10 Ways to Improve Your English Pronunciation

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Hi.

I'm Vanessa from SpeakEnglishWithVanessa.com.

Are you ready to improve your pronunciation?

Let's do it.

Has someone ever asked you to repeat yourself because they couldn't understand you?

People have said that to me before, too.

And do you know what?

It's okay if someone asks you to repeat yourself because that means that they actually care

about what you're saying.

They didn't just nod and smile.

No, they actually wanted to hear what you had to say.

But it's also important to be able to speak as naturally as possible.

This will help other people to understand you easily and you're going to be able to

understand other people easily.

A whole new world will open up to you when your pronunciation improves.

Today I'd like to share with you 10 ways to improve your English pronunciation.

Because this is a pronunciation lesson, I want you to be active.

Please say the sample sentences out loud, exercise your speaking muscles, and really

use it so that you can remember them.

All right.

Let's get started with tip number one.

Number one is shadowing.

This is absolutely the best tip to improve your pronunciation.

This means that you're repeating directly after a native English speaker.

You could repeat after every word or you could listen to a full sentence and then repeat,

which will help with your intonation.

There are different ways to shadow, but this is a great tip and we're going to be practicing

it throughout this lesson.

So let's get started with the sample sentence.

I can't believe that it's already May.

I can't believe that it's already May.

How can you imitate this sentence?

Well, first, at the beginning, I can't.

Do you notice that the T here is stopped?

This is called a stopped T, which means that your tongue is going to be at the top of your

mouth making that T shape, but you're not going to let a puff of air through.

I can't.

I can't.

And then we have a great word, believe.

Believe that.

This word has an A, but what does it sound like?

That.

That.

It kind of sounds like an E sound.

Eh, eh.

That.

And that T is going to be stopped just like in our first word, can't.

Can't.

I can't believe that it's already May.

Try to say that sentence with me.

I can't believe that it's already May.

I can't believe that it's already May.

Great pronunciation practice.

We're going to be talking about a lot of these tips throughout today's lesson, so let's go

on to number two.

Number two, practice phrases or full sentences.

We just talked about two contractions, can't and it's.

But if you had just separated those from the sentence and just practiced can't, it's, well,

it's not going to be as natural because you hardly ever say just those words by themselves.

Instead, when put them in a full phrase or in a full sentence, it's going to help you

link things together naturally.

Whenever I give feedback to my students in the Fearless Fluency Club and they send me

a pronunciation clip and I give them some feedback back, I always include a full challenge

sentence.

This is going to help them with individual sounds.

But also, the linking between all of those sounds, it's just more realistic.

So let's practice it.

It's probably going to rain today.

It's probably going to rain today.

What about this word probably?

Well, in fast English, we're going to cut out that middle sound and just have two syllables.

It's prob-ly.

Sometimes when native speakers are speaking slower they'll add that middle syllable, probably.

There's two accurate ways to say this.

But when we're speaking quickly, cut it out.

So try to say it with me.

It's prob-ly.

It's prob-ly.

Then the next two words, going to, link together to create a wonderful natural reduction gonna.

It's probably gonna.

It's probably gonna.

The word to changes to uh.

Just uh.

It's probably gonna rain today.

It's probably gonna rain today.

What's happening here with the word today?

Do you hear an ooh sound when I say it?

Today.

Today.

Nope.

It's just the T sound before day.

So you're going to say this word quickly.

T’day.

T’day.

Let's put that full sentence together.

It's prob-ly gonna rain t’day.

It's prob-ly gonna rain t’day.

It's prob-ly gonna rain t’day.

If you had taken just the word probably or probably out of this sentence and practiced

it, it's okay, but it's much better to practice a full phrase or a full sentence like you

just did.

Okay.

Let's go on to tip number three.

Number three, practice intonation and word stress.

If your individual sounds like T-H, or R, or your vowels are accurate but you're stressing

the wrong words or the wrong syllables in a sentence, it can be really tough for native

speakers to understand you so make sure that you have the same rhythm and the same flow

that native speakers do.

Let's practice that in a sentence.

Let's say that you just took a test and your friend said, "Wow!

That was so easy."

You might say, "I thought it was a hard test."

I thought it was a hard test.

Which words am I emphasizing here?

I thought it was a hard test.

I'm emphasizing I and hard test.

Why did I emphasize I in this sentence?

Well, you're wanting to kind of make a comparison between your ideas and your friend's ideas.

Your friend said, "That was an easy test," so you're comparing, well, I, on the other

hand, your opinion, but on my opinion, in my opinion, I thought it was a hard test.

The word hard and test are also going to be emphasized, and the mental part is just linked

together.

Let's practice.

I thought it was a hard test.

I thought it was a hard test.

I thought it was a hard test.

Do you see how word emphasis here will help you to be able to speak naturally and also

other people to understand you?

I hope so.

To practice more word stress and sentence intonation, I recommend checking out this

lesson I made up here called Accent Reduction Class where we're going to talk about that

a little bit more in detail.

All right.

Let's go to tip number four.

Tip number four is learn which key sounds are the most difficult for you.

This is going to depend on your native language.

Difficult sounds for Arabic speakers are going to be different than difficult sounds for

French speakers.

I've heard a lot of Vietnamese students cut off the end of words or Spanish speakers cut

off a P sound and add a B instead.

So this is my recommendation.

You can just search on YouTube pronunciation tips for Hindi speakers, pronunciation tips

for Spanish speakers.

Add your native language there and there's probably going to be a video on YouTube specifically

for speakers of your native language and they'll focus on the sounds that are difficult because

of your language background, and that's going to be different for everyone depending on

what your native language is.

There's obviously some sounds that are tough for everyone, like THs or Rs, but it's great

to know which key sounds are really difficult for you.

Tip number five, learn specifics for linking and reduction.

Some English teachers might disagree with me, but I feel like when you have some basic

tools in your pronunciation toolbox you'll be able to use them more effectively.

The important thing is this, don't overwhelm yourself with pronunciation rules because

it's going to probably stop you from speaking.

It's going to lower your confidence.

But if you know some basic ideas about English linking, English reductions, it's going to

help you to be able to speak more naturally.

So let's practice with a little sample sentence.

I used to go to work every day.

I used to go to work every day.

At the beginning of the sentence, we have a great common reduction with the words use

to.

I use to.

The word to is just changing to ... I used to.

I used to.

And then the next two words go to.

Go to.

What's that sound do you hear in there?

Is it to?

No.

The word to is changing to da.

Da.

Go da.

Go da.

I usta go da.

There are plenty of ways to reduce the word to in English.

You saw two of them right here.

But in this situation, especially with the word go, the next word to changes to duh.

I usta go da.

I usta go da work every day.

What's a sound that's cut off in the middle of that word?

Evry.

Evry.

There's just two parts every.

That middle vowel is cut out.

Usually in fast conversation we don't say every with that er sound really clear.

Instead, every.

Every, every, every.

So let's put that whole sentence together and try to say it with me.

I used to go to work every day.

I used to go to work every day.

I used to go to work every day.

There are plenty of specific pronunciation tools that you can learn, so make sure to

check out my pronunciation playlist up here with all of my pronunciation lessons so that

you can add some tools to your toolbox.

All right.

Let's go to the next tip.

Number six, practice challenge words.

What are challenge words?

Challenge words are words that usually make you trip up.

That word trip up means they make you hesitate often.

And some of those words might be probably, or probably, like we talked about, thorough,

world comfortable.

These are common words that make English speakers trip up.

So I recommend checking out this video I made up here called How to Pronounce 106 Difficult

English Words just to get started to practice some of those commonly difficult words.

But, let's practice this sentence together right now.

The girl went through her work.

The girl went through her work.

The words girl, through, and work often trip up English learners so let's try to break

them down quickly.

The girl.

There's two parts to this word, ... and ... The girl.

Girl.

The girl went through.

Make sure you have a nice T-H.

Your tongue is between your teeth and there's a stream of air coming out.

Through.

I think it's tricky because there's an R directly after TH, but that's okay.

We can practice it together.

The sound of this word is exactly the same as she threw a ball.

This is through with a different spelling and a different meaning, but the same pronunciation.

The girl went through her work.

Work.

Work.

There's an O in this word, but instead it sounds like W-E-R-K.

Work work.

Make sure that that R is strong.

Work.

Work.

Let's put all of this together.

The girl went through her work.

The girl went through her work.

The girl went through her work.

Whew.

That's a good challenge sentence.

All right.

Let's go onto the next tip.

Number seven, practice tongue twisters.

What are tongue twisters?

Well, they're a challenging kind of crazy sentence that uses some commonly difficult

sounds.

If you know which sounds are the most difficult for you, like we talked about in tip number

four, you can practice some tongue twisters that focus on those sounds.

A few years ago, I made a video that included some tongue twisters with common sounds that

are tough for English learners, like TH, R, L, T, and some vowels.

If you'd like to check out that full tongue twister video, you can check it out up here,

but let's practice one right now.

He threw three free throws.

He threw three free throws.

He threw three free throws.

So here we have the difference between TH and an F sound.

Let's practice the TH first.

He threw.

Just like we talked about, the girl went through her work.

Same word, same pronunciation.

Well, not the same word, but the same pronunciation.

He threw.

Your tongue is between your teeth and there's a nice stream of air.

He threw three free throws.

So let's just focus on those TH sounds here.

He threw three throws.

Then, if we add in the word free, look what's happening with my teeth.

Free.

Free.

My top teeth are coming onto my bottom lip and there's some stream of air coming through.

Free.

Free.

Let's practice this full sentence all together.

He threw three free throws.

He threw three free throws.

So when you say that F sound, make sure that your tongue is not visible and just your teeth

are on your bottom lip.

He threw three free throws.

He threw three free throws.

He threw three free throws.

He threw three free throws.

Whew.

It's a good challenge.

All right.

Let's go on to the next tip.

Tip number eight is to study IPA: IPA is the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Some students find the IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet, extremely helpful and some

students just don't like to use it at all.

But like I mentioned, it could be just one more tool in your pronunciation toolbox.

So if this is something that you find useful, go ahead and use it.

Personally, I haven't used this in my pronunciation lessons here on my YouTube channel.

That's just my personal preference.

But every day is a good day for new beginnings, so let's practice it a little bit right now.

This Thursday her father will throw those teeth.

Kind of a crazy sentence.

But you can see from this sentence that there are two different ways to pronounce TH.

This Thursday her father will throw those teeth.

There is a voiced way to say the T-H and an unvoiced way.

This, father, those is the voiced way to say T-H.

Listen to when I say those words.

This, father, those.

My voice is being used.

But what about when I say the unvoiced words?

Thursday, throw, teeth.

Instead, this TH is just a stream of air coming out.

It's not voice.

All you hear is some air.

And you can see that these are represented by two different symbols in the IPA.

So if you want to read those sentences and then see the IPA that goes with them, you

can realize, "Oh, okay, so the word this and teeth both have a TH but they're pronounced

in different ways."

In my opinion, IPA can be useful if you often look up words in the dictionary because after

the word, you're going to see the dictionary definition but also how to pronounce the word

using IPA symbols.

So if you often use a dictionary to help you with pronunciation, then IPA could be useful

for you.

Like I said, it's not for everyone, but it could be a useful tool.

All right.

Let's go to the next tip.

Number nine, test yourself with voice texting.

This can be a little bit fun.

If you have Siri on your phone or even if you don't, you can just try to write a text

message using the voice option.

Try to say something into your phone and see if it can accurately understand what you said.

If not, then maybe there's some sounds that you need to improve.

But, this is a fun way to test yourself using technology.

My final tip, number 10, is to record yourself and then compare it to a native speaker.

I know that no one likes to hear their voice recorded.

It's just weird.

But it's time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.

When you listen to your own voice and then you immediately hear a native speaker say

the exact same thing, it's a good way to understand how your speaking is different.

You can almost become your own teacher because you can realize, "Oh, I said this word like

this, but she said it like that," and you can know that that word is specifically difficult

for you.

Are you ready to try this right now?

Get out of your comfort zone.

You can do it.

I'm going to read some of the sample sentences that we used during today's lesson.

I'm going to read it one time, and then I want you to shadow and say it yourself.

I'm going to pause.

I want you to say it.

And then I'm going to say the sentence again so that you can compare it to how I spoke.

To go to the next level, you can record this whole practice.

Record my sentence, and then your practice, and then my sentence again.

That way you can see how it's different or maybe how it's similar.

Are you ready?

Let's go.

I can't believe that it's already May.

I can't believe that it's already May.

It's probably going to rain today.

It's probably going to rain today.

I thought it was a hard test.

I thought it was a hard test.

I used to go to work every day.

I used to go to work every day.

The girl went through her work.

The girl went through her work.

He threw three free throws.

He threw three free throws.

This Thursday her father will throw those teeth.

This Thursday her father will throw those teeth.

How did you do?

Feel free to use any of the videos on my channel to shadow, record yourself, and compare it.

It's a great way to improve your pronunciation.

And now I have a question for you.

Which sounds are the most difficult in English?

Let me know what you think.

I'm interested to see what you have to say.

And I'll see you again next Friday for a new lesson here on my YouTube channel.

Bye.

The next step is to download my free e-book, 5 Steps to Becoming a Confident English Speaker.

You'll learn what you need to do to speak confidently and fluently.

Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more free lessons.

Thanks so much.

Bye.

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