7 Tips to Drastically Improve Your Pronunciation in English

Fluency-ImageDo you have a hard time pronouncing certain sounds in English? Do you believe that it’s nearly impossible to improve your accent? I´m here to tell you that you can drastically improve your pronunciation in a short amount of time.

It´s going to take an open mind, consistent effort, and experimentation with new strategies, but it’s not as hard as you may believe. With pronunciation, a little effort goes a long way.

You just have to want it bad enough and be consistent on the fundamentals.

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1. Open Your Ears to Youtube & Podcast Pronunciation 

There are a lot of very helpful, well-done youtube channels that focus on pronunciation. Beyond our very own RealLife TV, which teaches pronunciation in dynamic ways, Rachel’s English is a series of free pronunciation videos that teach phonetics and English pronunciation. Other recommended youtube pronunciation channels are listed below.

Here’s a program that enables you to download and convert youtube videos into MP3 audio format so you can listen in your car or on the bus. It’s recommended to listen to the same sounds every day until you feel like

Five Youtube Channels That Teach Pronunciation

2.Lifestyle English: Listen to Podcasts Every Day

Podcasts Teaching Pronunciation: There are some phenomenal podcasts dealing with pronunciation. Podcasts are free, downloadable audio programs that you can put on your mp3 player. If you’re new to podcasts, you can learn more about podcasts here, or check out our very own podcast, RealLife Radio. They are an excellent option because you can listen in your car or on the bus while you’re stuck in traffic, or whenever is most convenient for you. Here are few recommended podcasts for pronunciation and in general:

Native Speaking Podcasts: Whether its ESL podcasts (English as a Second Language) or podcasts that are made for Native English speakers, exposing yourself regularly to native speaking speakers will naturally condition your brain to understand and produce the sounds of the language in a more clear and smooth way. Here are 3 very extensive podcast directories that can help you find good native speaking podcasts in English. To learn more about podcasts, read “What is a Podcast, and Why You Should Care” 

Check out the RealLife Radio Pronunciation Power Lessons

3. Intonation: Focus on the Music Behind the Words

Whether you pay attention to it or not, the musical element of a language is essential to good pronunciation. You don’t need to become a musician or listen to more music in English (although both of these could help), but you should pay attention to the intonation of native speakers. It is the melodic pattern of the language that is so fundamental to communication and human connection.

If you had to hum the language, what would it sound like? Making this awareness a part of your learning process is important. Check out this youtube video of an American couple speaking English (the funny part is that it totally sounds like English but they are speaking unintelligible gibberish). If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t notice the difference.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt4Dfa4fOEY” width=”500″ height=”300″]

The application is more of an attitude rather than a strategy, as it involves constant awareness rather than routine, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

We also Recommend How Music Can Make You FluentIntonation: The Secret Ingredient to Great Pronunciation (with Audio), and Is Bad Pronunciation Killing Your Fluency?

4. Practice: Read Out Loud Every Day

I would reserve this one more specifically for people who have already learned some degree of correct pronunciation, because reading without correct pronunciation, or a teacher helping you, you’re just reinforcing poor pronunciation. Before you start, you should at least have some idea of what it feels like to pronounce things correctly.

If your pronunciation level has not been stabilized, I don’t recommend reading for more than 10 or 15 minutes, because people tend to lose their concentration, and go back to their vices (which is to reinforce them). Remember, pronunciation can be improved quite quickly with small, concentrated doses even only a few times per week. Here’s a helpful article on reading out loud.

One way around this, however, is to listen to the audio book while you read the text and imitate the speaker. For greater effectiveness, record yourself speaking and compare it to the audio book.

5. Self-Awareness: Record Yourself Speaking

Record yourself reading out loud on a tape recorder or a computer. At first, it will be really difficult to listen to your own voice. Relax, as you will get used it to pretty quickly.

Most people hate their voice, even in their own native language, so the combination of your voice and hearing yourself speak a foreign language for the first time will be painful, but it’s a necessary step in developing the self-awareness to improve.  You could even record yourself reading the same reading passage every day or every week as you implement these techniques.

As mentioned above, recording of a native speaker reading the same passage (such as an audiobook, podcast, or a native speaker friend) could facilitate your process.

Here are a few recommended web sites that focus on pronunciation. Ship or Sheep  is a good place to experiment with recording yourself.

6. Imitation, Shadowing, and Role Models

I’m going to break this one up into two categories: (a) language learning role models, and (b) role models to imitate. Both of them can help you become a better speaker, but in different ways.

LANGUAGE LEARNING ROLE MODELS are people in your life who speak well and have worked hard to get there. Maybe it’s a teacher or a friend, but they are someone who has learned through hard work and can explain the process to you.

Even if they don’t have perfect pronunciation, they can help you understand the process and what it takes to improve your pronunciation. Naturally gifted people rarely fall into this category unless they are very aware of the processes that help them speak well, so they would usually be “accent role models to imitate.”

Check out Idahosa Ness, Founder of The Mimic Method, as he performs some language learning heroics!

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9hij0H8jp0″ width=”500″ height=”300″]

ROLE MODELS TO IMMITATE are people with accents that you want to imitate. Native speakers and people who are naturally talented usually don’t understand the processes that guide their pronunciation (although a few do), but they are good role models to imitate.

As you watch TV and movies, choose somebody who has your type of voice, communication style, and who you would like to emulate. If you don’t know, ask your friends to recommend somebody. You could even memorize parts of movies you like, imitating the actors.

The act of imitating somebody speak is called SHADOWING. Check out this helpful video below on the topic.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IvByB_NWQc” width=”500″ height=”300″]

7. Experimentation: Reverse Accent Mimicry

This is another idea that deserves its own post, but I’m going to post the article and summarize it here. I’ve met several seemingly gifted language learners who swear this is how they learn languages.  Here’s a basic summary from the study/ article by Laurence M. Hilton.

Humans possess an innate biological capacity to hear, differentiate and mimic fundamental prosodic and phonological characteristics of any language. My purpose is to describe a mimicry based foreign accent reduction method developed from my own personal experience. I first will present myself as a case study, detailing how using a reverse accent mimicry method rapidly and substantially minimized my own L2 accent. I then will share suggestions for implementing the technique in the classroom or clinic.  I have employed it with good success with people from diverse language backgrounds over several decades of clinical experience. Read the whole article 

The idea, in a nutshell, is to imitate a native speaker of the language that you are learning, speaking your language, and apply it back to the target language. Let me give you two valid examples.

  • If you are Brazilian learning English, you would imitate a native English speaker who is speaking Portuguese, and apply the sounds structure back to English. It sounds like a joke, but if you can effectively imitate a native English speaker speaking Portuguese in the most exaggerated way, it will activate these sounds in your mouth and enable you to use them in English. Here’s a video with native English speakers speaking in Portuguese
  • In my case, I am American, so I need to find an example of a Brazilian speaking English with a really exaggerated accent, learn to imitate it, and apply it back to Portuguese.

Does this work? My intuition tells me that it does. It really fits into what I’ve learned from the “master” language learners.

IN CONCLUSION, while the title includes “English Pronunciation,” most of these tips and strategies can be applied to any language. Interestingly, as a native English speaker, I would like to point out that my own best insights and teaching do not come from a superior understanding of the English language, but from my own personal learning processes of Spanish and Portuguese.

Finally, I would like to clarify that my own pronunciation in Portuguese is far from perfect, but in all the years of teaching and learning languages, and observing the best language learners, the answers have been put in front of me.

Subscribe to our mailing list to get a really awesome and FREE mini-course on how to make English a part of your life, and you’ll also receive our newsletter with exclusive language learning tips, updates as to events, and access to our vast database of articles. Finally, we would really appreciate it if you spread the word about the project and tell your friends about it. Thanks a lot!

This is a continuation of our pronunciation series, and “How to Reduce Your Accent in English,” which addresses some of the attitudes that impede people from improving their pronunciation. Another extremely helpful article that we wrote is “Top 5 Mispronunciations Made By Brazilians”(which covers the sounds: ED, TH, EE at the end of words, CH/SH/T and H vs R).

Return from 7 Tips to Drastically Improve Your Pronunciation in English to Pronunciation Tips

  • These are excellent tips Justin. You explained them well.

    I urge my students and clients to use strategies 1-3, 5 &6 on a weekly basis. Those who live outside North American especially need to listen to North American radio shows and podcasts. My clients usually prefer NPR to VOA (VOA is a bit slow).

    I’ll take a closer look at the idea of reverse mimicry. That looks complicated….

  • Justin

    Thanks Susan, I took a look at your blog and it seems like you know what you´re doing. If you want to share your videos and any articles you might have in the Real Life English community, check it out http://www.facebook.com/groups/reallifeenglish/ Take care!

    Check out this article on lifestyle English, which talks about some of the methods you use (NPR) http://reallifebh.com/rle-lifestyle-guide-5-ways-to-make-english-a-part-of-your-daily-life

    Tunein Radio is great too!

  • I love your reverse accent mimicry idea, and yes, it does sound like it should work!

  • Justin

    Hey Vicki, Thanks for your comment! Are you learning any other languages? I’d love to hear what you learn about the reverse accent mimicry. I checked out your youtube channel. Pretty cool. We have an international community http://www.facebook.com/groups/reallifeenglish/. You’re welcome to share your content there. Take care!

  • Denise

    Hi Justin,
    Please forgive my stupidity but I still don’t get the reverse accent mimicry. I’m a filipino learning english, am I suppose to imitate a native english speaker speaking in portuguese as well? Thank you 🙂

  • Justin

    Hi Denise, the Portuguese was just an example because we have a lot of Brazilians in our community. You should imitate a native English speaker speaking your native language (filipino?).

  • nadia

    i like your website tooo much , i want really want to learn english fluntly ,but i dont understand your methods, just listening!!!!!!! what is your methods or this method for BRAZILAN people!!!! iam hardly read your comment

  • Jagruti Rakesh Gohil

    Hi, I am a teacher. I have problem with English pronunciations and accents. I want to improve it to get a better job for me. I’m from Gujarat and my mother tongue is Gujarati. Pls give me more best ideas to learn perfect English speech within short period of time

  • Justin

    Hey Jagruti, Check this post out- http://reallifebh.com/pronunciation-fluency It takes what this article was about and goes A LOT deeper! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Omg you don’t know how much you’re articles had helped me!!! I’ve been in the u.s since I was 8 years old! And still struggle with having long conversations :/… Mostly because I never actually practice with ANYONE! (Only the neccesary answering questions ect.)

  • Justin

    Hey Maria, Thanks a lot for the comment. I’m really glad we can be of service in some way. Where do you live? Remember on the other side of things that you are bilingual and that’s a huge asset!

  • Theara

    Hi! How to go on communication on Twitter with native speakers?

  • Maryum Noor

    From your comment, i can tell that your grammar and spellings need a lot of improvement. Although this comment was 2 years ago and i hope you have improved, i would still like to suggest that you read english books and novels or maybe just the newspaper or short stories. This way you will be so used to reading correct grammar and spellings that you will start to develop and use it in your own lanuguage without maybe even realising it. As for having a good accent, i have improved my accent just through watching youtube videos etc. <3

  • L Barreto

    Thank you. The advices are excellent! Congrats for such nice work!

  • Laith Basem

    THX for the advices.

  • Eric S.

    The article is invaluable to me, I have been in Canada for almost 2 years, enunciation is one of the things I have to work on. I got called out a couple of times for my bad enunciation.

  • Necto Necto

    The article is very useful, but there’s too many M’s in the world “imitate”. This literal error isn’t crucial at all, but some people may become confused by it. I, for one, looked it up to make sure I remember its spelling 🙂

  • excellent idea..it really works!

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  • Matheus Rosa

    I loved this article. When we are studying a new language, it’s always necesary improve our language skills and when we find a topic to talk about or a way in order to learn it…it’s GOOOOOOOOOOOOD.

  • Matheus Rosa

    I love the shadowing way. I love watching movies and reading book and when we see a good script, the lines keep in our minds.