10 English Pronunciation Tips   

Improve your English pronunciation and reduce your accent!

Essential tips on English pronunciation and accent reduction for people learning English as a second language:

Pronunciation and accent reduction are arguably the two areas that most English language learners have problems with. No matter what your first language is it is almost guaranteed that there are ways that you have learnt to pronounce sounds that will make certain English pronunciation difficult.

This is a list of some of the main problem areas that you need to be aware of. Use the sound files in the English4Today Pronunciation and Listening section to improve your own pronunciation by repeating what you listen to.:

The pronunciation of 'Rs', 'Ts', 'Ds' is not clear or hard to understand/distinguish:

'T' sound almost like 'D':T in some parts of American speech is supposed to be less crisp. It should sounds more like a 'd' in many cases, especially between vowels. Katie is pronounced almost like KaDie, water like waDer.
'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.

'Vs' and 'Ws' sound:

This is a common problem for many Asians and Europeans, so don't take it personally. There is a clear difference between 'w' and 'v' sounds. Even though most of Indians understand the difference, the distinction is often not carried out in spoken English. Let us try this:
-For the sound of 'v', place lower lip gently on the upper teeth and say the word. Don't press it hard, you should be able to exhale through, while making the sound. Most of us find this hardest to get used to.
-For 'w' sound, it's a different than 'v', the lips are supposed to be rounded and puckered like when we say 'u', and with no contact between the teeth and tongue. Move your lips in the forward direction as you vocalize the sound.
-The key distinction between the w/v sound and the 'B' sound is the fact that the lips are closed when we start to vocalize 'B'.

'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').

'Th' should not sound like 'da'(Indian speakers) or 'zee' (French speakers):

This is a very common problem amongst speakers of many different language groups. Put your tongue between your teeth to make 'th' sound. Listen carefull to the sound files where the 'th' sound is used.

The vowels are VERY important to pay attention to:

If you are having difficulty with vowels, make sure to correct it. Buy a good book on pronunciation, or find some local or online resources to learn the pronunciations aspect. For example, the long vowels are supposed to take longer to vocalize compared to the short ones.
Short vowels: rat, leg, pig, Rob, bus: Don't park on them, move on to next sound .
Long vowels: rate, he, side, robe, tune: Hang in there, don't rush .

See the difference in 'i' sound in Sid (quick) vs. Side.

'-ed' endings of verbs in the past and perfect forms:

  • She talked to me.
  • He has played tennis for several years.

The '-ed' sound 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 or with half open mouth.

8. Syllable stress matters: Understand which parts of a word should take the stress and which ones not. This comes with listening and practicing.

9. Practice is a must: A regular practice- over and over- is very helpful. The best way to get rid of so-called 'thick accent' is by speaking and imitating local (American or English) style and slang. A few ways to practice are:
- Speak out loud, speak out often, and as much as possible
- Practice in front of a mirror, or with a friend. Make a game out of it.
- Watch TV to get exposure to the local dialects and speech mannerism.
- Record your audio, listen to it, and then practice to improve the pronunciation.
- Avoid false or fake accent
- Learn how to break the habit of speaking the Indian way.

10. Relax, look at the bigger picture: Well, not a tip, but a word of advice! Everybody has some sort of accent. We are all supposed to. It is the way we are raised, it is the way they speak in our neighborhood. So don't lose your sleep over this. Instead, understand the issue, get some feedback from your friends on which areas you may need improvement on (if at all), and work on it accordingly. While it may take a long time to lose the accent completely, we can improve it significantly over short period of time if we really try.


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