5 Major Pronunciation Don'ts

5 Major Pro­nun­ci­a­tion DON’TS

Some­times we are so busy pay­ing atten­tion to what we should be doing that we for­get to also notice what not to do, hence 5 major pro­nun­ci­a­tion don’ts.

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion Don’t 1

Don’t expect to change your accent com­plete­ly to sound like a native in only  a few weeks.

It takes months and months of prac­tise to begin to sound like a native speak­er. Of course every new speech ele­ment you make auto­mat­ic in your every­day speech, will make your Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion clear­er. As you make more and more ele­ments auto­mat­ic in your speech the effect is cumu­la­tive, so the dif­fer­ence is  much greater than that one speech ele­ment. You need to be patient with your­self and break your pro­gress into small goals. Choose one speech ele­ment and work on it till it’s auto­mat­ic and then choose anoth­er etc, rather than try­ing to change every­thing at once. It helps speed the process up if you give your­self goals and know what to work on.

Think of each pro­nun­ci­a­tion ele­ment you mas­ter as bring­ing you a big step closer to being clear­er or speak­ing Eng­lish like a native.

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion Don’t 2

Move your mouth the same way you always have, and expect to sound dif­fer­ent with your Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

When you’re chang­ing your Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion you need to move your mouth dif­fer­ent­ly for the sounds and words than you usu­al­ly do, oth­er­wise noth­ing is chang­ing.

As you prac­tise mov­ing your mouth dif­fer­ent­ly, you are build­ing new mus­cle mem­o­ry so your mouth ‘remem­bers’ how to move in the new way.

Yes it will feel dif­fer­ent and odd at first. For exam­ple the pro­nun­ci­a­tion for  the Eng­lish /t/ and /d/ sounds is with the tip of your tongue tap­ping straight up on the mid­dle of the bony ridge behind your front top teeth. This is a dif­fer­ent place­ment for the­se sounds from many oth­er lan­guages where the tongue taps for­ward to the back of the front top teeth.

As you prac­tise aloud over and over, your mouth is learn­ing to move in a new way. As you prac­tise your pro­nun­ci­a­tion over and over your mouth gets a chance to get used to mov­ing that way.

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion Don’t 3

Prac­tise and prac­tise and then not use what you have prac­tised in your every­day life sit­u­a­tions.

This is like prac­tis­ing a new ten­nis back­hand shot again­st the wall in your back­yard so you are real­ly good at it, and then not using it when you go to play in a ten­nis tour­na­ment.   As the say­ing goes if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Some cus­tomers have said they feel embar­rassed to use their new pro­nun­ci­a­tion with oth­ers. Some cus­tomers say that when they speak with oth­ers they speak more quick­ly, and so think they can’t use the new pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

To the first cus­tomers I say be brave and use it. Noth­ing will change oth­er­wise. To the sec­ond lot of cus­tomers, I sug­gest they begin by using the new Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion in sit­u­a­tions where they don’t have to say much.  For exam­ple when ask­ing for some­thing in a shop, order­ing a cof­fee, hav­ing a short con­ver­sa­tion on the phone etc, and then build up to longer speech sit­u­a­tions.

Most of the time you are the only one who notices what you are doing. The oth­er per­son will just under­stand you more eas­i­ly, which is the point any­way.

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion Don’t 4

Prac­tise with­out lis­ten­ing to, and copy­ing a native Eng­lish speak­er.

Yes you need to learn to move your mouth dif­fer­ent­ly for your new Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion, and togeth­er with this, you also need to make a new Eng­lish ‘record­ing ‘ in your head.

When we mim­ic an accent or some­one else, we can do it because we are replay­ing how they sound in our head, and then mim­ic­k­ing that. If you don’t lis­ten over and over again to an Eng­lish train­er with the accent you want and mim­ic them, then you aren’t mak­ing a new ‘audio record­ing’ in your brain to refer to. It’s like when you replay/recall some­thing your par­ent or a par­tic­u­lar friend has said to you, or some­thing a char­ac­ter on TV has said. You recall it includ­ing the accent they used and the tone they used, and if you want­ed to, you could say it as they said it. You would mim­ic them.  Think of a good friend now and ‘hear’ them say some­thing. Hear what I mean?

Some peo­ple say, yes but I hear peo­ple speak­ing Eng­lish all around me isn’t that enough? Well yes this makes acquir­ing a new accent or accent reduc­tion eas­ier. You also need to be lis­ten­ing through head­phones to a train­er using sen­tences and words specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ing the Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion ele­ment you are work­ing on as well. This speeds up the process of mak­ing that new audio record­ing in your head to refer to, when you want to use your new clear pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion Don’t 5

For­get to pur­pose­ly choose some­thing speci­fic to work on, and to lis­ten for.

What do I mean by this?

Don’t try to change every­thing in your Eng­lish accent pro­nun­ci­a­tion at once. Let’s say you have cho­sen a speci­fic pro­nun­ci­a­tion ele­ment to work on for your Eng­lish train­ing, for instance stress­ing the right syl­la­bles and de-stress­ing the right syl­la­bles in words of more than one syl­la­ble.  Make sure you work on this till it’s auto­mat­ic, but even more impor­tant­ly, don’t just pay atten­tion to this when you are doing your prac­tise, and then for­get to notice it when oth­ers are speak­ing.

Pay atten­tion to this Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion ele­ment when oth­ers are speak­ing as well. Notice which syl­la­bles are stressed and which are de stressed when they talk. You might sur­prise your­self and find you were stress­ing a par­tic­u­lar word in the wrong way, espe­cial­ly words you use a lot at work.

For exam­ple it’s not contain, but cəntain ( the 2nd syl­la­ble is stressed – the ‘ai’ vow­el is said clear­ly, and said slight­ly longer, and with a slight raise in pitch, and the first syl­la­ble is the weak form said with a schwa vow­el).

I hope the­se pro­nun­ci­a­tion ‘don’ts’ have helped.

Best wish­es, Esther

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