Learning English includes many things, such as learning grammar and vocabulary, mastering such skills as reading and writing, listening and speaking. One of the important aspects of learning English is learning the correct pronunciation.
On the one hand, there is nothing wrong in speaking with an accent. We all have some kind of accent, and none is objectively better than the others. On the other hand, there are accents, and there is just incorrect pronunciation. If your accent is so strong that you pronounce a lot of words incorrectly, people just won’t be able to understand you.
Unfortunately, the older we get the more difficult it gets to learn the correct pronunciation. But difficult does not mean impossible. Here are some tips on how you can improve your pronunciation.
1. Listen a lot
Listening is very important when learning correct pronunciation.
Firstly, English is full of words that have very different pronunciation and spelling – think of the words like “enough” or “colonel” or “choir”, for instance. When learning English, it is essential to check the pronunciation of unknown words. Luckily, modern technology allows us to do it easily with online dictionaries.
Secondly, you need to hear the correct pronunciation of words, phrases, and sentences before you can pronounce them yourself. The more you hear, the better you can understand correct pronunciation and the better you can imitate it in your own speech afterwards.
2. Repeat a lot
Listening only is not enough. It is a very simple but very important idea: to learn to pronounce things you need to say them out loud. And we begin doing that by repetition.
If you are studying with a teacher, repeat after your teacher. Repeat new words when you listen to their pronunciation in an online dictionary. When you listen to an audiobook, a podcast, watch a movie – repeat what you hear, at least part of the time.
Try to not only say the words correctly but match the speakers’ intonation as well – as much as you can.
3. Get feedback
Very often it is hard to be sure if you are pronouncing something correctly: we do not hear ourselves as we hear other people, and mistakes can go unnoticed. That is why it is important to get feedback on your pronunciation, at least occasionally.
If you have an English tutor, you can ask them for extra feedback on your speech. If you don’t there are still ways to get feedback. For instance, you could just have one lesson with a teacher – even a Skype lesson can be enough – or use language exchange websites to meet native-speakers or fellow learners who will be willing to help.
If you cannot do that for some reason, then record yourself. You can listen to a speaker, repeat after them, record that and then compare. Hearing your voice on a recording, “outside your own head” may help you hear the differences better.
4. Practice a lot
You will never start speaking well if you do not speak. Sounds primitive but that is how it works. Just listening and repeating is not enough to truly improve your English pronunciation.
Whenever possible, find an opportunity to speak English – face-to-face with someone or online; look for English clubs in your town or language exchange websites and apps.
If that is not possible – talk to yourself. For example, you can say a monologue in front of the mirror when you get up in the morning. Or maybe you can record videos and put them on YouTube?
Think of the different opportunities when you can practice English and use them.
These ideas are very simple but they work really well. And if you set your mind to it and practice regularly, you will be able to improve your pronunciation rather quickly.