What's wrong in the English alphabet
The Importance of English Pronunciation: How to Speak Clearly and Avoid Common Mistakes
"I am so worried," said my Colombian English student.
"My doctor is traveling abroad and I haven’t heard from her in two days!"
Wow, she must really like her doctor, I thought.
After all, that's nothing to worry about for most people!
Can you find her fault
I didn't notice it until later in class. I read in her notebook that herdaughterwas traveling.
Her story and fears made sense now!
I immediately had the class practice the difference between the pronunciation of “doctor” and “daughter”.
That day my class got a lesson that many English learners learn the hard way. English pronunciation is incredibly important if you want to be understood and avoid misunderstandings.
Pronunciation should never be underestimated, here are a guide to the most important aspects of English pronunciation to avoid major pronunciation mistakes and tools to improve your general pronunciation skills.
And for those of you who were worried too, my student's daughter called later that day and everything was perfectly fine!
As can be seen from the story above, it is easy for new English speakers to be misunderstood when they pronounce words incorrectly.
Also, if just one word is mispronounced, as was the case with my student, a lot of people will think they understand you and will not ask again. That can be too much confusing misunderstandings to lead!
That's why it's important to identify and eliminate common pronunciation errors (we'll show you how below) in order tobetter relationships to meet new English-speaking friends, business contacts, service workers such as waiters, hairdressers and many more.
But first, there are two very important elements of English pronunciation that many people forget.
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Don't ignore these important elements of pronunciation
When used in the context of linguistics, the refers toWord stress essentially on a syllable in a word that is most stressed.
Some languages, like Spanish, use accents to indicate stress, but the English language doesn't offer such an easy trick. Emphasis isvery important, when speaking in English, because a word can completely change its meaning if it is emphasized incorrectly.
As an example, the syllables are separated here with hyphens and the stress with Bold text displayed.
Look at the word “contest,” which has two syllables: con-test.
You could stress either the first syllable or the second, which would look like this:
The word with an emphasis on the first syllable is a noun that means "competition". The word with an emphasis on the second syllable is a verb that means "to contradict". Note that in this case the accent changes not only the meaning of the word, but also the part of speech (noun and verb).
You can compare both words side by side by listening to this audio file on Forvo, an online English dictionary.
Let's look at another example.
The word “present” has two syllables that can be divided and stressed differently depending on what you want to say.
/pres-ent / (listen to the intonation)
/ pre-sent/ (listen to the intonation)
The first example is a noun that means “gift”. The second is a verb that means “introduce”.
As you can tell by the name iswordstress is a good tool to practice your pronunciation with the correct intonation. They break words down into syllables and let users click the correct accent.
They are helpful in counting the number of words you know correctly so that you can see your progress as you practice. You can also click to view a word's part of speech, definition, accent, and International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols.
If you didn't raise or lower your voice at certain points in each sentence, you would sound like a robot!
Inflection involves raising and lowering your voice when speaking in full sentences. A wrong tone of voice can change the meaning of a sentence or sound very strange to a native speaker. It isespecially important to express your feelings or to give the sentence an overtone.
For example, think of the phrase, "Why are you home so late?"
Imagine asking your partner this simple question because you are really wondering why he or she is coming home so late. Practice the question aloud with a tone of curiosity. You might use a falling accent at the end of your sentence.
Now practice saying while imagining that you are angry believing that your spouse did something that you are not happy about. If you use an accusatory tone, your pitch can rise and fall quickly.
Mastering the English tone of voice is important if you want to sound natural and keep listeners interested in your sentences. Here is an in-depth guide on how English speakers use tone of voice in different contexts.
The top mistakes to avoid in order to master perfect pronunciation
Mistake 1. Pronouncing heteronyms in the same way
Heteronyms are words that be spelled the same but have different meanings.
For example, "read" looks exactly the same in both the present and the past:
I. read a chapter from "Harry Potter" every night.
I. read the textbook assignment before this morning’s class.
However, the emphasis is different. In the present tense a long “e” tone is used, such as “reed,” and in the past a short “e” tone, such as “red. Forvo has a good audio sample to compare the past and present of “read” side by side.
To avoid mistakes, learners should take the time to familiarize themselves with some of the most commonly used heteronyms. The University of Michigan has made a helpful list of the most common heteronyms and how to stress them.
Mistake 2. Pronouncing each vowel one way only
English vowels can be complicated, with just one letter that needs to be pronounced differently.
For example, the small vowel “o” has three different sounds, regardless of vowel combinations!
Use the links below to listen to the different words:
Notice how the “o” is pronounced differently each time.
It is very important that learners take the time to practice every possible pronunciation and intonation of English vowels. For an in-depth guide to English vacancies, check out this article.
Mistake 3. Only pronounce “Th” one way
Here is another bug similar to the one above. The English syllable "th" hastwo different pronunciationswhat many English learners forget.
“Th” can be pronounced either voiced (with vocal cord vibration) or unvoiced (without vocal cord vibration). It sounds like this:
Voiced “th” in the word “than”
Voiceless “th” in the word “path”
The easiest way to tell the difference is to put your fingers on your throat and see if you can feel any vibration.
You can see and hear a list of words with the voiced “th” on this page from the University of California Berkeley. There is also a list with the voiceless “th” here.
Mistake 4. Saying silent letters
It is important to remember that pronunciation is not always just through the letters in a word. Very often certain letters are not pronounced in English words.
Look at the word "used" in the following sentence:
I. used the last of the shampoo.
I. used to hate broccoli.
Standing alone, as in the first sentence, emphasize the last “d” in “used.” However, if it is part of the phrase “used to”, the last “d” will not be audible.
Ah! Tricky, isn't it? Here is a helpful video to help you familiarize yourself with the most common silent letters in English.
The best tools to practice pronunciation in English
There are many different online tools you can use to practice English pronunciation, and the following five are a good place to start.
BBC Learning English
For those, who visual or auditory learners the videos on this website are a great help in learning British pronunciation.
You can start with the “Tim’s Pronunciation Workshop” series, which covers a variety of pronunciation topics and includes transcripts for the videos as a bonus.
In the past, these helpful workshop videos have covered topics such as how to pronounce the English "h" and the two different ways to pronounce the word "the".
Your pronunciation lessons are taught in a fun way and are always relevant to the everyday language you will encounter.
At the bottom of this page you will also find video instructions on how to pronounce individual sounds in English.
FluentU is the perfect tool to learn English pronunciation directly from the locals - no plane ticket required! FluentU offers authentic English videos and audios such as movie trailers, news, YouTube clips, inspirational lectures, and more that have been converted into personalized language lessons.
Each video contains interactive subtitles. Move the mouse over any word and FluentU will automatically pause the video so you can hear the pronunciation of the word and see the definition. FluentU also shows you other videos that contain the word so you can hear different people speak in different contexts.
FluentU then provides multimedia flashcards and tests are available to view the vocabulary with the audio pronunciations.
You'll learn how to pronounce and use new words while learning English like native speakers really use it! Because these videos are created by native speakers, you'll be familiar with the English word and Familiar with tone patterns made.
The videos are organized by genre and level of learning, so you can easily find what suits you. You can check out the full video libraryfor free Browse with the FluentU trial version.
To learn both British and American English, you can use a pronunciation dictionary like the Cambridge Dictionary, the compares the different accents side by side.
As an added incentive, you can go to the site Create vocabulary lists and teststo save and edit the words that give you particular pronunciation problems.
Another great way to practice English pronunciation is to work with minimal pairs (Words with Only One Tone Difference) on ManyThings.org, a website offering help for English learners. By focusing on minimal pairs, you can fine-tune your ear to English and catch your own bad pronunciation habits.
You can choose from a plethora of minimal pairs and hear their audio pronunciations before querying yourself at the end.
There are24 different minimal pairs of lessons on the side so you always have something to practice on.
Phonetic Alphabet Course on Memrise
It is a good idea to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet symbols as they are widely used for writing phonetic notations. If you know the IPA, you can understand the correct pronunciation of a word simply by looking it up in the dictionary and reading the IPA spelling.
You can practice the IPA with audio and exercises on Memrise, a language learning site dedicated to memorizing.
The IPA is divided into 14 lessons and you have the opportunity to test your knowledge of the IPA with audio recordings, write exercises and choose phonetic forms from words.
Hopefully you can see the need to learn the pronunciation and are willing to devote your time and energy topor-tant / English ability to master!
Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.
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