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48 years of success - Established 1974

48 Years of Success
Established in 1974

"Helping you gain
.control of your career"

Pronunciation

It may not seem like it, but pronunciation is very important if you want to make yourself understood. There are 26 letters in the English language, but 44 (yes 44!) sounds in Received Pronunciation (RP) to master. It’s no good knowing what words to use, but not knowing how to say them properly and if people misunderstand what you are trying to say, it could result in a mix-up, with hilarious or dire consequences. It’s also worth noting that knowing the correct pronunciation of words also helps with listening comprehension, so the benefits of learning pronunciation are two-fold.

Word and Sentence Stress

But having good pronunciation is not all about phonetics – it’s also about getting the stress on the language right too! Natives do this naturally, but for overseas learners of English, it can be tricky to know where to put the stress. It’s important because the stress on a word can make it change its meaning or become intelligible. And incorrect sentence stress will make it difficult for others to understand. But, fear not, there are lots of websites with plenty of help on word and sentence stress. For instance, the superb English Club has What is Word Stress, Why is Word Stress Important?, Where do I Put Word Stress?, plus a handy word stress quiz. And, Sentence Stress Rules and examples of the stress in audio files.

So, how do you improve your pronunciation? Well, there’s really only one way, and that’s to listen to and repeat conversations spoken by native speakers

Where to Listen to Native Speakers

Luckily, there are many places you can listen to native speakers. You could try doing the following in English:

watch TV programmes and films

listen to music, radio or audio books

watch podcasts and videos

And, if you have access to the internet, most of these can be sourced for free.

Speaking Practice Groups

As well as listening to native speakers say the words, you’ll need to practice them regularly yourself to perfect the pronunciation. So why not start a practice group with others wanting to improve their speaking skills? Not only will it be useful practice, it’ll also be great fun and you’ll get the added benefit of being with others who are in the midst of the learning process, just like you. Plus, you’ll be able to bounce ideas off each other and use each other’s knowledge to improve – everyone wins!

Online Pronunciation Practice

The internet is stuffed full of useful resources for learners of English so make sure you take advantage. Using EnglishClub as an example again, simply because I think it’s a great website, they offer a handy table of pronunciation terms to help you, plus help with pronouncing the alphabet, a phonemic table to help you understand the sounds used in English, Contraction – pronunciation tips, plus some fun Tongue Twisters and fun games and quizzes. And don’t forget, each and every word in the dictionary is accompanied by a phonetic spelling, so if you are ever unsure of how to pronounce something – look it up!

So now there’s no reason why, with a little practice, you can’t speak like a native. If you have any other tips or hints on pronunciation practice, let me know.

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Susan Metcalfe - head of Business Training - discusses business, training and work issues. Come and join in the conversation or just enjoy the read!