How many times have you heard ‘bedseeet’ instead of bedsheet or ‘braid’ instead of bread? You may, in fact, be unaware that you are doing the same as we live in a country where commonly mispronounced words in English are often overlooked.
In fact, each native language speaker has a version of pronouncing a word, lending each English word a unique twang depending on which native language they speak at home. All of this may be fun to hear and help you guess which place the person belongs to but it, unfortunately, doesn’t help you score well in the IELTS.
To be able to score well in the speaking test where you have to answer questions in an interview like scenario with the examiner, your pronunciation will be under the microscope.
The good thing about pronunciation is it can be learned rather quickly if you following these 9 simple tips.
1. Don’t be afraid, Speak!
The first step towards improving your pronunciation is to hear yourself speak either alone or with a personal trainer. If you feel that you want to hear the word first and just imitate the sound you probably won’t register it as strongly as correcting your own mistake. See how you read a word, see how you read certain combination of letters. This will tell you whether you need to correct the way you read the word because that will directly impact your pronunciation.
2. Listen to native speakers
Listening to an expert or a native English speaker can help you immensely as they have a generally relaxed pace of speaking and they stress and intonate on pronouncing words. This can help you not just learn new words but also teach you to correct your intonations. You may also use a combination of YouTube, podcasts and radio to help you listen to more and more English.
3. Learn each word slowly
Many people think that speaking fast makes them better English speakers but that is not true, speaking clearly and slowly shows thought and confidence in your speech. Slow down when you need to think clearly, sometimes giving yourself a moment can help you rephrase your sentences according to the lessons you have learnt. Pronunciations can also be googled from time to time as online dictionaries like oxforddictionary.com or dictionary.com break down the word as per the pronunciation of the word. Use these sources wisely whenever confused.
4. Lips, tongue, teeth everything matter
When trying to pronounce news words check yourself in the mirror to see how your mouth moves. This can help you get the often-elusive intonation in place. Not stressing on your r’s and stressing just enough on your ‘th’s is crucial and this can only improve when you see and hear a native speaker and try and imitate the same facial muscle movements. You can either record an audio file or a video on your phone or computer to help you.
5. Break the words down
Breaking them and knowing which parts require to be dragged longer and which ones to keep short can show the examiner that you really know what you’re saying. Words like “particular” and “introduce” have a certain sound which only comes after you learn which part is to be stressed upon.
6. Try and group words that sound similar or different
Knowing the difference in pronouncing way – weigh, wait-weight, address – address, read and read makes all the difference when you are speaking to another person. Try and group words to be able to know the difference of where to stress and not stress for it to make sense to the listener. Also, words like acquire, require, squire can be read in a similar way telling you how to pronounce the ‘quire’ group of words. This grouping will help you generalise sounds overall for a certain group of words making it easier for you to pronounce anything with a similar spelling.
7. Be funny, exaggerate
When practicing alone especially, exaggerate the sounds till they get imprinted on your mind. Look in the mirror as well when you exaggerate, do it in slow motion and then speed it up, then put it in a sentence and keep track of how it changes over time as you get more and more comfortable with the word. Remembering the feeling or the shape your face makes when pronouncing certain words is key to nailing pronouncing the word every time.
8. Know what influences your current pronunciation
When you are sitting with your friends or family, notice why they pronounce the words the way they do. Everyone develops a language according to the influences around them, pronunciation is a part of how you develop each language. Noticing where people around you go wrong with pronunciation can help you better yours. Correct them whenever you feel confident with your lessons, make sure you tell them the wrong and the right way of pronouncing the word and where the influence of the wrong pronunciation comes from.
9. Put the words in a sentence
Each sentence construction should focus on imparting important information every time. This means that pronunciation also includes focusing on the right word in a sentence for example – ‘I particularly like listening to music by the Beatles.’ See how the focus is on stressing on the right words in this particular sentence. Even when you are putting the words into a sentence, be conscious of the syllables it has because each word is made up of syllables.
Lastly, try this hack that can help you speed up your learning process. Teach pronunciation to a buddy.
Yes, teaching sounds is like a far-fetched idea right now but once you start you will realise that teaching can help you get ahead and make you focus even more on the art of pronouncing. Assuming a teaching role makes you feel responsible and sometimes your buddy may have questions that you may not have thought of.
Enjoy the journey, relax and have fun with the words.