Communication is an interactive process. Talking and listening, speaking and hearing, coding and transmitting your message, and receiving and decoding others’ messages is all a part of the process.
When you can’t pronounce English words, you can sometime receive negative vibes from the people around you since they can’t understand most of what you say. People really don’t appreciate someone who speaks in a language that only a few people understand. Not just that, you won’t be able to express yourself because of the language barrier. And to blend into the environment you are living currently it’s very important to first learn English and then be able to speak it correctly.
Here in this guide, we’ll look at several listening techniques and ways to improve your English accent. Let’s get started.
Tips to Improve Your English Pronunciation
The ultimate test is your accent, which is more essential than the breadth of your vocabulary or the complexity of the sentences you weave.
If you believe that mastering another language’s accent is impossible, you may be employing the incorrect way. We admit they are difficult but not impossible! Here are some practical ways to help you improve your accent in any language you’re learning.
#1 Use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
First and foremost, you must understand how words are spoken. You all know how to pronounce English words, but it is often the result of years of listening practice. You will learn how to pronounce the terms as you practice your English by participating in conversations. This method is tricky since you never know if you heard a fluent English speaker correctly.
That’s why we recommend studying the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). It is a tool that will assist you in understanding how to utter the words rather than spelling them. It uses different symbols and letters to separate the sounds, allowing you to get it 100% correct. If you use a dictionary, it will most likely include the IPA pronunciation of each word. You’re looking for a word in the dictionary that looks like /bi/.
#2 Listen to Yourself
If you are looking for tips on how to improve your English-speaking accent, then one of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to start spending some time listening to yourself. Trust us, it is one of the important steps to do when you want to improve English pronunciation.
Listening is the key to improving your English accent. Even though it’s intimidating to listen to your voice, listening to yourself and noting where to improve your accent actually speeds up your learning process.
One of the best ways to start listening to yourself is by recording yourself using a computer or cellphone. Start by reading books, fictional/non-fictional your choice. Also, poetry can be a great choice for this exercise as it gives the natural rhythm when reading it.
Even if you don’t know how to read in English, you can start practicing by recording yourself when you are having a conversation with a friend or family member. Record it again and again, prepare notes of the individual words and phrases that need additional practice. Keep doing it until you start pronouncing the words correctly.
To improve English pronunciation, you can start listening to audiobooks as well. If you decide to read a passage or a whole chapter from a book then look for an audio recording of that book and listen to the native speaker reading the same book. This will help you acknowledge the difference and point out the mistakes you have been making. This also shows you which words need more attention.
#3 Learning the Phonetic Alphabet
Studying the phonetic alphabet can make it easier for you to recognize new sounds and provides you with some good points to use as you move through the language you’re learning. Knowing the phonemes of a language makes it easier to identify sounds that your ear isn’t naturally “tuned” to. You’ll start noticing these sounds more often while speaking and listening in your new language.
Understanding the range of sounds that are present in the language will help you differentiate between sounds that may seem similar to the untrained ear, which will make pronunciation simpler. If you learn primarily by reading and writing, this can be extremely helpful.
#4 Get Familiar with the Spoken Language
Shift from theory to practice: Get as much exposure to your new language as you can. Even though it’s easier said than done, try to speak with native speakers as often as you can (even if it means using the internet!). Ask someone to repeat a term you’re having difficulties pronouncing, or even record it on your phone.
Then, you can practice pronouncing it as frequently as you like by replaying it. Online dictionaries also allow you to listen to the proper pronunciation, which will help you develop the habit of studying in the target language.
Increase your ability by watching TV programs or listening to podcasts in the language. Put it on in the background while you’re doing your chores, even if you can’t understand everything, so you can adapt to the specific melodies and strange sounds. You’ll notice a natural improvement in your vocabulary, and you might even start to subconsciously improve your accent!
#5 Find out What’s ‘Weird’ in The Pronunciation
Ignoring the strange sounds of your new language will make your sound worse for you when you are in this process of improving your pronunciation. This results in saying the wrong word, for example, the difference between the Spanish pero and perro is a rolled R, and this difference in pronunciation translates to a change in meaning.
As a result of this exposure, you’ll quickly discover that your new language has many sounds that are similar to your native tongue (even if those sounds are written differently). After you’ve found the similarities, you can concentrate on the sounds that don’t exist in your original tongue.
Resist the urge to simply compare these new sounds to those in your native language. This may appear to be a convenient shortcut, but it is a terrible habit that will make correcting your pronunciation even more difficult in the long run.
Start using notecards if you’re having problems with a certain phoneme. Make a list of phonemes that are similar but not the same. Repeat them multiple times aloud. This will assist you in recognizing nuances and mastering small variations.
#6 Break down words into sounds
Now here comes the fun part, i.e practicing and improving your pronunciation by breaking down words into sounds. Breaking down words into sounds is a good way to start.
Rather than pronouncing the entire phrase at once, which sometimes results in mumbling if the word is long, break it down into syllables and the syllables into sounds. Practice each syllable and sound individually, then go over them again and again.
Then try saying the entire word again, all at once. As with anything else in life, breaking down major goals or projects into smaller, more achievable, and actionable steps can help you nail it. Concentrate on certain words or sounds that you have difficulty pronouncing.
For additional support, write the words in syllables, with a line between each syllable in a word. Here’s an extra hint! If you don’t know how many syllables a word has, try this: pronounce the word while placing your finger right under your chin. Every time your chin contacts your finger, a new syllable is added. Try the term “syllable” on its own. “Syl-la-ble”. Three times your chin met your finger. Isn’t it much less difficult now?
Okay, we know this is tough but very useful. Try to visualize how you should pronounce a word that you find difficult to pronounce. Close your eyes and visualize where your tongue and lips should be placed to make the sound.
If you’ve ever watched how native English speakers pronounce the difficult phoneme “sh,” as in the word “English,” you’ll notice that you need to curve your lips and project them slightly forward. Then, while performing the actions, say the word.
Keep in mind that it’s all about practicing your muscles, and that practice makes perfect. I recommend completing this exercise frequently and with your eyes closed. It’s essential to concentrate on the movements and activities inside your mouth.
Doing it with your eyes open may make it more difficult because you are more easily distracted by visual information from your surroundings.
#8 Shadow Native Speakers
What exactly is shadowing, and how does it relate to enhancing your pronunciation? It is a technique in which you listen to someone speak in English (or any other language) and then repeat what they say. Like a shadow or echo to their words. You might find it amusing or wonder if it actually works. It does, especially when it comes to pronunciation. As I previously stated, it is all about muscles, and the faster you train them, as the native speaker does, the faster you will improve.
Another exciting thing is that shadowing can help you improve your whole English communication skills, including not only pronunciation but also stress and intonation. The last two are also essential components of speaking English naturally and confidently, so it’s worth a shot. The procedure is simple and easy:
- Select your favorite Netflix film or series, as well as a YouTube video or podcast.
- Turn on the English subtitles or keep the transcript close at hand.
- Repeat along with them, try to keep up with the pace.
It may not be easy at first, but as you progress, you will find it easier to keep up with the pace.
#9 Read out loud
Choose your favorite English news website or online magazine and begin reading the articles out loud. You will acquire new terminology, but most importantly, you will improve your pronunciation in a private way, without any judgment.
However, don’t be too hard on yourself. Even if you continue to make mistakes or struggle with specific sounds, you must keep practicing them until you master them. Recognize all of the sounds you’ve mastered so far and continue to practice mindfully. Make it a daily habit to read English texts aloud for 15 minutes every day.
If you’re unsure how to pronounce a word, look it up in a dictionary and use the IPA letters to figure out how to say it. If you are still unsure, have a native English speaker monitor you and fix your errors. If you can’t find one, an English professional coach can help.
#10 Go Slow
Most English learners assume that speaking fast makes them appear more proficient. But, that’s not the case. Mind and body alignment are important components of effective English communication. Speaking too quickly will cause you to sound and look worse than you think, and your brain will struggle.
Speaking in a language different than your own tongue is not easy, and speaking quickly can soon overwhelm you. The less calm your mind is, the less comfortable your body will be. As a result, your muscles (including those used to speak) will be tense and stiff.
Have you ever seen performers, singers, or presenters perform certain kinds of mouth exercises (which appear to be amusing facial expressions)? They do it to relax their muscles, which helps in the smooth and gentle delivery of their voice. The same is true for you. There’s no reason to put yourself through this when you can simply choose a slower speaking speed in the first place. Slowing down also helps with breathing, and these brief pauses allow you to rapidly recharge and focus not only on how you speak English but also on your message.
Keep on Practicing!
Training your accent takes time and effort, so don’t give up if it doesn’t come naturally. Your training sessions should be frequent for the best efficiency. Collect newspaper articles, screenplays, and lyrics, then record yourself reading them aloud.
Then listen and assess your strengths and flaws. What behaviors from your native language are you transferring to your new language? You can also ask feedback from native speakers.