Some Tips and Tricks to Help Non-Native English Speakers improve English Pronunciation

Here are a few tips to improve English pronunciation. But before we get into that which is the focus of this article, let's step back a bit and look at the whole scenario of what goes into helping a non-native English speaker or anyone for that matter, land his or her first ESL job. Firstly you have to honestly look at your weaknesses and what you need to work on the most to ace the interview.

There are various aspects to it like:

  • A well written CV and resume 
  • Solid fluency is English and good grammar 
  • A sparkling attitude & generating that "I want this job vibe." 
  • If the interview is conducted via Skype, good interviewing skills
  •  And of course, decent pronunciation (the article focus.)

So let's take a nice hard look at how to improve English pronunciation. What you should do. What you shouldn't and what is a waste of your  time.

Short term and long term goals need to be thought of before you go into your interview. For example should your primary focus be on grammar or your accent. One very common mistake that non-native English speakers make is the speed at which they speak.

In order to improve your English pronunciation, it's important to remember to speak slowly. You need to give yourself the time to get your mouth into position to clearly enunciate. It would be good to understand that  the thought appears in the mind first. The mouth movement lags behind the thought. So in order to improve English pronunciation give your mouth time to form the correct position to make the sound as closely to your native target as possible.

If your pronunciation or accent is heavy speaking faster won't help anything, in fact it will have the opposite effect of irritating the listener. The take away is speed of speaking isn't directly correlated to fluency. To improve English pronunciation practicing actually speaking out loud when you answers typical questions that you believe they may ask you.

Here is a nice little pronunciation poem.  The speaker is male and it covers many different sounds in 1:14 seconds. It comes complete with a transcript so you can read a long with it.

Containing long vowels, short vowels, consonant blends etc. If you can read along with this poem and can correctly pronounce most of it you are well on your way to having excellent pronunciation!

The Mechanics of Improving English Pronunciation by Being Aware of The 3 Critical Areas. Lips, Tongue and Mouth

With any given sound the shape of  your mouth conveyed by your lips will be different so when practicing a sound you'll need to get your mouth into the correct position to make that sound.

Another critical aspect to improve English pronunciation is to be aware of where your tongue should be when you are practicing. Depending on the sound your tongue will be in the back of the mouth, in the center or in the front of the mouth.

And lastly is your throat. Some sounds originate in the front of the mouth while others come from the throat or are much more guttural. For example the consonant sounds "t",  "p" and a host of others come from the front whereas sounds "g" and "d" come from the throat meaning you will feel your throat vibrate when you enunciate the sound. You can check this by simply feeling your throat as you practice it. So for example if you are saying "g" and you aren't feeling any vibration you aren't making the sound correctly.

Techniques to Help You Improve English Pronunciation

Mirroring the speech of a native English speaker can improve the pronunciation of ESL learners who have pronunciation patterns that have become deeply ingrained in the learner.

It forces learners to focus on the more natural part of sounding native i.e. intonation, stress, and rhythm. So without reading it, you just listen to it and "wrap  yourself up" in the sound and intonation, stress points of the sentence.

Improve English Pronunciation Through Listening For Rhythm And IntonationImprove English Pronunciation Through Listening For Rhythm And Intonation
    This technique works because you are removing or isolating your target. If you are just reading it and saying it aloud you are including reading in the desired mastery of the target. This "dilutes" the practice. 
    If you are focusing on hearing and mirroring all your effort gets channeled directly into the rhythm and intonation part of the sentence.

    This is actually similar to way native speakers learn the language. (They are learning speaking but they can't read right?)

Here Are Some Tips on How to Further Improve English Pronunciation

  • Get a recording that you want to work with and play it at normal speed. One sentence at a time and mirror that pronunciation as closely as you can. Drill it a few times then move on. When  you pick your target, for many it is helpful to pick a target voice you are interested in. Someone you would like to talk like. This helps you stay motivated.

  • So you are cutting the dialog into bite size pieces and mimicking them. Not reading them but verbalizing them or saying them out loud.

Psychological issues and doubts also play a role of obstructing learning to improve your pronunciation. Removing or reducing the impact of these problems are easier said than done. 

Many Struggle With:

  • Feeling subconscious about how you sound or appear to others when you speak. Some non-native English speakers feel that people will think they are "stupid" when they are heard speaking.
  • Others are afraid that the teaching methodology is old and that they don't want to pick up outdated methods. They want to learn the natural way.

  • Heavily rely on your English teacher to point out your pronunciation errors. After all what happens when you leave that school? You need to train your own ears to notice when you are saying something differently than a native speaker, write it down and practice it.

More Related Articles...

Tips for Competing With Native English Speakers - A little myth busting gets done on this page about what exactly are the 7 countries considered to be native English speaking countries. What about Korea and The Philippines etc.?
Ways to Improve Your English Pronunciation - Guidance on How to Move Your Lips and Mouth to Sound Like a Native English Speaker. Common Mistakes Made & How to Avoid Them.

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