One of the most frequently ignored or overlooked aspects of learning another language is the pronunciation. The temptation is often to focus on ‘sounding like a native’, rather than objectively looking at possible problems of comprehension or misunderstanding that occur when pronunciation goes awry.

Sagittalmouth1

The saggital mouth. A cross section of our mouth reveals the size (and delicacy) of our speaking organ!

 

Have you encountered times when you struggle to make yourself understood? Was this due to a specific sound / set of sounds which you struggle to pronounce? Outside of the classroom, and without a native speaker to help, it is easy to feel lost when trying to gain confidence with pronunciation problems.

 

When it comes to independent study, there are resources which can help with these issues:

 1. Familiarisation

Every good dictionary and language course book should have a phonemic section, where key sounds and pronunciation properties are demonstrated and explained. This can be a little overwhelming if you haven’t used the phonetic alphabet before – you only need focus on the areas that relate to your pronunciation issues. Familiarise yourself with the phonetic description of difficult words and sounds – how these sounds are physically produced and are similar / different to your mother tongue.

2. Exposure

Try to gain exposure to as many different speech ‘models’ as possible – examples of native speakers producing the target problem sounds; TV shows, radio, songs and friends / peers.

3. Overcome your inhibitions

Always try to confront your pronunciation fears and problems as they arise – try keeping a journal or notebook with phrases and words that have caused difficulty. Make notes about observations and examples you have found from the above sources / include advice from native speakers and peers.

Improving pronunciation

Learning a language is a skill like any other and requires commitment and dedication. Pronunciation is a key element of communication and an increased familiarity with pronunciation in any language will improve your communication skills and boost your confidence!

 

Thomas Young (BA, CELTA) Tom is a qualified linguist, teacher and language enthusiast. He also enjoys travelling, printmaking and writing.