Do you often need to repeat yourself? If you’re frequently misunderstood at work, or in everyday situations, it can be frustrating – even exhausting.
Good pronunciation is important if you would like to enjoy more seamless interactions with others. It can help you to build relationships professionally and socially, and will give you the confidence to use the English skills you have worked hard to learn. Not only will you sound more like a native speaker, you’ll also improve other aspects of your communication, from listening to using appropriate tone.
So where to begin? Here are five simple tips to help you speak with greater clarity and fluency.
Record yourself speaking
It can be tricky to identify pronunciation errors when you are speaking, as your concentration might be focused elsewhere. Recording yourself at home is an effective (and non-intimidating) way to become more aware of how you sound, from the pace of your speech to your voicing of consonants. Practise speaking in scenarios that you would like to feel more confident in – perhaps ordering from a menu, or answering the phone at work.
Speaking quickly is something many of us do when we are feeling nervous or self-conscious. The problem is that it makes errors far more likely, and reinforces the bad habits we are trying to avoid. Attempt to consciously slow down your speech, while being mindful of your breathing and voice projection. You will appear more composed and at ease, which will have the effect of making you feel relaxed, too. Speaking at a slower pace gives you time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it, allowing you to catch mistakes before you make them outloud.
Visualise how to form the sound
Before you speak, close your eyes and picture how you will create the correct sound. Pronunciation is a physical skill, so try to visualise the precise movement of your mouth and face, considering how you will engage the right muscles. Practising in front of the mirror at home, though strange at first, is a great way to master challenging sounds.
Identify problem words
The more self-aware you are, the faster you will improve your pronunciation. Which common words or sounds affect how well you are understood? Are there some that you find yourself avoiding? English can be challenging to learn because the sound-spelling relationship does not always follow one rule, so listening and practising every day is crucial. If you can, dedicate at least 15 minutes daily to English practice – tongue twisters are excellent for training your mind-muscle memory.
Vary your intonation
Good pronunciation goes hand in hand with effective intonation. Practise varying your intonation and explore how that changes the message you want to convey. You can emphasise or alter the meaning of your words simply by knowing where to place stress, and by using intentional pacing and pausing. If you are unsure, learn from the best; observe and copy native English speakers who are clear, self-assured communicators.
How One-to-one and Small group tuition can help
The British Council offers One-to-one and Small group private lessons led by specialised tutors from a range of backgrounds. Available for learners of all ages, these premium lessons are tailor-made, with custom course content and the highest level of flexibility. We will work with you from the start to understand your unique needs and assign the best-possible teacher, before developing a schedule that allows you to focus on your learning.
One of the biggest benefits of One-to-one and Small group private tuition is the immediate feedback you will receive from your tutor. Whatever your specific language goals, we will help you to achieve them by delivering maximum value through fully personalised support.