How to Learn Pronunciation
English pronunciation can be difficult for international students. However, it is very important to have clear pronunciation.
Perfection is not required but clarity is. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your grammar and vocabulary are if no one can understand you.
So, how can you improve your English pronunciation?
I recommend the following steps:
1. IDENTIFY A VERY SPECIFIC RESULT THAT YOU WANT
To improve, you must have a very clear goal. General goals such as “I want to have better English pronunciation” have no power. You need a much more specific goal.
For example, pick your favorite American actor or actress and decide to speak like them. Your goal might be, “I will speak exactly like George Clooney.” This goal is much more powerful because it is very specific.
2. CHOOSE A DEADLINE
Goals are powerless without a timeline. You must choose a specific date for when you will accomplish your pronunciation goal.
Your goal, therefore, might be: “I will speak exactly like George Clooney by June 4, 2018”.
3. FIND A LOT OF COMPELLING REASONS FOR YOUR GOAL
As Anthony Robbins says, “If you can find enough ‘why’s’, you will easily find the how’s.” In other words, if you are very motivated, you will find a way to succeed. Motivation (psychology) is more important than the method.
It’s not enough to just have a goal, you must make that goal emotionally powerful. You must have very powerful reasons – a long list of reasons. So, you need to brainstorm. Imagine all of the incredible benefits that will come to you as a result of having excellent pronunciation. Find powerful emotional reasons. Also, imagine all of the terrible results of failing.
Your list might include:
- I’ll get a fantastic job and make a lot of money because my English is so clear!
- I’ll meet beautiful American girls, have lots of dates, and find an amazing girlfriend because my English is so fantastic!
The important thing to do is to find the reasons that are powerful for you. Exaggerate them. Imagine the best possible consequences!
4. TAKE MASSIVE ACTION
Now, you have a very specific English pronunciation goal, you have a deadline, and you have a long list of emotionally-compelling reasons.
Now it’s time for action. It’s time to create a massive action plan.
Here’s what I recommend:
Buy a few movies that have your favorite actor or actress in.
Each day, watch one scene of the movie. Play the scene a few times with subtitles and listen carefully to the actor’s intonation (the rise, fall, and rhythm of his/her speech).
Next, rewind, and play just one sentence. Pause and copy the actor’s speech. Copy it EXACTLY. Copy the rhythm. Copy the volume. Copy the pauses. Copy the emotion.
Also, copy the actor’s gestures. Move your body exactly like they do. Copy their facial expressions exactly. Copy their posture.
Remember: your goal is to look, act, and speak exactly like them.
Follow this system for 20-30 minutes every day.
5. MEASURE & CELEBRATE
After a few months of using this system, it’s time to measure yourself. Play a scene from a movie with your actor in it, then pause it. Copy the actor’s speech AND record yourself speaking the same scene.
Next, rewind your recording and play it. Then rewind the movie scene and play it. Listen to both and decide – how close are you to the actor? What is different about your speech and theirs? What are you doing well?
Use this measurement to adjust your focus then continue using the system every day.
Finally, when your deadline comes and you succeed – be sure to celebrate! Have a party! Go crazy! Fill yourself with happy, excited, grateful emotions. This will increase your motivation and will help you continue to improve as you move toward your next goal.
In my opinion, this is how to learn English pronunciation most effectively, most enjoyably, and most efficiently.
Pronunciation Training Techniques
Here, you’ll find two pronunciation training techniques that will help you develop an American accent. AJ Hoge teaches you what to do each day in order to improve your English pronunciation. Use these techniques with any audio from a native speaker.
In general, start by practicing with short audios. You could even use this video with the techniques.
In a previous video, you learned that listening carefully is the very first step for pronunciation improvement. You must first learn to hear the small but important sounds of American English. You need to hear the rhythm of English, the changes in pitch, changes in loudness (stress), and those difficult vowel and consonant sounds.
Effortless English Pronunciation is an ear-training method. You learn to speak with a perfect American accent by training like a jazz musician. First, you train your ears to hear all of the “music” of English. Next, you learn to create this “music” correctly yourself – first slowly, then faster and faster.
In this way, you train your ears and also the muscles in your mouth, tongue, throat, and abdomen. You learn to FEEL the correct American accent and create it automatically. Then you’ll soon be doing this every time you speak.
Enjoy the video and use the two techniques to improve your pronunciation daily!
English Pronunciation and Public Speaking
English pronunciation is more important than grammar, especially when giving a speech or presentation in English. As a non-native speaker, no one expects your grammar to be perfect. People will “cut you slack” (be tolerant) if you make grammar mistakes.
The audience is interested in your ideas and your emotional energy. They don’t care about your grammar as long as they can understand your meaning. Yet far too many non-native English speakers worry excessively about their grammar when giving a speech. Some speakers actually write their entire speech, word for word, and then have it checked for grammar. Once the grammar is checked, they memorize the entire speech.
This is a terrible method. Memorized speeches lack energy.
Imagine a politician giving a speech, reading from a teleprompter. Most sound dull despite being highly trained. They lack energy and spontaneity.
Worse, when you try to memorize a speech word for word, you are likely to fail. When you give the speech, you will probably be nervous. You’ll feel stressed. You’ll worry that you’ll forget part of the speech – and you probably will! And if you do forget something, you’ll become even more stressed, resulting in even more mistakes.
The best speakers speak naturally. They plan their presentations but do not memorize them word for word. They speak in a conversational manner.
So don’t worry about your grammar when giving a speech.
What you must focus on is your English pronunciation. The audience will forgive your grammar mistakes but they cannot tolerate terrible pronunciation.
Because they simply will not understand you if your pronunciation is bad. And if they don’t understand you, they will quickly become bored and annoyed.
While you don’t need a perfect American accent, you do need to have clear and understandable English pronunciation.
As you plan your speech, identify any words that are particularly difficult to pronounce. Find audios for the correct pronunciation of each word, then listen to the audios daily and try to imitate the correct pronunciation.
Another good technique is to listen to speeches by native speakers. Ideally, choose speeches related to your speech topic and listen to these speeches every day.
EFFORTLESS ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION TRACKING TECHNIQUE
Now, practice the “tracking” technique:
- Play one sentence of the speech audio. Pause. Imitate the speaker exactly. Then repeat for each sentence.
- The next day, “track” the speaker. Listen to the speaker AND imitate the speaker (speaking out loud with a loud voice) at the same time. This will feel difficult but do the best you can. Do this several times a day with the same audio and it will get easier each time you do it.
- After you have mastered steps #1 and #2, practice your speech out loud. Record yourself. Then listen to the recording and note any problems with your pronunciation. Work more on those problem words and phrases.
When the time comes to give your speech, forget about grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Just focus on your ideas and emotional energy and do the best you can!
Keep practicing, too. For example, you could join a group such as international Toastmasters where you can practice giving presentations and speeches in English.
With practice and clear pronunciation, you will become a successful public speaker.
Answering Pronunciation Course Questions
In a recent LIVE Facebook video, I answered your questions about improving pronunciation and developing an American accent. I also answered questions about the Pronunciation Course: what’s in it, how does it work, etc…
Some of the questions I cover include:
- Is it possible to learn an American accent as an adult?
- Which is the best accent to learn?
- Will better pronunciation help my IELTS or TOEFL score?
- Why is pronunciation more important than grammar?