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4 steps to get better at pronunciation!

5 years ago
So many of my students over the years have had real difficulties with their pronunciation. Some of them have told me that it was the hardest part of learning English.
Have no fear! You can get better at pronunciation with time and of course lots of practice.
When we grow up speaking a language our muscles in our mouth learn to move in a certain way and this is what makes it hard to pronounce words in other languages. When your tongue has never made an "R" sound or an "L" sound it will be very hard at first to get used to it.
However our muscles are adaptable and we can train them to make new sounds. When we think of learning new words and sounds we can think of it like training the other muscles in our body- they get stronger with time and practice.
Here is a step by step process that will help you to improve the problem areas in your pronunciation. It's not always fun but it will make all the difference.

1. What are you struggling with?
Identify the sounds you struggle with- maybe there is only one or maybe a handful, write down on a piece of paper what they are (some common sounds that are difficult for ESL speakers are "th", "l" , "r", "w" or "V" among others).
Even if you only have trouble with it sometimes you should include it in your list.

2. What should it sound like?
Learn the correct way to pronounce these sounds. Ask your teacher to pronounce these sounds for you. If you don't currently have a teacher there are so many youtube videos that can help you with correcting your pronunciation. Make sure the person making the video is a native speaker so that you can be sure the pronunciation is correct.

3. Mirror Practice
Now that you know how to correctly pronounce your difficult sound you can begin practicing. I always recommend that my students do it in the mirror at first. It helps to have a visual of what is happening with the lips, tongue and voice box when you are learning a new sound so you can identify where the problem is. For example if you are working on pronouncing "th" you will learn that the tip of your tongue should be touching the bottom edge of your two front teeth. Once you understand the placement of the tongue it makes it much easier to practice.

4. Keep up the good work!
We all know that practice makes perfect. As I said before your mouth muscles are just like the other muscles in your body and they will need to strengthen in this new way. Keep practicing your new pronunciation every day. There will be a moment when it is no longer so difficult for you to get your mouth around these new sounds eventually you'll feel really comfortable with what used to be difficult for you. Maybe you'll even get mistaken for a native English speaker!

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