In this episode, I share 5 easy-to-implement strategies for improving your pronunciation in English.
I hope you find it useful – and please let know if you have any questions.
All the best!
Here is the full transcript:
How to improve your pronunciation in English.
Hi, there. I’m Paul Urwin, and welcome to the business English community podcast where the world of business meets the English language. We discuss culture, strategies, techniques, grammar, and much, much more. Find out more at businessenglishcommunity.com.
Hi, Paul here, and welcome to episode 15. That’s right, episode 15 of the Business English Community podcast. In today’s episode, I’m going to be talking about pronunciation, how to pronounce words and phrases correctly in English.
But first of all, if you haven’t downloaded your free training yet, then please go to the website, www.businessenglishcommunity.com and get your completely free, completely free training, video training session. So well worth downloading that from the website.
Right, well, let’s get started with today’s main topic and it’s all about pronunciation. Well, first of all, why should you improve your pronunciation anyway? You might have heard me talk about accent and how I think you can keep your own accent in many cases. But when it comes to pronunciation, it’s all about communication. And I have spoken with many English learners over the years and in many cases, poor pronunciation really is having an impact on communication.
You might understand the words which you are saying. You might understand what the other person is saying in a conversation. But if they can’t understand you, if they can’t understand the way that you are pronouncing these words, then communication is going to be very difficult. And that’s going to lead to confusion, and that’s exactly what we don’t want.
So here are my five tips for improving your pronunciation. Number one, be aware of your movements. When you pronounce words in another language or when you pronounce words in English in this case, physically your mouth and your tongue and your teeth move in different ways to the way in which you make sounds in your own language. Let me give you a very simple example.
When I say the word the, the, I am positioning my tongue on the lower part of my top teeth to make the T-H sound, the, the. If I don’t have my tongue in that particular position, then I am simply not going to be able to make that sound. And you see this or you hear this a lot from non-native speakers who try to make that sound, the T-H sound, the, but they do it with their tongue or with their mouth in the incorrect position. And what happens, you often hear the sound da, da. So I am going to talk to da, I am going to talk to da, I am going to talk to da boss, I am going to talk to da boss. I’m going to talk to da boss. And it comes out as a D sound instead of a T-H sound, and as we’ve discussed, that can lead to communication issues.
So I really recommend, that’s just one example, but I really recommend that you become aware of the way in which you move your mouth. And also, I suggest that you watch other people, so listening is a great exercise. But if you can watch other people either in a live conversation, in a real conversation, or on a video of some kind, watch how native speakers move their mouth and move their tongue when they’re making certain sounds. And then you are going to be able to copy those movements.
Because I think this is something that a lot of people don’t realize, if you just don’t have your mouth in the right position, it’s just not going to work. So however much you practice with the wrong physical position, you are never going to get the right sound. You need to have the correct physical position and then practice on top of that.
And that brings me on to number two, number two is to read aloud. So this is where the practice comes in. Many students say to me, “Paul, I just don’t have enough of an opportunity to interact with native speakers of English.” And I can understand that because sometimes it is difficult to find the right circumstances on a regular basis.
However, one thing that you can certainly do is to read aloud. And if you can read aloud for as little as five minutes every day, that is going to make a huge difference to your pronunciation. Because as I mentioned in point one, correct pronunciation is about having the correct physical position. But if you have been speaking your own language exclusively for, let’s say, 20 years, then you are not going to be accustomed to any other physical position. And that’s why practice is so important. Because as we have a difficult physical position in English, you need to practice that. You need to get your body, particularly those parts of your body involved in the production of speech accustomed to being in a different position. And that’s where reading aloud can really help.
So try reading aloud five minutes a day. Try different types of text, try easy texts, try texts that are very complicated and just practice. Just practice on your own or find a quiet space somewhere and read aloud. Reading aloud is surprisingly completely different to reading without reading aloud. It really has a big impact on the way in which your brain works and the way in which your brain works in order to produce the correct sounds. So give it a go. Let me know how you get on but that’s number two to read aloud.
Number three, record yourself. Well, this is an amazing exercise and it’s an exercise that nowadays is incredibly easy to do because you have many hand-held recorders on the market. You can also, in most cases, record your voice on a smartphone. You can record your voice on a computer using an application. It’s very, very easy to do. So it’s very easy to record yourself. So why not record yourself reading aloud which was number two. So why not record yourself when you are carrying out those exercises and then play it back. Play it back and listen to yourself. And you can try and identify those words with which you are having some kind of difficulty.
Of course, if you can do this in conjunction with a native speaker, then that is going to be much better. If you want to get feedback on your recordings, and that’s something that you can do from within the business English community. I spend a lot of time reviewing and giving tailored feedback to students within the community.
And so if you want that kind of feedback, then come along and join us. This exercise really is amazing. There’s something quite surprising about hearing your own voice being played back to you on a recording. The first thing, of course, is that our voice sounds or appears to sound a little bit different but once you got used to that, you can really focus on your pronunciation of the words, what kinds of mistakes are you making, what kind of words are you having some kind of difficulty with? And this is all part of a process of improvement.
If you’re going to improve at something, you normally need to identify what the issue or what the problem is. And once you’ve identified that, you can then take action in order to correct it. Well, recording your voice and playing it back is going to absolutely help you identify that issue and then you can work on improving it. So that’s number three, record yourself.
Number four, listen to podcasts. Well, you are listening to a podcast right now so you’ve already got that one at least partially covered as well as listening to the Business English Community podcast and I’m really pleased to have you here.
I would also recommend that you listen to other podcasts in other areas of business, in areas in which you have some kind of interest. And nowadays, whether you are interested in sales, or in human resources, or in engineering, or in architecture, or in whatever it might be, there is almost certainly a podcast out there for you. So if you go into iTunes or if you go into Stitcher or whichever platform you are downloading podcasts from, you can search for a particular topic and almost certainly you will find a podcast on that topic.
Well, listening to podcasts is really going to help you because you are listening to people with different styles, with different accents, with different sets of vocabulary, and all of that can help you when it comes to your pronunciation. How to children learn how to pronounce words in a particular language? Well, they do it first of all, by listening. They will listen and listen and listen, and then they will start talking.
So listening is a really great way to build up, of course, your vocabulary, but also to really help you with your pronunciation because you are going to start listening to people and then to start copying them. So that’s number four, listen to podcasts.
And finally, number five is to imitate or shadow. Well, this follows on from number four which was to listen to podcasts. Really, when you listen to an English speaker, when you find someone, when you find someone whose style you like, whose words you like, whose accent you like, well, now is the time to copy or imitate that person. Because language is about copying others to a large degree. So if you can copy that person’s voice, you’re not going to sound exactly the same. You’re not going to use exactly the same vocabulary, but if they are a good speaker of English and you would like to speak like them, and it could be a celebrity, it could be someone on television, you can start to try and copy parts of their conversation. Well, how can you do that? You can do that by imitating or shadowing, just try and follow them when they are speaking.
Now, how do you do this? Well, you really need a video or an audio and it is preferable if you have an audio or a video with a transcript. So, of course, all of the Business English Community podcasts come with a full transcript available on the websites for free so you can certainly check out that if you want to follow along what I am saying. But whoever you decide to imitate, you want to have the transcript because that is going to enable you to read along at the same time as the other person. So you’re going to try and follow them and imitate their voice and copy them at the same time as they are speaking.
So it’s quite a difficult exercise at the beginning. It takes a little bit of time to get used to but it’s a really great exercise. And as you get better at it, you can also leave the text to one side and just try and copy the person without following the text. But that will really help you to copy the way in which they are pronouncing words in English.
You can combine some of these techniques as well. You can record your voice at the same time as you are imitating the other person, and then you can play back your voice and you can play back the other persons’ voice, and you can start to identify the differences and identify the words that you are not pronouncing in the same way as them. And that, again, will help you to improve. So these are all techniques that will help you, will definitely help you to improve your pronunciation.
I’ve just got a question for you. To wrap up which words do you find difficult to pronounce correctly in English? Which words do you find difficult to pronounce correctly in English? Please let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can write a comment on the website businessenglishcommunity.com. Either way, please get in touch. Please let me know how I can help you. I really want to help you improve your business English.
So thank you so much for listening today. And finally, if you have enjoyed today’s episode, I invite you to check out our online learning platform and community at businessenglishcommunity.com. The Business English Community is the essential resource for intermediate and advanced learners looking to take their business English to the next level.
We offer an extensive audio and video library packed with great information together with an active community where you can get answers to all of your business English questions. So, what are you waiting for? I’ll see you on the inside.