Practising your English pronunciation gives you the confidence to speak English fluently and clearly, helping you get more value from the vocabulary and grammar you’ve already learned.
Of course, improving your pronunciation helps you to develop your speaking and listening skills – but surprisingly research shows it also boosts your reading and writing fluency. Here are three more tips and tricks to improve your pronunciation, and develop your English speaking, listening, and confidence.
- Listen to different accents from across the English-speaking world
There is a wide range of amazing English accents, so don’t always listen to Modern Received Pronunciation British English. Listening to a variety of accents will help you understand more about the sound system in English, and give you a better sense of English as a global language of communication.
Can you hear the difference between an American and British news reporter, for example? Try comparing a short clip from BBC news with CNN. If you can, do this activity with a friend. Take notes on what you both hear – then compare and discuss.
- What did you understand from the clips (tip: they’re both about the Olympic Athletes’ Village!)?
- Which sounds/words are different and which are similar?
- Do you find one accent easier to understand than the other?
- Can you copy the accents?
Even a simple word like ‘reported’ is pronounced differently in American vs British English – compare the International Phonetic Alphabet symbols in the videos below. You’ll notice that the second ‘r’ is silent in British English, but is pronounced in American English.
To hear more English accents, including regional accents within the UK or the US, try listening to the Radio Garden website (also available as an app). Want to know what’s happening this morning in Manchester, or how the weather is in Dallas, Texas? Open the site, and tap the city you want to tune into. Be warned, it’s pretty addictive!
- Listen and read simultaneously on YouTube or YouGlish
Giving your brain more than one source of ‘input’ is a powerful shortcut to understanding and learning. To help you make sense of the English sounds in connected speech, try watching YouTube clips with subtitles. Reading along with the audio – using your eyes and ears simultaneously to take in the information really brings the sounds into focus.
- Choose short clips – 2 to 5 minutes is perfect.
- Make sure you’re listening actively, as well as reading. The aim is to use your listening skills, to help you understand and then copy the sounds of English more easily when you speak.
- Don’t just listen or watch once – repeat the clips, and try these activities:
- Write down any new elements you hear on the second or third time you watch
- Watch without the subtitles the second/third time around – do you hear more or less detail?
- Pick 2-5 words that are new for you, or which are tricky to pronounce, and focus on practising those.
YouGlish is a great resource for finding English videos with subtitles. You can search for a word, and select from different accents – UK, US, Australian, New Zealand, Scottish, Irish, and Canadian. Then watch and listen to the video, and read the text underneath.
- The goal is to have clear pronunciation, not to sound like a native speaker
You don’t need to achieve native-speaker pronunciation to make yourself clearly understood! Training your pronunciation will make it easier for you to understand spoken English, and to get your own point across clearly and fluently.
By learning about and practising vowel sounds, stress placements, and patterns of connected speech you’ll get more use from the English you’ve learned. English is a global communications tool – there’s no one ‘correct’ accent. It’s all about being you, feeling confident when you’re speaking, and making your voice heard!
These self-study English pronunciation tips will increase your fluency and confidence – why not give them a go today? As the saying goes, ‘Practice makes perfect’. These activities and suggestions are designed to get you listening to the sounds of English and using them in your own speaking, with clear pronunciation. Tell us in the comments how you get on, and which ones work best for you!
Jenny Dance is an English teacher and exam trainer with more than 20 years’ experience. She has a passion for pronunciation learning, and is also the Founder of Phona, publishers of the Say It: English Pronunciation app. Jenny regularly presents Pronunciation Live sessions on Facebook and Instagram with the Learning English with Oxford team.