How to Improve English Pronunciation

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Along with vocabulary, pronunciation is one of the biggest concerns for English Language Learners (ELLs). This lesson offers a few tips to help you improve your English pronunciation.

Pronunciation Matters

It's important to understand that there is no one standard pronunciation, or way of speaking a word, in English. While there are general guidelines for pronunciation and some people speak more clearly than others, people from different places say the same words in different ways. If you've had English teachers or friends from different countries you already know this.

An American will pronounce words differently than a British person, and an Australian will pronounce words differently than a South African. Even people from the same country can have different accents. Think about your native language and country. Do people from the south of the country pronounce words the same way as people from the north? Basically, accents affect pronunciation in a variety of ways.

However, don't let the variety of pronunciations discourage you. Think about it this way. Each person's handwriting is a little different. Two different people can write the same word, but the word will look different. Accents are the same way. As long as you know the word being spoken, you'll be able to clearly understand what's being said.

Listen and Repeat

Perhaps the best way to improve your English pronunciation is to listen to native speakers and speak English as much as possible. There are a number of ways to do this.

TV Shows and Movies

English language TV shows and movies are a great way to both hear and see English. Another advantage is that you can experience a wide variety of voices and accents discussing a wide range of topics. To begin, choose a show or movie that personally interests you. If you are enjoying the material, you're more likely to enjoy using that material to practice.

  1. Watch 30 seconds to one minute of the video and write down any words you hear that you didn't clearly understand.
  2. Repeat the words you wrote down and watch the video again, paying close attention to how the actor pronounces the words.
  3. Repeat the unfamiliar words until you feel confident your pronunciation matches the video.

Podcasts and Music

There are so many high-quality podcasts available now that you shouldn't have any trouble finding one that interests you. After you do, follow a technique similar to the one outlined in the 'TV shows and Movies' section. Listen carefully to the voices and write down unfamiliar pronunciations; then review those pronunciations.

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