8 Ways to Improve Your Pronunciation
Correct pronunciation plays a huge part in improving your language skills. Using perfect grammar and sophisticated vocabulary is great, but sounding like a native speaker is the ultimate goal for anyone interested in languages. Although it can be difficult, it’s not impossible, so read on for some handy tips in improving your pronunciation!
1) Speak out loud
Speaking out loud can seem a bit strange and awkward at first, but it is one of the best ways in perfecting pronunciation. You get used to sounding out unfamiliar words and build up confidence to speak your language in front of other people. Speaking by yourself makes you less self-conscious because you’re not worried about making mistakes, and this in turn gives you a confidence boost. So next time you’ve written some phrases for homework or are reading a foreign-language article online, try reading it out loud!
2) Remember corrections
Although no one likes being told they’re wrong, speaking corrections are invaluable when it comes to pronunciation! It’s surprising how much easier it is to remember a mistake when you’ve made it while speaking. Rather than just crossing out a mistake on paper, you’re forced to verbally correct yourself. This reinforces the correction and makes it easier to recall. If your teacher or language partner corrects your accent, make a note of it or repeat the word several times.
3) Focus on the shape of your mouth
Correct pronunciation is all about the actual physical shape of your mouth. The movement of your tongue and lips is crucial in improving your accent, and you’ll be surprised at how big a difference paying attention to your mouth makes. Being aware of tongue and lip movements really helps aid pronunciation, and you can even sit in front of a mirror to get a better sense of how your mouth moves. Watch how native speakers talk and try to mimic them. If you struggle to pronounce a word, ask them how they physically say it and you’ll soon get the hang of it!
4) Remember the stress
Although remembering stress patterns can be difficult, getting the right intonation is crucial in refining your pronunciation. It can be almost impossible to understand someone if they put the stress in the wrong place – some words just sound completely different. A lot of languages have random stress patterns, and this means you have to learn each one as it comes. Unfortunately, there’s no short cut to learning intonation (believe me, I’ve looked…), so you just have to try to remember the word with its stress. Repeating a new word several times really helps in getting the pronunciation down!
5) Watch and listen!
Watching films and listening to songs in your target language is the ideal way to perfect your pronunciation. You get to hear how real native speakers talk and become accustomed to a fairly fast pace of speech. Listening to songs reminds you of the stress of words, and if it’s catchy, they’ll be easier to remember. If you watch a film or TV series, pay attention to how the actors move their mouths – copying how they speak will really improve your accent.
6) Tongue twisters
Far from being a linguist’s worse nightmare (see here for more proof of this), tongue twisters can actually help to improve pronunciation! The tricky phrases introduce you to new sounds, and your tongue and mouth have to move in a different way than you’re used to. Although they can seem impossible at first, the flow of tongue twisters means that you’re constantly perfecting stress patterns and mimicking a native speaker’s rhythm of speech.
7) Break words down into syllables
There’s no use looking at a long complicated word and trying to say it straight off the bat (take a look here at some of the trickiest Russian words for foreigners to pronounce). It’s easy to get tongue-tied with words which contain lots of consonants or problematic letter clusters. Instead, break the word down into manageable chunks and take it from there. Once you have learnt each syllable, you can string them all together and the word won’t seem so difficult.
8) Slow down!
It’s tempting to think that a fast pace = fluency, but trying to speak quickly is just making things harder for yourself. When you talk quickly in your native tongue, it can be tricky to slow down the pace in your target language. You have to make a conscious decision to speak more slowly, and enunciate more clearly. Talking slowly also gives you time to concentrate on the correct grammar and think about what you want to say next, as well as making you feel more relaxed.
Next time you’re speaking in your target language, try out some of these tips and see if your pronunciation improves! Don’t forget to check out the Liden & Denz blog for more ways to boost your language skills!
This post was brought to you by Tilly Hicklin, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz, St. Petersburg.