Improve your English pronunciation and reduce your accent!
Pronunciation is often an area that English language learners have a lot of problems with. No matter what your first language is it’s almost guaranteed that there are ways that you have learnt to pronounce sounds that will make the pronunciation of certain English pronunciation difficult for you.
In this post we’re going to look at a few problem areas that a lot of learners run into. You can use the sound files in the English4Today Pronunciation and Listening section to improve your own pronunciation by repeating what you listen to and then recording yourself and playing it back for comparison (you need at least a free membership of English4.today to use the listening section).
1. The pronunciation of ‘Rs’, ‘Ts’, ‘Ds’ is not clear or hard to understand/distinguish:
‘T’ sounds almost like ‘D’:
This is more of a listening problem and you can pronounce this either way. You will find that with many accents from the USA and Canada the ‘t’ can sound like a ‘d’ – often when the ‘t’ is located between vowels.
For example with ‘Water’: a British English pronunciation you can hear the ‘t’ – water . In US English it often sounds more like ‘warder’ – with the ‘t’ sound being replaced by a ‘d’ sound. Or ‘see you later!’ sounding more like ‘see you ‘layder’!
Pronunciation, of course, changes depending on the regional or national accent and there are quite big differences even within fairly small geographic areas like the United Kingdom where differences in between Scottish, Irish, Welsh or English accents can really make it hard for you to understand the speaker even when your English is very good.
‘R’ pronunciation: There are varying observations on the sound of ‘R’:
- Let the sound of R flow; don’t put too much stress on this sound especially in the middle or in the end of a word.
- Don’t totally chewing up the sound of ‘R’ in other cases. Practice the stress on this sound, and listen to how your American/English friends use it. In ‘Robert’, the stress is on first R; let the second ‘r’ flow, without any pronounced stress.
2. ‘Vs’ and ‘Ws’ sound:
This is a common problem for many Asians and Europeans.
There is a clear difference between ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds.
- ‘Village’ is pronounced with a ‘v‘ sound, for example and not a ‘w‘ like ‘willage.
- Try that with ‘video’ … if it sounds like ‘wideo’ you still don’t quite have it!
In the other direction, with a word that has a ‘w’ in it try to avoid it sounding like a ‘v’:
- I want a coffee, please’, and not, ‘I vant a coffee, please.’
- Or, ‘I will go to work’, and not ‘I vill go to vork’.
I spend a lot of my time with German speakers and this is certainly on of the main challenges they have pronouncing English.
3. ‘S’ and ‘sh’ pronunciation:
Some of the new comers have this issue. The problem is not how to make the sound what when to use what sound. Learn the difference in pronunciation.
-The difference in the sound of ‘Sue’ and ‘Shoe’ should be easy to follow.
-‘s’ as ‘s’ or as ‘z’: ‘S’ in Sam (the sound is ‘s’), or in ‘is’ (the sound is like ‘z’).
4. ‘Th’ should not sound like ‘de’ or ‘zee’ (French speakers):
- “Can I have the soup, please”, and not, “Can I have zee soup, or de soup”.
The ‘th’ sound is really difficult for some learners! Try putting the tip of your tongue on your lower front teeth, resting your upper teeth on your tongue and making the ‘th’ sound by pushing the sound out between your tongue and upper teeth. Takes a bit of practice if you are not used to it.
5. The vowels are VERY important to pay attention to:
Vowel sounds can also be a big problem for English learners given that the spelling of words often doesn’t have much to do with the pronunciation of them. You can even have words written in exactly the same way but pronounced differently when they are used as different parts of speech. Take the verb ‘to read’
- read – I read every day. Is the present tense pronunciation.
- read – I read a book last week. Is the past tense pronunciation but has the same spelling. Not easy!
I suggest that you use the English4.today pronunciation and grammar sections to get a better idea of some of these weird features of English and buy a good book on pronunciation that provides a lot of examples and exercises for you.
For example, the long vowels are supposed to take longer to vocalise compared to the short ones.
- Short vowels: cat, dog, fig, Sam, car: Don’t get stuck on them, move on to next sound .
- Long vowels: late, she, beside, robe, tune: Take a little longer to draw them out.
See the difference in ‘a sound in mad (quick) vs. made.
6. ‘-ed’ endings of verbs in the past and perfect forms:
- She talked to me.
- He has played tennis for several years.
many of my French friends pronounce the ‘-ed’ as ‘-ed’ – quite normal in a language like French where vowels are treated more uniformly! So they would say talk-ed rather than talk’d
The ‘-ed’ sound is not fully pronounced in most cases. It is more usual for it to sound like talk’d and play’d (where the ‘e’ is not sounded).
7. Open the mouth properly while speaking:
Let the sound come out properly while speaking. Don’t speak through the teeth (unless you’re making the ‘th’ sound!) and try and project both your voice and the words with clarity.
8. Syllable stress matters:
Understand which parts of a word should take the stress and which ones not. This comes with listening and practicing and there are plenty of listening files on English4.today to help you with that..
9. Practice speaking regularly:
There really isn’t a better way to improve your pronunciation than getting out there and speaking! Here on English4.today you have plenty of ways to help you and we can suggest that you use our listening and pronunciation section every day to keep on improving your English. You can also find an English4.today chat mate to talk to if you are a member. Get together and practice your English.
Here are a few tips for your daily practice:
- Speak out loud and every day. You can read English texts or just practice sentences.
- Practice with a friend online or locally.
- Yes, watch YouTube videos! But make sure you watch them from a variety of sources – not just US English – so you train your ear listening to other accents.
- Record your audio, you can do that here on English4.today, listen to it, and then practice to improve the pronunciation.
10. Relax, look at the bigger picture:
Well, not a tip, but a word of advice! Everybody has an accent: you are not trying to eliminate your accent completely but to improve your pronunciation to the point where any English speaker will understand you. So don’t try and copy the accent of your favourite YouTuber or rapper – it may just make things more complicated for you if they have a very particular accent themselves.