Learning to speak English isn’t always easy because of the pronunciation. There are so many different accents that are considered "correct" and the spelling seems to have no relation to how a word is said.
Talking like a native English speaker isn't impossible. However, it’s not the same as learning English grammar and conjugations.
Improving your pronunciation will also improve your spoken English and you'll be much easier to understand when you're speaking to native English speakers. Learn about different forms of speaking English here.
ESOL Learners: Don’t Aim for Perfection
Unless you have English-speaking parents, you’ll probably never get a perfect English accent. Don't worry about it, though!
English has a number of sounds that aren’t found in many other languages and most people tend to practice grammar rules and conjugating verbs instead of their speaking skills and working on their pronunciation. These problems only compound when being taught by non-native speakers.
Even if your English isn’t great, if you can make yourself understood, people will be happy to speak to you.
Every learner should focus on having a good accent (not perfect) in their second language. You should also pay attention to word order if you want to make yourself understood since English syntax can be very strict.
Why Improve Your English Pronunciation?
Why should you focus on your pronunciation?
To make yourself understood. You learn to speak a foreign language in order to communicate with other people. English, along with Spanish and Chinese, is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
It helps you to avoid misunderstandings and frustrating the people you’re talking to. If you’re difficult to understand, it gives the impression that you’re not interested in learning the language or aren’t making an effort.
Show off your ability in English. It’s all well and good being an expert when it comes to grammar and spelling but if you can’t make yourself understood, everyone will doubt your abilities. If you master the pronunciation, it sounds like you can speak English fluently.
To improve your English. You needn’t stop working on your grammar. However, if you spend just 10 minutes a day on pronouncing your English vocabulary, you’ll see an improvement.
Watch films in English,
Memorise English words,
Evaluate your level,
Then you’ll improve.
The key points when it comes to improving your accent.
If you want to avoid misunderstandings and become bilingual, you need to pay attention to your pronunciation. Here are a few tips on how to learn English pronunciation that you should consider whenever you speak English in or outside ESOL courses.
The “h” in English needs to be aspirated.
There’s a key difference between “hate” and “ate” in English. Make sure you practice pronouncing the letter “h” in front of a mirror. If your mirror steams up, you’re saying it right.
- “The”. Don’t forget that this is not the same as a “s” or a “z”.
You need to place your tongue between your teeth and try to pronounce a “z” as you pull your tongue back.
The letter “r”. Make sure you never roll it!
Your pronunciation doesn’t need to be perfect. Remember that your goal is to produce it as well as you can so that people understand you.
If you’re just starting out, don’t spend all your time on it. All you have to do is practice a bit every day as well as working on the other aspects of the language such as grammar, vocabulary, and listening.
Don’t focus on trying to get rid of your accent. Focus on improving your pronunciation so that native speakers can comfortably understand you. Communication is your main goal!
Your accent won’t stop people from understanding you. Pronouncing everything like you would in your own language will. Remember English is its own language with its own rules for pronunciation!
Just make sure you put in the effort to sound more like a native.
Improve Your English Accent
If you want to pronounce words in English, you need to be aware of the sounds that don’t exist in your language and pay particular attention to pronouncing them well.
Even if speaking isn’t your focus, you should still pay attention to it.
How do you do it?
You should learn English phonetics.
You should train your ears to distinguish the sounds that don’t exist in your language and then try to replicate them. In the beginning, you'll have to approximate these sounds with the closest sounds that exist in your language. However, once you get to a certain level, you will be expected to be able to replicate a number of unique sounds in English.
It’s also good to repeat new vocabulary so you can focus on their pronunciation.
There are also websites, books, CDs, and DVDs you can get to improve your pronunciation.
Have English Tutorials
An English tutor can help you work on your pronunciation by providing you with feedback and tips on how to improve.
Not only will you be able to chat in English, but your tutor can drill the pronunciation.
Your pronunciation will start improving just by spending time speaking to a native speaker as you tend to imitate the way other people speak, especially when you’re learning a language.
English can be difficult to speak if your language doesn’t focus on stress as much.
If you don’t stress words or sentences in the right place, you run the risk of changing the meaning.
When it comes to stress in the English language, improving your pronunciation normally results in your stress improving.
When you look through a dictionary, you can check where the stress is on a word and how you should pronounce it.
A stressed syllable is usually longer, stronger, or higher pitched than a non-stressed syllable. This is a syllable that you’ll hear more clearly.
As a result, other syllables, and usually vowels, are reduced. This means that English speakers sometimes sound like they don’t enunciate.
Golden Rules for Having a Good English Accent
First of all, you need to expose yourself to as much English as you can: books, films, music, videos. Immerse yourself in English media.
Your ears will get used to the sound of the language and you’ll also learn new expressions and start to distinguish the different sounds.
Make the most of every opportunity you get to hear English. Download podcasts or listen to the radio when you go to work, watch the TV when you get home, and watch films over the weekend.
Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes every day listening to English. Bit by bit you’ll improve thanks to the exposure.
Focus on the pronunciation of the sounds you don’t have in your language. In fact, there are usually a number of them as English has a lot of different phonemes.
Focus on the words that you find difficult to pronounce. Make a note of them in a little book under “words to practice”.
Like we said before: make sure you’re practising regularly. 15 minutes per day. This is THE best way to improve your accent. Don’t forget that there isn’t a golden age to learn English online. Short sessions allow you to focus and work effectively.
Listen to the different varieties of English. Focus on listening to the difference between American and British English, for example, and practice repeating a few words or phrases.
If you love films, try remembering your favourite scenes in English. If you love music, learn the lyrics and sing along with your favourite songs.
While this might seem difficult at the start, it’ll get easier as you keep practising. You can also practice English when you’re on holiday.
Finally, make sure you read aloud when reading articles, books, blogs, or novels. Get used to reading and speaking English. When you read aloud, make sure you focus on your pronunciation and pay attention to the sounds you find very difficult. Don’t lose hope when it gets difficult. There are plenty of good reasons for learning English with ESOL courses.
If you want to improve your accent, follow this advice:
Listen to yourself
Copy the experts
Practice English alone
Practice with a friend
Pay attention to stress and intonation
Sing a song
Remember that there isn’t a single solution though regular practice is one of the best ways to make a lot of progress.
If you’d like to see how you’re doing, consider recording yourself with a camera. Use the camera to check how you speak, not just how you sound.
You won’t need a special programme to do this either. Most computers (especially laptops) come with a webcam and software for recording yourself.
Your smartphone will also be able to capture video with the front-facing camera.
I think the best way to improve your accent is to repeat after native English speakers. I recommend a technique called “shadowing”.
Copy what you hear. Look up this technique on YouTube.
You can also do this while you watch TV or the news. Check out dictionaries of English slang as well...