you need to improve your pronunciation if they’re having difficulty understanding you. The meeting of eyebrows matched with a quizzical look is the most telling clue. Simply try to change your pronunciation of a particular word or group of words until they understand what you’re trying to say.
Chat with native speakers and take note of how they pronounce words. Try to remember the new pronunciations you’ve learnt from your conversations. If you’re a shy person, go to a pub or bar and get a bit of alcohol in your system (NOTE: a bit), so you can relax a little. Join trivia competitions and other activities that will require you to communicate in no other language but English. Have fun, but don’t forget to listen and take note of their pronunciation.
Improving your English pronunciation will not happen overnight. You need to work very hard. Pick at least 3 of the ways to improve English pronunciation and speak English at every opportunity you can. You can do it!