6 Steps to Better English Pronunciation

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Is learning pronunciation just like learning new vocabulary?

A lot of people want to improve their English pronunciation, but they don’t understand that improving their pronunciation is very different from learning new vocabulary. When you learn a new vocabulary word, you just memorize it and you’re done. You learn that “table” is the furniture that you serve dinner on. That’s it. Just remember it and you’re done.

But even if you memorize exactly where to place your tongue to pronounce “th” or “r” correctly, you won’t necessarily walk away pronouncing that sound correctly 100% of the time.

Why? Because pronunciation is a result of muscle memory. It’s much more like learning how to play a sport, or learning a new musical instrument, than learning a new word. How do you learn to play the piano? Or become a start soccer place?  Practice, practice, and practice some more.

Great! But perhaps you’ve been listening to the same pronunciation CD for the past 5 years, and people still ask you to repeat yourself. You might not be practicing correctly. At Confidence Learning Services, we go through certain steps in order to help you improve your pronunciation. In order to learn any new pronunciation sound, you have to complete the following process:

Step 1 to better English Pronunciation: Listen.

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Can you tell the difference between “leave” and “live”? “Bit” and “bet”? Which word has the “short i” sound? If you cannot identify the sound when you hear it, you will struggle to pronounce it.

Step 2 to better English Pronunciation: Make the sound.

You must be able to pronounce a difficult sound by itself, before you pronounce it within a word. You will find some sounds easy to pronounce, as soon you realize what you’re doing incorrectly. It can be helpful to get an in-depth Pronunciation Evaluation, in order to identify those problem sounds. Other sounds might be more difficult, even when you know what you’re doing wrong. This is where a trained Accent and Pronunciation professional can be helpful in guiding you to correct pronunciation.

Step 3 to better English Pronunciation: Single Words.

If you can say the sound correctly, now try it in different words and contexts. Pronounce, “little” “love” and “life” if you’re working on /l/, for example.

Step 4 to better English Pronunciation: Sentences and Paragraphs

Now let’s put those tricky words into sentences, and then move to paragraphs. You can look for specific paragraphs written to pronounce a single sound, or you can even practice with paragraphs from news articles that will probably contain the sounds that you’re practicing.

Step 5 to better English Pronunciation: Regular Conversation

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Great! You can read sentences and paragraphs that contain your problem sound, pronouncing it correctly most of the time. Now you need to use these new skills in conversation, which can be difficult, since you are typically focused on what you are saying when you are having a conversation, rather than pronunciation.

Putting these skills into practice is like playing your first soccer game. You’ve practice running, and kicking, and can shoot penalty kicks, but putting all these together in the chaos of a game is difficult.

Managing all of your new pronunciation skills takes a lot of focus. Don’t be dismayed if you make mistakes at first.  The more you practice, the more automatic your skills become.

Step 6 to better English Pronunciation: Repeat

You likely won’t master a new sound in the first day of practice, or on your first try. Even if you can say the sound correctly during your practice, chances are the next day you will revert to your old habits without practice. This is because changing your pronunciation is a habit that takes time. So each day, repeat these same steps. It will take a week or two to master each new sound.

If you are serious about improving your communication and English Pronunciation, contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free Skype or in-person English Pronunciation Evaluation. We’ll complete an in-depth analysis of your pronunciation of all sounds of the English language, identify which sounds you need to improve, and use that information to design a personalized, 12-week course just for you.

by Laura Brewer