English pronunciation can present a significant challenge to non-native speakers; it can hinder fluent speaking and create insecurity issues. But the good news is that with time and perseverance your pronunciation can improve drastically.
Based on my experience, both as an English learner myself and as a language teacher, in this blogppost I intend to hint at some ideas to help you rise to the challenge and start a journey to a more confident approach to pronouncing, and thus, speaking.
Losing any trace of an accent? Speaking fast and fluently? Well, you will get there but better not to run before you can walk if you don’t want to burn out. Pick your battles!
3 battles to start with
First and foremost, get familiar with the sound chart.
It will pay off, I can assure you.
As with everything, there is no magic pill and unless you are the kind of person that picks up the sounds effortlessly, it will be best if you make an effort and learn the phonemes. Once you know them, you will be able to pronounce anything under the sun, provided you have a good dictionary at hand.
Some students argue that there is no need for that, considering that most online dictionaries pronounce the words for you. Fair enough. If you have a good ear, that can work for you but the way I see it, nothing can beat the step by step approach of learning the sounds once and forever.
And, it’s fun! There are methodologies such as “English Pronunciation in Use” and if you prefer to have some guidance, there are teachers such as myself that can ease the way for you.
Do your gym on a regular basis
You don’t need to pay a gym membership fee for this one ;-). This gym concerns your tongue, lips and the muscles in your mouth. Striking as this gym idea may sound, if you want to learn to produce the sounds that are inexistent in your first language, you need to train, don’t you think?
So, how can you exercise your mouth muscles? What are some of the techniques you can put into practise on your own.
Listen, stop, repeat
All you need is a listening activity with a transcript. Or a video with subtitles. You are set. Now, get the ball rolling! Listen to a sentence or two. Stop. Repeat (imitating the sounds and the intonation). Keep going for a while. Not too long, I would say. Better short and often than long and once a month.
Find youtube videos of your favourite songs in English and sing along. Learning pronunciation can’t get more fun than this.
Use tongue twisters
Word of warning In my opinion, when it comes to tongue twisters, “Short, Silly and Simple” works best. So, that is what I bear in mind when I put pen to paper to write a tongue twister. Plus, my tongue twisters were written for kids. However, truth be told, when used with adults who are learning the sounds, they work just as well.
Here is a sample to target the sound /dʒ/, which the letter “j” always makes and the letter “g”, sometimes.
It is essential that it is read with rhythm and pauses, a bit like a chant.
JUMP EVERY DAY, J, J, J
JUMP WITH ENERGY, G, G, G
JUMP, JUMP, JUMP
IN THE GYM, GYM, GYM
Notice and start using connected speech
I am going to stress the word NOTICE. -Listen, observe, absorb….
Once you have noticed and understood how connected speech works, you can slowly introduce it in your utterances. Little by little.
Having a good grasp of connected speech will simplify your life.
You can visit a more in-depth previous blogpost by clicking here.