One of the most difficult things about learning English is using the correct English pronunciation. Many people think that it’s impossible to improve, but in fact, there are many things you can do yourself to get better at it. Check out this post for some ideas!
Good English pronunciation is much more than just having the right accent. In fact, although accent reduction is important for some jobs, many people just need to be understood in different situations. (If you want more information on British accents and accent reduction, click here.)
In this section on English Pronunciation you can find articles to help you speak more clearly and with greater confidence. I’ll show you how to use word stress and sentence stress correctly, how to use intonation in statements and questions, how to use a dictionary to improve your pronunciation, as well as many other tips and strategies.
3 simple tips to improve your English pronunciation
1. Don’t speak too fast
If you’re nervous you often speak faster. Try to slow down and emphasise the most important words. These are words like nouns, verbs or adjectives. Remember that the other words in your sentence (for example the grammatical words) will then be unstressed.
2. Pay attention to word stress
If a word has more than two syllables (for example, “sim-ple” has two syllables while “im-por-tant” has 3 syllables) one syllable is stressed. We say sim-ple and not sim-ple; im-por-tant and not im-por-tant or im-por-tant, for example. Getting this stress right is one of the best things you can do to quickly improve your English pronunciation.
3. Focus on the difficult sounds
If you’re a French speaker, this might be the /th/ sound, while if you’re an Arabic speaker, this might be the /p/ and /b/ sounds. Learn how the sound should be produced in your mouth – and make an effort to produce it correctly. It can sound strange at first, but keep going! With practice you can make a real difference to your English pronunciation.
Check out this lesson on minimal pairs and practise eight different vowel sounds, and eight different consonant sounds.
Consonant clusters (where there’s more than one consonant together) can also cause problems. Check out some common clusters and practise them here:
More help with your pronunciation
Here are some more ways you can improve your English pronunciation.
1. Use a dictionary
This article shows you the two main ways a dictionary helps you improve your pronunciation:
Most online dictionaries will give you the audio of a word. For example, the Macmillan dictionary, the Cambridge dictionary and the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). You can also listen to audio on Forvo and howjsay.
2. Avoid typical pronunciation mistakes
If someone doesn’t understand you when you speak, it’s probably because of two common pronunciation mistakes: the wrong word stress, or the wrong sound. Both these pages will help you correct the mistakes:
A basic area of English pronunciation – but one which can cause difficulties – is how to pronounce the letters of the alphabet. Get a quick review (and audio) here:
Here’s how to say dates and numbers in English
Here are ten common words that often cause pronunciation mistakes
3. Be careful of silent sounds in English
One of the difficulties with English pronunciation is that often, the spelling of the word doesn’t correspond with the pronunciation of the word.
4. Link between words
A very important feature of pronunciation is how to link sounds between words to have better “flow”. This often means that the word’s pronunciation changes in some way.
A fun way to practise linking is through poetry and songs. Here are some ways you can do this:
Pronunciation Exercises And Videos