Pronunciation: Why it’s important and what I can do to perfect it

Let’s take English as an example. Some say it’s a difficult language to learn, and others say it’s easy. I guess that’s something that changes from person to person, but one thing that can be said for this widely spoken language is that what you see written down isn’t always what you hear. Unlike many languages, not every word is pronounced phonetically. You are not only up against the various and strange pronunciation rules (as if that isn’t enough to contend with!), you also need to be mindful of the exceptions to those rules. To add to that, there are also many words that are spelt differently, yet sound the same. These are known as homophones.

For example:

  • There
  • Their
  • They’re

Many say that one of the hardest things to master when learning a second language is its pronunciation, which is largely down to the unique sounds that are made by different letter combinations found within each language.

Why is pronunciation important?

English is one of the most spoken languages around the world. It is also in high demand as a second language; this is not only for informal but also for formal use. Taking this into consideration, you could be speaking to someone halfway around the world and in your second language. As you can imagine, if everyone has their own way of pronouncing different words,  it could lead to some serious miscommunication.

There are numerous reasons to perfect your pronunciation. Here are a select few:

  • It can help you with your reading, writing and general communication.
  • It can make you feel more comfortable when holding a conversation and increase your confidence while speaking.

Simple tips to improve your pronunciation

Is your personal language goal to perfect your pronunciation?  Well, guess what! There is more than one way to do it. Here are a few suggestions from us:

1) Record yourself speaking

This is a great way to get an idea of how you sound when speaking. Try recording yourself reading a short article from a magazine or a page from a book.

Then comes the hardest part – because most of us cringe at the way our voice sounds when it’s recorded. Once you have stopped squirming, play it back and critique your own pronunciation. How do you sound? Are you easy to understand? Do you articulate your words correctly throughout? This simple exercise will help you pick out the words and sounds that you are struggling with so that you can practice and improve. Best of all, months later you can listen back and hear how your language has evolved.

2) Know how you would like to sound

English is spoken in countries across the globe and there are noticeable differences in accent and dialect from place to place. This isn’t just limited to countries; you will find that the way of speaking changes dramatically from one end of the country to another. For instance, let’s look at England. The difference from Brighton (south) to Yorkshire (north) is huge, for example:

  • In Brighton, you might hear the words – anything or nothing
  • In Yorkshire, you are likely to hear the words – owt or nowt

It is important that you do your research and figure out how you want to sound. Listen to as many different people as possible. YouTube, radio and TV are great for this. Once you have chosen your muse, try these three tips:

  1. Listen to the way that they articulate each word
  2. Find the rhythm in their speech
  3. Copy the way they are speaking

3) Practice with someone

You can’t beat practicing with a native speaker. If you know someone who speaks in the same manner that you would like to, aim to only speak the language you are learning while you are with them. Remember to keep it slow – a conversation is not a race. By slowing down your speech, you can make sure your full concentration is on your pronunciation. If you don’t have the luxury of a native speaker living on your block, don’t worry, there are plenty of other options for you to get your practice.

4) World Wide Web

Fire up your computer and the world is at your fingertips. There are websites, forums and apps for people looking for the same thing as you. You can try apps such as Babbel, where you can sign up and get language guidance, or websites such as Conversation Exchange, where you can meet people who are willing to swap their language skills for yours. For the pronunciation of individual words, there are websites where you can type in any word and it will speak it back to you. Mac Millan Dictionary is one of them; it also gives you the option of either British or American English pronunciation.

Remember, pronunciation in a different language is challenging, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself time and practice, practice, practice! In the meantime, if you need any help with translation while you are still perfecting that second language, Topcontent has top translators who work in a range of languages and are eager to lend a hand!

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About the author

Charlene Pickett
Editorial Writer for TOPCONTENT.COM