One of the most problematic areas in ESL is pronunciation. Based on my experience, an ESL student who is just starting to learn the language is most likely to develop reading skills first. This is followed by the listening skills then the speaking skills. Writing and pronunciation, in my opinion, is more of garnishments than foundation. I am not saying that these two aren’t important. In fact, they actually are as most students spend much just to move their writing and pronunciation skill a step higher.
Sometimes I feel guilty because I often tell my students that English pronunciation is easy. It may be easier for me than for them. However, I truly believe that anyone who is open- minded enough is capable of developing a good and intelligible diction.
Here’s what I usually advise them-
1. Listen to speakers of the language
This is perhaps the easiest way to learn pronunciation but I still see students give up in the process. Watching movies and listening to podcasts are indeed exciting. But how could it grow boring, you ask. When no matter how hard you try, you still can’t understand who you’re talking to, the next thing to do is just to stop. This mindset has to change. Whether you’re driving a car or riding on a bus or train, make it a habit to listen.
When you’re watching a movie, switch on the subtitles so you can read while listening. This way, even if you don’t understand what you’re listening, you can understand what you’re watching.
Below is a screen capture of one of the videos courtesy of Voice of America (VOA). Click here for more videos.
It may be difficult at first but once you get used to it, you’ll realize that listening to native speakers isn’t really as painful as what you thought.
2. Practice as often as possible
The secret to mastering a craft is to do it over and over again. There are thousands of Youtube videos teaching pronunciation. Even if you find it funny, open your mouth. Exercise your mouth movement. Imitate how video presenters enunciate their every word. It is necessary to learn phonetics.
By definition, phonetics is defined as the science that deals with the sound of human speech.
You may consider doing the following activities:
- choose a short conversation or dialogue in English via Youtube
- turn on subtitles
- listen to the conversation or dialogue for at least three times or as many times as needed
- pick two to three lines which interest you and write them down on a paper
- listen to the video again giving importance to the sentences you chose
- read the sentences on your own
Then ask yourself, “Am I pronouncing it the same way as the speaker did?”. If not, repeat this exercise until you see improvement, Sure you will.
Mastering phonetics is essential in developing pronunciation skills and achieving spelling accuracy.
3. Read aloud and record your voice
Sure you have books in your cupboard which you’ve read once. Pick a paragraph and try to read it once.
If you don’t have interesting paragraphs in mind, you mat try checking out eslfast for more short stories to read. Here’s a screen capture of one of its featured reading exercise. As you may notice, it is easy to read as the words are not complicated.
Record your voice. If you aren’t so comfortable doing it using your mobile phone or another device, you may use online recorders. You can download the recordings easily without taking extra memory space on your phone.
I often use, vocaroo. It is rather simple. You can record your voice over and over again until you are satisfied.
Get the link to the chosen recording and that’s it. Word of caution, though. Since vocaroo is online, the system may not be able to store your recordings for a long period of time. It is recommended that after getting the link, download your recording and put it in your cloud drive.
4. Talk to someone in English
One main bottleneck of ESL students is not having the opportunity to speak in English.
For those who are really interested, you may gather your friends who want to study English too. Practice together. Take turns in talking. Before your conversation, you have to agree on a topic so all will come prepared.
Get yourself enrolled in an online English class. There are many English providers these days. Native speakers are preferred as teachers but non- native speakers like Filipinos could do the job just as well.
One hour a day of conversation class is ideal. However, if you’re busy and couldn’t commit to a daily class, 2 hours will be sufficient.
5. Take the right mindset
Nothing beats hard work and persistence. Don’t get conscious with the way you pronounce. Committing mistakes can’t pull you down. Be confident until you reach your goals.
For free pronunciation assessment, please feel free to contact me and add zenith.bizenglish on Skype.