One of the most important aspects of language learning is pronunciation. Learning to pronounce words in English is made more challenging by the fact that words are often spelt one way and pronounced another. For instance, how would you pronounce these words—enough, thorough, bought, though, cough?
To be a successful English speaker, one should also focus on other important features of pronunciation, such as intonation, stress, rhythm, and connected speech. Here are some tips to perfect your pronunciation.
1. Look up in a dictionary: Online dictionaries make your life easy by giving you an audio clip of the pronunciation. Forvo is a wonderful website that let’s you find the pronunciation of words in over 400 languages! While listening to the pronunciation, make a note of where the stress is and practice saying the word as often as you can.
2. Imitation: Listening to English in real-life contexts and in a variety of accents are two wonderful ways in which you can master pronunciation. Choose interesting words, phrases, or short bits of the video you are watching. Imitate the speaker in the video by repeating the words or sentences exactly the way they are spoken. Pay attention to the stress and the tone of these phrases. Check out these podcasts and videos to practice pronunciation:
3. Record yourself: Recording yourself speaking in English can help you notice your errors and work on self-correction. You could use it while you are learning new words or to practise longer conversations. Most phones these days have a voice recorder in them. You could also use https://vocaroo.com/ to record yourself as often as you like.
4. Befriend a mirror: The position of your tongue and the way you move your mouth affect the sound you make. For example, the difference in the pronunciation of the words ‘late’ and ‘rate’ comes from the position of your tongue. Watch pronunciation videos that explain these differences. BBC has a great playlist of videos showing different sounds in English and their pronunciation. Watch them here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation
You could also use our app ‘Sounds Right’ to practise these sounds: https://www.britishcouncil.org/english/business/apps/sounds-right
5. Tongue twisters: If everything else we said here feels like too much work, try tongue twisters! They are great for pronunciation training and most of all, they are fun to do! Try these tongue twisters:
Lastly, be kind to yourself. It is okay to make mistakes. You will get better with practice!
-Reshmi V M, English Teacher