How we pronounce ‘water’ (for example) in the UK can be very different from how Americans pronounce it, however, that’s not a matter of pronunciation, it’s a matter of accent.
So before you jump into this post thinking that one country has a better pronunciation than the other stop and think again, because accent and pronunciation are not the same thing.
With that said, it’s important to say that, it matters not what kind of accent you have as long as you are able to pronounce the words correctly. You do not need to sound like you were born in London to prove how good your pronunciation is, you only need to be understood regardless of your native accent.
A good pronunciation requires more than knowing the sound of the letters in a word, in fact, how you stress, annunciate and connect them matters much more. So, the question here is: how can I improve my pronunciation to be fully understood despite my accent?
- Listen- Listening is one of the best ways to improve your pronunciation, but remember, listening to something is different from hearing something. When you listen to something you force yourself to pay attention to it. So putting something on TV while you talk on the phone isn’t going to work. You don’t necessarily need to take notes while you watch a film, but pay attention to their mouths, intonation, expressions and try to mimic them.
- Record yourself – I’ve been asking my students to do that. As most of my students are Brazilians, they kind of suffer from the same pronunciation problem of ‘having a consonant at the end of the English words’. It isn’t very common in our language, so of course when a word ends in a ‘t’, ‘d’, etc, we tend to add an extra ‘i‘ there, like; laptopi, andi, connecti and so on… I correct them as much as I can without stopping them when they are speaking, but I found recently that if they can hear themselves they can spot their mistake better than when I tell them. So here is my piece of advice: record yourself. Get some sentences from a movie and repeat it a couple of times, then record it and check if you sound like the actor/actress in the movie, you will be surprised at how you can improve your pronunciation by doing it!
- Check the dictionary – Every time you learn a new word I advise you to learn about that word. Is it a verb? What is the past form of it? What is its synonym? How can I pronounce it? Technology is here to help us, so when I say dictionary I am not talking about a paper one, you can use one if you prefer, of course, but you can also write the word on Google. For example the pronunciation of nagging. I recently found out that you can even learn how to move your mouth by using this feature and you can choose between American and British pronunciation. Awesome, isn’t it?
- Get to know the phonetic alphabet – The International Phonetic Alphabet is a visual representation of different sounds. I would recommend it only when you feel confident enough with your English as it might sound like a different language and it might get you confused. Nevertheless, it helps a lot. Also because the English can be quite tricky sometimes, as the sound of some letters can change completely according to the word.
The bottom line
Pronunciation can be tricky in any language, the secret is to keep practising. After all, we all know that practice makes perfect!