Recently, members of the eTalkEnglish team met with some Chinese students in Beijing. The students told us that learning grammar and vocabulary is much easier than learning to sound like a native English speaker. They wanted to know what they can do to improve their pronunciation.
Pronunciation is probably one of the more difficult stills in English to learn. It takes a lot of time and effort to improve pronunciation. However, it is not necessary to have native-speaker pronunciation. Your accent is part of your culture and there is no need to lose it entirely.
There are many suggestions to help you improve your pronunciation. You can try some of these tips.
Observe the mouth movements of native speakers and try to imitate them.
When you are speaking with a native English speaker or watching T.V. look at the mouth movements of the speakers. Repeat what they are saying, imitating the intonation and rhythm of their speech.
Make a list of frequently used words
Make a list of words that are difficult for you to pronounce and ask a native speaker to pronounce them for you. Also, check the words in the dictionary to see where the stress falls.
Record your own voice and listen for pronunciation mistakes.
Many people hate to hear the sound of their voice and avoid having to listen to themselves speaking. However, this is a very important exercise because doing it will help you become conscious of the mistakes that you are making.
Set a specific “goal” for improvement for the week
Just saying “my aim is to improve my pronunciation” is too general and unfocussed. Try to identify particular aspects of pronunciation that you need to develop and work on that specifically during one week.
Sometimes you may want to speak quickly to give the impression of fluency, however, this often affects the clarity of pronunciation and makes it harder for people to understand you. Slow down your speech until you learn the correct intonation and rhythm of English.
Be patient. You can change the way you speak but it won’t happen overnight. People often expect instant results and give up too soon. You can change the way you sound if you are willing to put some effort into it.