How often do you get asked to repeat yourself? Do people find it difficult to understand what it is that you are saying? You know all the words, that’s clear – and when you are putting those words in writing, there seems to be no problem with your French, for example. However, when you speak, that’s exactly when the problems start. The problem here is not your knowledge of French, but your pronunciation.
Many people have problems with their pronunciation – sometimes, even in their mother tongue. It’s something that can prevent you from having a good conversation with anyone speaking that language. Luckily for you, there are a few good strategies that can help you improve your pronunciation, as long as you give it a good practice time.
When other people speak to you, listen to the way they articulate their words – what their intonation and their pace are. When you are required to provide an answer in a conversation, do your best to mimic that tone and pace. If certain words give you pronunciation troubles, try observing the manner how the native speakers say those words. See how the words are formed on their lips, and then practice them at home.
Every person finds it strange when they hear themselves speak over a recording, but that is how you can see for yourself where the problem lies. Try reading from a book or a newspaper, or simply try holding a conversation with a friend or a family member. In the meantime, listen to how you speak. You may use apps such as Vocab.Chat to make things a bit easier for you, as it allows you to record vocabulary lists.
It might feel strange for you to practice your pronunciation in front of a mirror, but truth be told, it can help improve your manner of speaking quite a lot. You can see how your mouth moves as you practice the words or how you sound. Plus, when you are in front of a mirror, you suddenly become more aware of the way you sound. You become more conscious about the words you produce, and you will strive to improve your pronunciation as you articulate the words.
This might be the most boring part for you if you want to improve your pronunciation in a foreign language, but at the same time, it is one of the most efficient methods. Phonetics teaches you where you are supposed to put your tongue as you are speaking and how your words should be used as a manner of forming words.
The theory explains exactly what the role of your muscle is and where certain sounds are produced. This will also address your tone, as well as your intonation. So, if you want to become a better speaker, you might want to get down with the theory. It will give you an in-depth insight into how you should sound or how you should articulate the words.
Many children begin learning foreign languages from their favorite songs. How many times have you heard the little ones perform along with their favorite Disney characters, and sound very fluent even if this was not their mother tongue? This is because the more you hear a song, the more it becomes ingrained in your mind. Plus, when you particularly like something, it becomes easier for you to learn it – and it never gets any better than singing along with your favorite songs.
You might have all the theory down, and you might actually know how to say those words properly. However, if you try to deliver those words too quickly, you tend to skip certain accents and letters, making the words seem jumbled up and incoherent. In that case, what you will want to do is simply slow down. Relax before you start speaking. This way, you won’t be tensing up your vocal cords or your mouth. Stress the words that are more important in a sentence so that they come up coherent, without any blunders in the pronunciation.
In most cases, people mess up their pronunciation simply because they try to articulate both stressed and non-stressed words. However, to “relax” your speech and to improve your pronunciation, you might want to leave the non-stressed words and focus on the stressed ones. Those words are among the easiest to mess up, and if they do not come out in the way that they should, the entire sentence can be compromised. Glide over the non-stressed words, as they can very often be “swallowed” by the sentence.
When you try speaking a longer word all at once, you might end up “bulking” everything together, gliding over the word and making it more difficult to pronounce. This is why, if you wish to improve your pronunciation, you need to break everything down into syllables. Move your mouth as you focus on each syllable, in particular, elongating the vowels as you are practicing these words. You might want to do it slowly because the faster you speak, the more tempting it will be for you to glue those syllables together as you speak.
You might be thinking “I want to pronounce the words I know better; why should I start learning new ones instead?” Well, the more words you know, the easier it will be for you to pronounce them – mainly because every word has a certain pattern. One good way to improve vocabulary is to learn words from a dictionary – all while reading everything out loud. However, if reading just from a dictionary feels boring for you, go for reading out loud from a book. Whenever you come across a word that you do not know, look it up in the dictionary and see how it is spelled and repeat it until you learn it.
At this point, you might also be thinking: “I’m here to learn how to speak, how will writing help me in any way?” Well, when you are writing down something that someone says, you are practically “hearing” how they pronounce a certain word. And by now, you know that listening to someone speak is a great way for you to improve any foreign language. Try to write down exactly what you hear, decipher the accents, and improve your pronunciation with dictation. Just 20 minutes every day with this exercise should help your speaking and pronunciation become much better.
Improving your pronunciation can take a good amount of time and practice. It might involve you talking to yourself in mirrors for minutes in a row, or randomly talking to yourself to the point that other people might think you are crazy. Yes, it might sound and look silly, but with practice comes perfection. And if you really want to learn, you need to take advantage of every tool and tactic that you can get your hands on.