This post is the second in a series on How to Improve Your English Language and Pronunciation Skills.
My students come from all around the world, and they all ask me the same question: “How can I improve my pronunciation?”
Here is a list of practical tips I’ve come up with for my students to improve their pronunciation. But many of these tips apply to improving your English language skills, so you can apply them to improving your grammar and vocabulary, too.
Remember, your improvement will come from addressing your linguistic issues outside of class.
Re-training your muscles and mind takes awareness, practice and perseverance. If you put in the hours and the work, you will see positive results!
10 Steps to Improving Your English Pronunciation and Language Skills
1. Learn and become aware.
After learning the various rules of English, you must become aware of the errors that you make in your speech.
Keep an organized list of your corrections that have come from being monitored by other speakers, preferably native English speakers. If you don’t have a native English speaker to monitor you, simple listen and repeat with the Elemental English pronunciation and speaking lessons, and take note of how your pronunciation differs from mine.
For example, does my [θ] as in “think” [θInk] sound like [t] or [s], as in “tink” or “sink”, when you say it?
Once you become aware of the errors you make, you are then ready to correct them. Obviously, if you are oblivious to your errors, you can’t fix them!
Any time you are corrected, write down the correction that you were given on a special “monitoring” list.
Constantly update this list, and keep it organized. This is extremely useful, because the errors that you produce are usually not random mistakes that come from “a slip of the tongue”. Most errors are part of a pattern of mistakes that you repeat again and again.
Download the free Pronunciation and Language Skills Monitoring List (PDF)!
3. Repetitive Review.
Consistently review your monitoring list of errors. You should start to notice a pattern and then be constantly aware of that pattern of what you need to correct.
4. Repetitive Practice.
Now that you are aware of your errors, you need to routinely practice the corrected pronunciation (or correct syntax, vocabulary use, etc.). Practice again and again.
I suggest that you practice out loud at home. Listen to the sounds that you produce, and compare these sounds to native speakers. Ask yourself questions when you pronounce the sounds, such as “How is my mouth moving?” “Where is my tongue?” “Are my vocal chords vibrating?” Notice the physical aspects of pronunciation.
With practice, you can develop the imperative habit of self-correction. Be so aware and in tune with the sounds of English that you can notice and hear your own errors. This ability to self-correct can only come from the above steps of monitoring and awareness.
6. Write down your questions.
There are plenty of times when all of us wonder how to express something in another language, but then do nothing with those questions! When you are unsure of how to say or ask something in English, write it down so that you can ask a native speaker, google it or post your question on ElementalEnglish.com.
7. Keep a running vocabulary list.
Be organized. Write down vocabulary that you want to look up but don’t have time to at that moment. Make a habit of reviewing vocabulary. If you don’t do this, you can easily forget new words before they are locked into your long term memory.
8. Think in English.
A huge mistake English language learners make is to think in their native language and then translate into English in their heads.
This is a mistake, because English syntax and word order is typically something that cannot be translated from another language.
9. Talk to yourself out loud at home.
Talking to yourself out loud will help you in the process of thinking in English instead of translating to English from your native language. Get in the habit of speaking freely without the worry of being heard or criticized.
Play with the sounds and write down the ideas you want to express, but don’t know how to. It’s those questions that you should ask a native speaker or post on ElementalEnglish.com.
10. Train your Ears.
Listen to a lot of English in the form of podcasts, television shows, movies and radio. You can always listen to the free Elemental English podcast on iTunes, but also listen to a variety of native speakers’ voices and accents to hear how the the music of English stays consistent.
Train your ears like a musician does!
Remember, your goal never needs to be to sound like a perfect, American speaker. In fact, Americans make mistakes in their speech all the time and speak with a variety of accents.
Improving your pronunciation is always about giving you the freedom and power to speak with confidence and to be understood when you communicate in English.
And if this lesson was helpful to you, feel free to share it with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.
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