A lot of my fellow foreign English speakers are concerned about their English pronunciation, and while improving pronunciation doesn’t necessarily involve working on your accent, the two things often go hand in hand, and that’s why I decided to write an article about improving pronunciation in general.
First let me tell you a few critical things you should bear in mind when working on your English pronunciation.
1. It’s not about listening, it’s all about speaking!
You may listen all you want, but at the end of the day it’s all about YOU using your MOUTH and training it to pronounce English words in a certain way. Sure enough, listening is an integral part of the whole process, but it ALWAYS has to be followed by spoken practice!
2. You don’t necessarily have to choose a particular English accent to resemble!
I’m taking on different English accents – such as American or British – in my Accent Learning Missions in order to prove that anyone is capable of learning to speak with a native-like English accent. In my daily life, however, I don’t speak with a particular accent, and my ‘standard pronunciation’ is a mix of different accents. You may as well embrace the same approach when improving your own English pronunciation!
3. Embrace ignorance!
Ignore your embarrassment, shame or whatever emotions you might experience when working on your pronunciation. I’m pretty sure that we all have the capability to get English sounds right, it’s just that we are too shy to try out new things because we think we’ll sound stupid!
Also, ignore other people’s opinion if they’re too judgemental of the way you speak. Have an open mind, and be 100% focused on mimicking native English speakers instead of thinking of how silly you may sound when trying to pronounce this or that particular word.
And now, let’s look at ways you can work on your pronunciation. And by the way, this is exactly how I work on my spoken English when learning to speak with specific English accents ❗
1. Speaking With Other English Speakers as Much as You Can!
Speaking with other English speakers is the most effective way of picking up proper English pronunciation. Bear in mind, however, that proper pronunciation is not just going to be somehow magically ‘transferred’ to you just because you’re immersed in the environment.
You have to make CONSCIOUS effort to mimic people around you!
It is actually possible to spend years in an English speaking environment and not improve your accent by a bit if you’re totally oblivious to how other people pronounce words when speaking in English.
It’s all about LISTENING and trying to RESEMBLE what you hear.
The concept is simple enough, however, a lot of my fellow foreigners don’t make any conscious effort whatsoever in order to adjust their pronunciation. And I’m not talking about trying to sound just like native English speakers – for most of us it’s mission impossible anyway!
What I’m talking about is just a little bit of CONSCIOUS effort to resemble people around you, and the compound effect will result in a much better pronunciation a few years down the line!
2. Shadowing TV Programs and Shows
This technique is super-effective because your emotional engagement will help you stay motivated and also the mechanical nature of this exercise will allow you to be engaged into it for lengthy periods of time.
To put it simply, you don’t have to think when you shadow, all you’ve got to do is watch TV and repeat whatever people are saying.
But if you’re worried that you won’t be able to enjoy the program because of your active involvement, you can rest assured that it’s not going to happen for as long as you keep your voice down and don’t speak louder than the TV set!
Basically you can shadow actors or program hosts in a slight whisper for most of the time; you might speak up and speak in a normal pitch of voice every now and then throughout the program.
Here are a couple of things to bear in mind when shadowing English speaking people when watching TV:
- turn subtitles on – it will make it easier for you to repeat what’s being said;
- you don’t have to do it for the full duration of the program or film! If it becomes a drag, your motivation will go out the window!
Do you want to find out which TV programs I enjoy watching and shadowing?
Check out these articles:
- Accelerated American Slang Learning: Watching all 7 Seasons of Desperate Housewives in Less than 3 Months
- 6 Reasons Why Mythbusters is the Best TV Program for Improving Your Spoken English
3. Watching YouTube Videos & Mimicking People In Them
I don’t think I have to explain to you what YouTube is.
It’s the largest video website on the Web, and you can find loads of celebrity interviews, newscasts and individual vloggers to watch! You can also subscribe to their channels, and it will provide a constant flow of new video content you can watch on a regular basis, mimic those English speakers and improve your own pronunciation in the process.
Let’s take, for instance, the VOALearning English YouTube Channel. It’s being updated very regularly, and their newscasts are delivered in a slow, clearly pronounced manner so that any foreign English speaker can mimic those news broadcasters.
You can also search for YouTube Channels relevant to your personal interests and hobbies; in fact it’s crucial to watch videos you’re interested in to keep you motivated and make sure you keep working on your English pronunciation!
There are also some great English pronunciation channels on YouTube, and here’s a few of them you may want to check out:
Amy Walker’s Channel (her channel I like in particular, she’s a very animated personality!)
4. Reading Aloud
Just like taking advantage of your favourite TV programs, you can incorporate speaking and working on your English pronunciation in your reading routine!
Whatever it is that you read – English fiction, online news or your hobby magazines, reading aloud will definitely help you improve your pronunciation – even if it’s a couple of articles in each chapter!
Are you not into reading English fiction? Do you think your vocabulary wouldn’t allow for complete comprehension? Then read this article about How To Achieve Fluent English Reading Knowing Only 70 – 80 % of Vocabulary!
So, make sure you do some reading aloud when you read in English, and by the way – it doesn’t necessarily have to be some printed or electronic media.
You can take opportunities to practice your English pronunciation when seeing any road signs, billboards or thousands of other written English content we’re being exposed to on a daily basis!
5. Engaging is Spoken English Self-practice
Are you complaining about your bad English pronunciation?
Well, you’ve got to understand that others can only help you with advice. In order to see real results, you have to do a lot of spoken English practice while paying attention to how you pronounce specific English sounds and words.
Speaking with others, shadowing and reading aloud are all perfect methods, but if you also add some spoken English self-practice to your weaponry, your English pronunciation is definitely going to experience a massive improvement!
Here are advantages to developing your English pronunciation while speaking with yourself:
- you can develop your ability to verbalize your thoughts in English while paying attention to your pronunciation with no stress involved whatsoever – after all, no-one is listening to you!
- you can practice different ways of pronouncing this or that particular English sound and find the best way for yourself (‘TH’ sound, for example).
6. Recording Yourself on a Camera
Personally I record regular videos for both of my YouTube channels:
Now, when I go back to my early videos, I can hear a big difference in my pronunciation which just goes to show how one’s pronunciation changes over time provided that a lot of hard work is being done!
One of the biggest advantages that such recording offers is your ability to listen to yourself and spot any imperfections of your speech.
You see, the funny thing is that you don’t always notice these things when you speak; and even if you were to pay all your attention to the way you pronounce words when speaking, you’d run the risk of messing up your speech. It’s not that easy to focus on WHAT to say and HOW to say it at the same time!
That’s when video recording steps in.
You can record your speech, then watch the video and figure out which words and sounds you should revisit. After that you can do some self-practice whereby you repeat the problem-words a good few times by trying to get the sound just right, and then you can do another video recording to check your improvement.
Thanks for reading,