When studying a language at home, it’s all too easy to forget about pronunciation.
There are loads of resources out there to help you create structured plans for grammar and vocabulary, but when it comes to studying pronunciation, it can be difficult to know where to start.
If you’d like to improve your pronunciation but you’re not sure how to go about it, try some of these ideas:
1. Warm up: Speaking a different language requires you to use your mouth muscles in a completely new way. Learning tongue twisters is a great way to train your muscles and have some fun getting to grips with the sounds of the language. omniglot.com has an excellent list in a wide range of languages.
2. Listen: Find a short audio recording of a native speaker. Record yourself speaking on your phone or computer and compare it to the native speaker’s pronunciation. Note down any problematic sounds and repeat the recording several times until you feel more confident. The listening exercises in a student book are perfect for this – try using the CD and the audio script at the back of the book. If you don’t have a student book, look for podcasts in the language you’re learning as many have online transcipts you can work with. Check out this fluentu list for podcasts in just about every language you can think of.
3. Read: Good intonation and rhythm can make your speech sound more natural and help you to understand native speakers more easily. Find a recording with an audio script and read the text at the same time as the speaker. Try to copy the rises and falls in pitch, paying attention to syllable length and pauses.
4. Remember: When you learn a new word, remember to look up the correct pronunciation. You can hear pronunciation and read phonemic spellings on online dictionaries in many languages. Put it in your bookmarks toolbar to make sure you can get to it easily anytime new words come up. Here’s a list of some of the most popular: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, German, Portuguese.
5. Look: Pay attention to native speakers’ lips, jaws and tongue. What are the differences between the sounds in your native language and the one you’re learning? Try to find videos with native speakers on YouTube. If you’re learning English, Rachel’s English has a great set of videos that show you the mouth position in detail. For Chinese, have a look at Yangyang Cheng’s YouTube channel, or try these links for French, Spanish and Italian.
Those were our 5 quick tips for boosting your pronunciation at home.
If you have any other ideas, we’d love to read your comments: What do you do to improve your pronunciation at home? Are there any techniques that work for you that other readers might find useful?