9 tips to improve your English pronunciation

By Jonathan Meeson, EFL Teacher at Wiltshire Academy

1. Speak Slowly and Exaggerate the Sounds

Many English students think that the faster they speak, the better an impression they will make. This isn’t usually the case. Speaking fast tends to slur their speech and reinforce bad habits. Speaking fast does not make you better or a higher level.

Exaggerate the sounds in each part of the word. This will seem strange at first, but it is a proven way to improve and has worked for thousands of students.

2. Pay Attention to the Physical Aspect of Pronunciation

When speaking a foreign language, you will be using your speech organs differently. In other words, your tongue, your mouth, and your throat will be utilized in a way that isn’t familiar to you. Look at how native speakers use their mouth then use a mirror yourself. Try just to copy the position of the mouth and tongue. At Wiltshire academy our teachers are well trained and have lots of experience to help you in this area.

3. Listen to Pronunciation-Focused Podcasts and Videos

One of the great things about the Internet is that it provides a wealth of free resources on about any topic. Choose good websites such as englishclub.com and britishcouncil.com where you can find many interesting videos. Alternatively, have a look at youtube or watch British films and TV programmes. Ask your experienced Wiltshire tutors for any help in finding where to look if you get stuck.

4. Practice Saying Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are a time-tested method of improving pronunciation. A tongue twister is a phrase that is difficult to pronounce, because it is made up of many similar sounds. For example,

  • She sells seashells on the seashore.
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?

Start slowly and try to get faster. This is also a fun way to learn pronunciation with your friends as you can race each other.

5. Incorporate English Listening into Your Lifestyle

A big part of pronunciation is actually hearing the correct way of pronouncing various English sounds. There are many nuances, which the untrained ear doesn’t pick up.

A great tip is to spend an hour with your partner / friend / mother / father etc in which you both speak only in English. This will be fun and a great way to learn.

6. Practice Difficult Sounds and Break Down Words into Syllable.

Breaking up the words into syllables helps you in pronunciation and lets you focus on small parts of difficult words. This is a proven way of improvement and something that all ESL learners should be doing from the start of their learning.

7. Practice at Home and Record Yourself

The reason why pronunciation problems persist is that students are too afraid to make mistakes. We all make mistakes and this is how we learn. The old saying “Practice makes a man perfect” is so true and the students that practice more will make more mistakes BUT will also improve more than someone who doesn’t.

Do pay special attention to the intonation of the native speakers and how they stress the words. The rhythm and music aspect of speech are as important as pronouncing the sounds themselves. Record yourself and play it back. Then in 2/3 months compare your recordings and you WILL see an improvement.

8. Shadow Native Speakers

By shadowing, we mean repeating after native speakers. The way to do this is to listen to any native English audio or video material in small sections, hit the pause button, and try to copy the speaker. Many experts say that this technique is the closest you can get to the way children learn their native language.

9. Read Aloud Every Day

Reading out loud every day is a wonderful way to improve your skills, but only if you have mastered the basics of pronunciation. Otherwise, you may be unaware that you are making mistakes, and constant reading would only make it worse. If you are unsure about some aspects of your pronunciation, ask an English speaker to monitor you, or your tutor at Wiltshire Academy.