How can I improve my English pronunciation?

How can I improve my English pronunciation?

Try these simple and effective activities to improve your pronunciation.

Pronunciation is really important for communication and making sure people understand your message. 

Pronunciation is also helpful for your listening skills. When you know what words sound like in a sentence, you'll understand much more of what you hear.

So, how can you improve your pronunciation? Here are some ideas.

1. Listen and write

Take a short clip from a song, film, show or audio file. Write down the words that you hear and replay it until you have got them all. Play it at 0.75x or 0.5x speed if you need to.

Then compare your version with the lyrics, transcript or subtitles. Did you get it exactly? Note any differences. This really helps you to focus on particular pronunciation features.

Finally, say the words yourself, copying the same sounds that you heard. Repeat the practice until you can pronounce the sounds smoothly and comfortably.

2. Speak and check

This is the reverse of the previous tip. Now, you say the words and let a dictation app or website write down what you say.

If it writes down what you said correctly, you must have pronounced it well! But if it doesn't, check those misunderstood words because you might not have pronounced them clearly. (Note, however, that dictation programs do sometimes make mistakes.)

For this tip, you'll need a dictation app or website. Many phones have voice dictation functions. You can also use websites such as https://dictation.io/ (make sure you set the language to English).

3. Record yourself

Prepare a few sentences and record yourself saying them, using your phone. Then listen to the recording. Are you satisfied with your pronunciation? Were any sounds unclear? Was it too fast or slow? 

You can also try saying the sentences that you listened to for tip 1 and compare your recording with the original.

Many people dislike listening to their own voice! But if you can get past this reaction, it's a good way to identify things to improve in your pronunciation.

4. Learn pronunciation symbols

Did you know that English has 26 letters but over 40 different sounds?

We use special symbols to show pronunciation. For example, the word enough is /ɪ'nʌf/. This helps us see that the first sound of enough is actually an /ɪ/ sound, not an /e/ sound, even it's spelled with 'e'.

It's worth learning these symbols because then you can identify individual sounds more precisely. Learning the symbols takes a little work, but it's not too hard – in fact, many are obvious. You can probably guess what sounds /n/ and /f/ represent!

Most dictionaries use these symbols. You can also see and hear all of the symbols in the Sounds Right app.

5. Focus on confusing sounds

We suggest focusing on sounds that can cause confusion for listeners if they are pronounced incorrectly. Here are some examples.

  • Long and short vowels, e.g. I want to leave here (long /i:/ sound) vs I want to live here (short /ɪ/ sound)
  • /r/ and /l/, e.g. Can you correct the file? vs Can you collect the file?
  • Consonant clusters, e.g. clothes – some people say it like close or closes.

When you practise English, make a note of any confusions like these and practise pronouncing them clearly.

Now you've read our advice on improving your pronunciation, go and try out some of the ideas. Good luck!

Discussion

Language level

Average: 4 (39 votes)

Submitted by asrdavid on Sat, 25/11/2023 - 13:53

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I'm always evaluated as upper intermediate B2, I feel so frustrated about this. I have been using English for 5 years as my communication language. I'm doing a PhD degree in pharmacy and still unconfident about my English :(. I knew that my pronunciation is the worst part of my story ( as I learned English only by reading and writing , no listening) and only living abroad made me realize how bad my pronunciation is. But now I'm not satisfied even with my level test :(

Hello asrdavid,

That sounds really hard and I'm sorry to hear you are so frustrated. Without knowing you better, I can't say anything about your level, but I can say that it's quite normal for people to 'plateau' at certain levels. This simply means that continuing to improve takes more, or perhaps a different kind of, effort.

The step from B2 to C1 is a significant one. Again, it's hard for me to give you specific advice without knowing you, but one thing I always recommend my students do is read. It sounds as if you may do a fair amount of that already, but if not, I'd encourage you to try it. Try reading things that are different from what you normally read. If you read novels, they don't have to be classics of English literature -- choose books that you think you would enjoy. You could even get the English version of a book you've already enjoyed reading in your native language. In that way, you can pay more attention to the language as you revisit a story you like.

With pronunciation, the amount of work to do can feel overwhelming. I'd suggest choosing two or three very specific aspects of pronunciation to improve -- for example, the pronunciation of the '-ed' ending, or the intonation of questions -- and working on them until you've made some good progress. Ignore other aspects of pronunciation until those feel natural -- or at least more natural -- than before. Often people need to exercise their mouths quite a lot to make the sounds; this is normal and not necessarily a sign of a problem. Once you've improved in these two of three aspects you identified and are producing the sounds with much less effort, move on to a new set of two or three. Progress is slow in the beginning, but often people find that it increases much more quickly after awhle.

And of course always feel free to ask us about things here. We're happy to help as best we can.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Maftuna Obidjonova on Tue, 21/11/2023 - 18:54

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I want to improve my speaking

Submitted by aisha2014 on Wed, 04/10/2023 - 22:51

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I would like to improve my english please

Submitted by swallows1346 on Thu, 07/09/2023 - 14:32

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short and useful