Learning an English accent is an important path on your quest to become fluent in English so I wrote this blog to help you improve your English pronunciation skills. Focusing on and practicing these lessons everyday will slowly increase your accuracy. It doesn’t matter whether you want to learn an English, American or any other accent, applying these tips and tricks will help you feel more confident when speaking to others in English. All these tips are FREE and designed to help you improve your own unique accent
1) Listening (An Introduction)
Some English sound are really similar and hard to tell apart. Did she say steep or street, fin or thin? Once you can hear the difference, it will be much easier to practice the correct sounds and understand context.
As a teacher one of the hardest skills to teach is listening because not all students have the same interests. People tend to listen more when they are interested in a subject. So whenever you want to listen to something in English, make sure it’s interesting or as we teachers say, “according to the student’s own interests!”
Once you have started listening to English sounds you are ready to copy them. From the start make sure you are practicing English that will be useful for the purpose you are learning it for.
2) Listen to Your Own Voice.
Listening to your pronunciation errors while speaking is not always an easy thing to do. It may not be an accurate way to improve because you will be doing 2 things at the same time. Break the 2 processes down. First, try recording the sound of your own voice by speaking into your PC or smartphone. Then, replay the recording and make a note of the specific sounds that you want to improve. If you think you need to improve your “th” sounds, try recording this sentence.
“Thirty-three thin things I thought of this Thursday.”
Remember to slow down and speak clearly, focusing on each syllable and stress.
Replay the recording and make a note of the sounds you don’t like or need to improve.
3) Imagine It and Do It
Find the correct mouth position for the sound you are trying to improve. Imagine saying the “th” sound and then just say it slowly and clearly. If you worry too much on theory you will never practice. Practice without the correct theory
is equally wasteful. Find a good theory that works for you and practice till it’s perfect. We are going to keep practicing the “th” sound to give you an example.
To make the “th” sound, first put the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Keep your tongue inside your mouth put just behind your top front teeth. Then blow the air out slowly and smoothly between your tongue and your top teeth. Do NOT make a strong voiced sound while you do this. Try it now. Did you make the “th” sound ok?
Practice these pairs of words.
mouse – mouth
sin – thin
thin – thing
dirty – thir-ty
tree – three
bought – thought
sink – think
is – this
Sirs – Thurs
4) Look in the Mirror.
Now you know the correct mouth shape, have imagined and practiced saying the “th” sound. Next you need to check your progress. Before you record yourself again, look in the mirror and make sure your tongue and teeth are in the correct position when making the “th” sound. Compare what you see to what you should be doing and make corrections. Practice again. “Thirty-three thin things I thought of this Thursday.” How did that sound? Have you made any improvments yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t because there are other tips to think about too.
5) Practice Intonation and Stress.
Intonation is, “the rise and fall of the voice.” Stress is where, “some words are louder or clearer than other words.” Creating a good English accent is about understanding how to use intonation and stress correctly.
Thirty and Thursday both have 2 syllables. The stress is on the first syllable so we say the first syllable a little louder than the second syllable. “Thirty-three thin things I thought of this Thursday.” Keep practicing this tongue twister until you are happy with the pronunciation.
Be careful because changing the stress on a word can change it’s meaning. An example of this is present. Say “present” out loud. Do you know the 2 meanings for “present?”
If you said PREsent, where the stress is on the first syllable, you are using it as a noun. Like the present tense or a birthday present. If you said preSENT, where the stress is on the second syllable, you are using it as a verb. Like to present a show.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to memorize all the rules. The best way to learn is to listen and practice with a native English speaker.
6) Copy Native English Speakers.
Listening to native English speakers is the best way to hear the correct stress and intonation in sentences. I am sure you watch television and movies in English. Have you ever tried listening to radio programs or online recordings. Listen to them and imitate what you hear. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what they are saying just try to copy the accent, stress and intonation. How do English people sound like in your own language? Can you imitate the accent English people make? Make this exercise fun by trying to imitate foreign accents in your own language and in an English accent. Finally, focus what you have learnt and try to mimic the English accent using English sentences!
7) Practice Alone.
Most people have pronunciation problems because they don’t practice, usually because they are afraid of making mistakes. You have to break that cycle of fear and just do it. Practicing alone is a great way to get started and build confidence. Recording your voice and replaying it sounds strange to everyone the first few times but after a while it will become easier. Practicing alone can be really fun too. Sing songs, read out loud, say tongue twisters or just copy your favourite actresses on television. The secret is don’t be shy, be brave!
8) Find a Study Partner or Teacher.
Keep practicing lesson 1-7 until you feel confident or just feel bored of studying alone! It’s now time to find a study partner or teacher. It’s really important that you practice everything you have just learnt alone with another real life person. Study friends or teachers can offer valuable feedback. They can help you focus on a particular problem you may be experiencing. Moreover, practicing with others is really fun too!
If you are ready to study with others you can find a teacher by clicking here!