How to Improve Your English Pronunciation, Part 1

Can I, as a non-native speaker, greatly improve the way I pronounce English?  The answer is, “Yes, you can.”    It doesn’t come in an hour though.  It takes some time to work on it.  If you live in a country in which English is spoken, you will see results a little faster.  If you live in a non-English-speaking country, it may take some more time to achieve the desired changes.  Just thinking about them will not get you anywhere.  Action creates results.  So for all those who would love to speak a more native-like accent in English, we have created this six-part program to help you focus on what’s important.

Through my work as a teacher, I meet many immigrants.  Adults often struggle to acquire English; children seem to have no problem, and they acquire a native-like accent rather quickly.  A lot of people then say that children learn much better and faster than adults.  Is that really true?

Psychologists tested the performance of adults and children and discovered that there was a difference of a split of a second in speed.  Compared to children, adults are mature and motivated when learning a new language.  They are fully intellectually developed  and understand abstracts.  This makes an adult a perfect learner.

The reason why adults need more efforts when working on the pronunciation is simply that they have spoken another language for many years.  Their lips, their tongue and their jaw are accustomed to moving a certain way.  Their articulation system has been fully developed.  Now, after many years of creating sounds this way, they suddenly have to change.  And here is where they struggle.  Children, on the contrary, still grow.  Their mouth is still developing to reach its final form.  At this stage, it’s much easier to make changes.  Their exposure to the new language is much longer than that of adults.  These facts contribute to children acquiring a native-like accent when living in an environment where the language is spoken on a daily basis.  At the age of twelve, a child has fully developed his/her articulatory system. After that, it requires more work to help individuals improve their pronunciation of a language in general.

Another reason for a possible slower language acquisition is that the adult has to deal with daily life: children, household, job, bills, etc.  Our heads are full with problems to solve.  It is very hard to focus on learning at times.  Children are not concerned with paying the rent or the brother not doing so well at school.  It’s the adult who has to worry about these parts of life.

So for all those adults (or teenagers) out there who are seriously concerned about improving their English pronounciation, here is our first step towards mastering it.

Listen to English whenever you can spare time.  

Good speaking starts with listening.First, you have to decide whether you would like to speak more like the British do.  If that is the case, you can listen to the following:

  • BBC 6 Minutes Learning English: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/general/sixminute/

This is an interesting, educational program in British English that will improve you accent over time.  You need to speak English at the intermediate level.

  • Songs in British English: James Blunt with You Are Beautiful  –   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mv6idCzJ-Y

The Beatles with Penny Lane

  • Learn English through Stories:

There are many stories on youtube.com.  You can also download the texts from the internet, print them and read along while listening to the native speaker.

Songs in American English: Depending on your taste in music, you may listen to Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga.  I prefer the classics–Barry Manilow, 

Simon & Garfunkel, etc.  The options are sheer unlimited.

Barry Manilow: He has an excellent American English.  Many of his songs come with the lyrics.

Simon & Garfunkel: You have to download the lyrics of the songs.  Their American English is beautiful.

          Mrs. Robinson                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C1BCAgu2I8

          Bridge Over Troubled Water     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G-YQA_bsOU

          Sounds of Silence                   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJe3dQ8haoU

Next week, we look at another way of how to improve your pronunciation in English.  Keep on listening until then.

Courtesy of International TEFL Training Institute New York

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