How to Improve your English Pronunciation

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Want to improve your English pronunciation, but not sure what to do? Here are five tips!

Why is improving your pronunciation important?

Consider this…

If you are a beginner and you have a small vocabulary, but great pronunciation, then you can communicate simply but successfully.

Don't be embarrassed by pronunciation mistakes...
Don’t be embarrassed by pronunciation mistakes…

On the other hand, if you have advanced grammar and vocabulary but your pronunciation is BAD… then other people won’t understand what you say!

This is embarrassing and it’s a serious blow to your confidence.

If you work on improving your English pronunciation so that you can speak clearly, then you can be confident that whatever you say, you will be understood.

#1 – Improve your English pronunciation by Practicing minimal pairs

“Minimal pairs” are two words that are different by only one sound.

Some of these sounds may not exist in your native language, so it may be difficult to make the difference. Lots of practice is needed to improve your pronunciation of these minimal pairs!

Listen to these pairs and repeat them:

  • it / eat
  • share / chair
  • wait / wet
  • bad / bed
  • ice / eyes
  • right / light
  • free / three
  • they / day

#2 – Improve your English pronunciation by paying attention to stress

Individual English words have a “strong” syllable, for example:

  • Eng lish – stress on the first syllable
  • im prove – stress on the second syllable

If you get the word stress wrong, the word can sound completely different and impossible to understand! Also, for some English words, their meaning changes when the stress is different:

  • Robot-iconob ject (noun) = a thing, an item
  • ob ject (verb) = to disagree, to speak up against an idea

In natural spoken English, complete sentences also have stress. We don’t say each word in the sentence equally, like a robot!

Consider this sentence:

“Last Saturday, I went to a party on the beach with my fr friends.

When spoken naturally, the stress is on the words Saturday, went, party, beach, and friends.

#3 – Improve your English pronunciation by “linking” your words together

Many English learners pronounce each word clearly and distinctly, trying get the pronunciation perfect – but native English speakers don’t do this.

Natural spoken English "links" the words together
Natural spoken English “links” the words together

Natural spoken English contains links and reductions.

The words get “connected” together, and some sounds change and disappear when spoken at normal speed.

We don’t pronounce every individual word clearly. Here are some examples:

“How are you feeling today?”
Sounds like: “Howrya feelin’ today?”

“I’m going to have lunch.”
Sounds like: “I’m gonna-avlunch.”

Mastering these “links” and “reductions” will improve your English pronunciation by helping your spoken English sound more continuous and natural.

#4 – Improve your English pronunciation by “shadowing” a native English speaker

The "shadowing" technique helps you speak more like a native
The “shadowing” technique helps you speak more like a native

What is “shadowing”? It works like this:

1) Get an audio recording + transcript of a native speaker talking at normal speed.

2) Listen to the first sentence (or phrase) of the audio, then pause it and try to repeat it exactly, imitating the native speaker’s rhythm and the “flow” of the words

3) Continue – listen, pause, repeat after each phrase

4) If you can also try to do this without looking at the text, it will be even more effective.

How does this help improve your pronunciation? Because it helps you learn the correct pronunciation with your EARS (hearing and imitating), not with your EYES (seeing the word and reading it aloud).

You’re practicing the “music” of English without interference from seeing the written form of the word – as you know, many English words are written differently from the way they are pronounced.

This technique is the closest way possible for training your pronunciation in the same way that native English-speaking children learn to talk!

#5 – Improve your English pronunciation by practicing as much as possible!

Improve your English pronunciation with LOTS of practice!
Improve your English pronunciation with LOTS of practice!

The key to improving your pronunciation in English is lots of practice – just like physical exercise makes your body stronger, pronunciation practice trains your mouth to speak English correctly.

Remember that you are “re-training” the muscles of your lips, mouth, and tongue to make different sounds, after many years of speaking your native language.

This takes time and MANY repetitions…

But if you do it, you will succeed in improving your English pronunciation!

Where can you find hundreds of pronunciation exercises that will help you master all the sounds of English?

The American English Pronunciation Course here at Espresso English will help you reach your goal of speaking clear, correct, and confident English.

In the pronunciation course, you will learn…

  • All the sounds of American English, with lots of practice exercises
  • How to make the difference between similar sounds, and eliminate pronunciation errors
  • How to speak faster and more naturally
  • Exactly how you can improve even further, with a personal evaluation of YOUR pronunciation by an Espresso English teacher

…and you can also add the Shadowing with Shayna course for even more practice!

Are you ready to start speaking English more clearly and confidently – today?

Learn more & sign up

Student Story: Márcia

marcia_hI’m from Brazil but I live in the U.S. since 2009, married to an American citizen. When I came here, my English was poor, just for survival. I improved a little bit, but my pronunciation was terrible and I had lots of difficulty understanding spoken English. “The American English Pronunciation Course” was exactly what I needed.

Shayna is an excellent teacher, she give you all the tips, she knows the difficulty the person has. In 30 days my pronunciation improved fast, my English is much better and I’m feeling more confident. Everybody noticed my performance.

Thank you Shayna for helping me learn better English.

– Márcia H., Brazil (now living in U.S.)

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