How to improve your pronunciation in English?
Speaking English like a native is not easy and requires a lot of work. So we are going to discover together today the best ways to improve your pronunciation in English and how to speak English with a good accent, thanks to some English pronunciation exercises!
The basics of good pronunciation
First, let’s look at the key things you need to know to have a good pronunciation in English. There is three :
Lay the foundations of English phonetics !
The accent of the word or tonic accent
The first thing to do when checking the pronunciation of a word in the dictionary is to see where the stress ( word stress ) falls !
As a Indian speaker, we tend to neglect this aspect and not check which syllable is stressed . What comes most naturally to us is to accentuate the last syllable, but this is most often a mistake and it then gives us a big Indian accent ! In English, the stressed syllable varies enormously and greatly contributes to the understanding of the word.
It happens that, if we articulate a word badly but we put the accent on the right syllable, our interlocutor understands us. Whereas if one over-articulates while ignoring the accent of the word, this will cause him problems of comprehension.
In phonetics, the accent of the word is indicated by this symbol (which looks like an apostrophe):
'. It is placed before the stressed syllable. Here are some examples of words common to English and Indian English that are pronounced slightly differently:
- Action / ‘æk ʃən/
- OPTION / ˈɑp ʃən/
- SILENCE / ˈsaɪ ləns/
- direction /dɪ ˈrɛk ʃən/
Even if we can recognize these words instantly, we see that the accent is placed on a different syllable of Indian.
In English, sometimes the only difference between a noun and a verb is stress. Compare:
- Record /ˈɹɛk ɝd/ (a record, a written record, a disk); and
- to record /ɹɪˈkɔɹd/ (record)
We notice that the tonic accent has an impact not only on the intonation, the strength and the duration of a syllable but also on the articulation.
Stress can also differentiate an adjective from a verb:
- Perfect /ˈpɝ fɪkt/ (perfect); and,
- to perFECT /pɝˈfɛkt/ (to perfect)
? Is the tonic accent (word stress) new to you? Master the subject with The Rules of Tonic Accent.
The sounds of the word or the articulation
Breaking down a word and analyzing each of its sounds is essential to learning how to pronounce it well. Focus first on the sounds that don’t exist in English .
When you take the time to identify English sounds that don’t exist in Indian English, it reduces the risk of making an embarrassing pronunciation error !
For example, I was unaware of the TH sound in English for years until I learned the International Phonetic Alphabet ! That means I spent about 8 years learning English without even knowing all of its sounds… quite embarrassing, I know. But you can learn from my mistakes !
Take as an example the word: thought /θɔt/ . We see right away that the pronunciation of this word differs greatly from its spelling, so let’s take a closer look.
- We see that it is composed of three phonemes:
- /θ/ ;
- /ɔ/ ; and,
- While the GH is mute .
- Of all these sounds, there is only one that does not exist in Indian language: the θ !
This kind of decomposition exercise is called fragmentation and it is the basis for learning well . It will allow you to realize how English is really spoken and to master what you are doing.
So focus your efforts on that sound, don’t be afraid to overdo it at first until you get used to it. Over time, this will become automatic and you will be able to pronounce even the most difficult words !
Break the word down to better understand its details.
The accent of the sentence
Once you have thoroughly examined the word, you can move on to the next level: the sentence. Many people are aware of word stress but neglect sentence stress, maybe this is your case?
Paying attention to the accent of the sentence will help you speak more naturally, more precisely, to go from a robotic or foreign pronunciation to a fluent and natural expression!
Where to start ? Here are the first steps to correct your pronunciation of sentences in English:
- We always accentuate at least one word in a sentence, but not all the words.
- We focus on the content words , that is to say the words that give the main information.
- Emphasis is placed on new information .
By applying these rules, you will no longer speak like this:
- Can you get something for me in town while you’re there?
But rather like this:
- Can you get something for me in town while you’re there?
You surely hear the difference! But these are just the ground rules. To dig deeper and express yourself like a pro, read our article on the rules of sentence accent .
Improve your English pronunciation to
never see this expression on the face of your interlocutors again!
Techniques to improve your pronunciation in English
You have the basics. Now let’s look at some ways to put this into practice to improve your English pronunciation (even without being in an English-speaking environment !).
Learn the API
Since with the API each symbol corresponds to a single sound, you will always know how to pronounce a word with certainty. No more English spelling chaos !
One of the best ways to learn the API is to use our interactive document : with audio, all the sounds of English and a list of example words! All you have to do is click on the sound you want to hear.
Listen to the audiobook while reading the book
If you like to read, paper or electronic books can be an amazing tool to practice your English pronunciation. Reading and listening at the same time helps you get used to pronunciation, accent, and the difference between spoken and written language.
This is an exercise that will help you understand and pronounce English better!
Read on Kindle
The huge advantage of the Kindle (or e-reader in general) is that it has a built-in dictionary! This allows you to systematically check the pronunciation in the dictionary, quickly.
When you are reading and you come across a word that you do not understand or for which the pronunciation raises doubts , you can simply click on it and you will see its definition and its transcription.
Reading in English in this way is one of the best ways to enrich your vocabulary while correcting your pronunciation, and that while enjoying content to your liking! Here is a video demonstration:
How to Improve Your Pronunciation with a Kindle
Study articulatory phonetics
How do Americans, British or other native English speakers pronounce English, exactly? Pay attention to how they move their lips, and mouth and use their tongue. This is called articulatory phonetics. It is very useful to identify where the sound comes from , how it is formed.
Improve your English pronunciation
with articulatory phonetics
? Our article The 14 English sounds that do not exist in Hindi is unique on the subject on the Hindi Web and very comprehensive. It’s a clear, no-nonsense intro to English articulatory phonetics – a real phonetics lesson!
Record yourself speaking English or saying a single word or sound.
Use video, rather than just audio, to not only hear your voice but also see what you’re doing. Compare to native speakers. When you compare the two versions side-by-side, it ‘s easier to identify what doesn’t sound right and then practice the correct articulation in English. Check the position of the mouth, the movement of the tongue and where you put the emphasis.
Play with Siri
An exercise to pronounce English well, test your pronunciation in English and see if you articulate clearly enough is to use Siri, Google assistant or any other voice recognition. Give him some orders! Try calling someone or opening your favorite app in English. If it works, you’re on the right track!
…but don’t worry too much if Siri doesn’t always understand you! This is a technology that is not yet fully developed. There are even some English dialects that Siri struggles to grasp:
The Scottish accent is infamous for being difficult to understand!
Use these techniques, practice regularly, and you’ll be mastering English pronunciation in no time!
Work on your oral English with a complete solution
To save time and practice more English in an organized way, use our online English training which cleverly brings together what you need to learn English with good pronunciation: audio everywhere, interactive phonetic transcriptions, a ton content, quality voice…
It allows you to check your pronunciation at any time, while learning with live content.
See as well
I hope you now see better how to improve your English pronunciation. To continue on the subject, see:
- Our section on English phonetics and pronunciation.
- How to check your pronunciation in English? · Where, why and how; which dictionary to use to check the pronunciation of a word.
- The International Phonetic Alphabet to easily learn the pronunciation of all English phonetic symbols (phonemes).
- English sounds that do not exist in language to know the list, hear them, learn to pronounce them.
- How to eliminate your Indian accent · The steps to follow to remove your foreign accent.
- Click & Speak to practice English in an organized way, understand the spoken word, correct your pronunciation, and cover all the vocabulary and grammar you need! Then you won’t even need Indian English anymore.