It is a common syndrome that several people are good at writing English but they get goosebumps at the slightest thought of speaking in English. The major reasons are pronunciation and fluency. It is something one should not be overly worried about.
Feeling lost when it comes to pronunciation is no excuse to get discouraged and give up. It is a skill that will gradually but surely improve with continuous practice. However, before you get into tips and techniques on improving your English pronunciation, let us first go over what are accents, how they are made, and why it is not always up to you to lose them fully.
Do Not Worry Much About the ACCENT
When you are a child, you learn your native language quite easily. At that point of your life, the part of your brain that is responsible for learning a language is very flexible. Scientists say that you develop your accents by an age, as early as six months.
As you get older and cultivate mastery for your language, your brains then focus on performing other tasks and lose that language learning elasticity. This is why when you start learning a new language as adults, it is much harder to get rid of your pe accent.
When you start learning a language, there are several factors that affect your pronunciation. Some of those are:
Age: When you are young and you learn multiple languages at once, you use the same area of your brain. As you get older and begin learning another language, you don’t use that same area. Rather, it is an area of the brain that is adjacent to the one you used as children.
The duration you have been exposed to the second language: By the time you are fluent in your native language, you are 5-6 years old. This means that you get over 5 years of worth of listening and continuous practice.
Your natural aptitude for mimicking accents: Certain individuals are naturally good at recreating foreign accents. In other terms, they have an ear for languages.
Having said this, we would like to stress the fact that it is still very much achievable to reach near-native speech. And also, do yourself a favor and bear in mind that a flawless accent is not necessarily a sign of one’s command over a language. You can speak having an accent and be an extremely eloquent speaker.
Nonetheless, there are few excellent tips that are being shared in this blog by, Ms. Sonu Goel, Founder of Café Converse which is India’s best and fastest emerging English language institute that will help you improve your English pronunciation.
Speak Slowly and Emphasize the Sounds
Several English learners think that the faster they speak, the better impression they will create. This isn’t true. Speaking rapidly tends to slur your speech and make you sound inefficient. Speaking gently and slowly, on the other hand, will let you get time to think about what you are saying and the way you are saying it. It will also make you feel a bit relaxed.
Also, as you practice your speech, it is always a good idea to emphasize your sounds at the start. Pay special focus to the ones you have difficulty, pronouncing. This could appear a little strange to you at first, but do not worry. It’s an excellent exercise for improving your pronunciation.
Pay Attention to the Physical Aspect of Pronunciation
While speaking a foreign language, you will be using your speech organs distinctively. In other terms, your tongue, your mouth, and your throat will be used in a manner that isn’t familiar to you. This is why it is essential to pay attention to the mouths of native speakers and try to mimic them in front of a mirror.
Listen to Pronunciation-Aimed Podcasts and Videos
One of the best things about the internet is that it gives a wealth of free resources on about any subject or topic. With a fast search, you’ll see that there are numerous helpful videos and audios made on YouTube that pay attention to ways to help you improve your English pronunciation.
If you like podcasts over videos, there are some good ones, such as pronuncian.com that aims, particularly on pronunciation techniques.
Practice Tongue Twisters
Tongue twisters are a proven time-tested technique of improving pronunciation. A tongue twister is a phrase that is hard to pronounce since it is made up of several similar sounds. For instance,
* Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers? If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
* Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?
Start off by trying to pronounce each of the words in the tongue twister slowly, but accurately. Then try to pick up the speed until you can say them really fast. You will notice that they are a good way of exercising your speech organs.
Practice Difficult Sounds and Break Down Words into Syllables
There are multiple diagrams, videos, audios, textbooks, and other online resources that illustrate how to use your tongue and your mouth while pronouncing each sound. Begin practicing difficult sounds in front of a mirror by first learning where to position your tongue and how to shape your mouth.
If you are pronouncing a complex word, not only a sound, it supports to break down that word into syllables and speak each of them slowly.
Shadow Native Speakers
By shadowing, it means repeating after native speakers. The method to do this is to listen to any native English audio or video material in small portions, then pause the play button, and try to copy the speaker. This method is the closest you can get to the way a child learns his/her native language.
Include English Listening into Your Routine
A huge part of pronunciation is actually listening to the correct way of pronouncing the different English sounds. There are several nuances, which our untrained ear cannot pick up. The only manner to learn to discern those sounds and get accustomed to the way they are pronounced is by listening to plenty of English. This is why it’s essential that you try to surround yourself with as many English audios and videos as possible.
Practice While at Home and Record Yourself
One of the reasons, why pronunciation problems persist, is that learners are too afraid to commit mistakes. Remember, that it is a skill where mistakes will happen, and they can get better only with practice. So, in an attempt to avoid feeling shy, practice your speech at home. Act like that someone has asked you questions and form a dialog by yourself.
As you practice, it will be quite helpful if you record yourself either on video or camera so that you can go back and watch yourself to listen for the mistakes.
A top exercise you can try is to listen to pieces of native English speakers, then record yourself repeating those points. Try this repeatedly. See how close you can go to the native speakers in pronouncing those words.
Do pay additional focus to the intonation of the native speakers and the way they stress the words. The rhythm and music aspect of speech is as critical as pronouncing the sounds themselves.
Ms Sonu Goel is a professionally acclaimed certified ESL trainer from British Council having 15 years of strong background for teaching English language in both online and physical classes. She is dedicated to the teaching of English in an interactive and practical way, whereby learners feel enriched with knowledge and experience the language hands-on. She uses creative ideas and aids to let the learning happen as organically and efficiently as possible. Ms Goel has travelled various European countries and experienced an array of cultures and linguistic skills for the English language.