A lot of language learners focus all their attention on learning all the necessary vocabulary and grammatical structures, but they often forget about focusing their attention on having correct pronunciation.
I believe that learning pronunciation is just as important as learning all these other elements of a language, if not more. Don’t wait until you are more advanced to focus on pronunciation! Your speaking habits are formed from the beginning, so make them count.
Think about it like this – language is nothing more than a structured set of sounds, that when reproduced in a specific order, represent actions (verbs), names and objects (nouns), description of these objects (adjectives), and much more.
So now that you are imagining that language is just a set of sounds, let’s think about sounds in the form of music.
When listening to someone singing, or playing an instrument, all the musical notes produced have to be in key in order to be understood, or appreciated by the person listening to the song. If the performer sings out of key you can still understand the song, but it doesn’t sound as good.
This same ideology can be implemented in spoken English. Instead of musical notes, language has what we call phonetics, which are all the different sounds of a language. Focus on learning and speaking English as if you were learning to sing a song in key. All the sounds should be in the correct order to be appreciated/understood by the person who is listening to you speak.
How Can I Start Improving My English With This?
The problem most English learners have is that teachers generally don’t focus on this aspect of the pronunciation until the student is already at an advanced level.
The best way to focus on the phonetics of language is what’s called “The Mimic Method,” developed by Idahosa Ness. This method is based on a “listen and repeat” exercise which is best done by imitating rap musicians, or other styles.
Rap music is a preferred way to familiarize yourself with the phonetics of a language because it is so similar to spoken English. Your main focus in doing this exercise should be to find songs which consist of specific sounds that are common in your target language. If you don’t want to use a rap song, I suggest you choose a song which has a catchy [something that is easy to remember] chorus that uses rhyming words which consist of the sounds you wish to improve.
Another huge benefit that you can get from using rap music to improve your pronunciation is that you will start to morph sounds. Sound Morphing is what is going to make your English start to flow and sound much more fluent, like that of a native.
Sound morphing is when we join many words together in a phrase so it seems like we are saying just one word. Native speakers do this naturally, which makes it very hard for language learners to pick up on every word that the speaker is saying.
If you’re an advanced speaker or if you have learned with music, you may have already started doing this naturally with some of the more common sound links. For example:
- Did you? – Dju?
- Don’t you – Donchew/ Dontcha
- I have got to – I hafta
In rap music, you are going to hear these kinds of sound morphs not only with these more common examples, but with nearly every sentence that they use. Being conscious of this is going to help you decipher exactly what the rapper is saying and help you to start applying this into your spoken English. You are going to be flowing in no time!
5 songs to get you started
Today I am going to present you with five rap songs which I often use with my students. I know that it is really difficult to remember an entire rap song, as they tend to be really long and use a lot of slang, so I generally use these songs because they have a repetitive chorus.
It’s time to start working on our rhyming skills and remember, repeat, repeat, and then repeat again.
1. Concrete Schoolyard – Jurassic 5
Let’s take you back to the concrete streets
Original beats with real live mc’s
No rabbit in a hat tricks
Just that classic
Rap shit from Jurassic
2. Drink, Drank, Drunk – Drapht
Drink drank drunk, the room starts to spin looking like ghost with see through skin,
Drink drank drunk, getting outta hand on top of the world thinking I’m the man,
Drink and drank till my legs don’t work over a hundred ladies have said I was a jerk,
Drink and drank I’m hitting the bottle had waking up in the morning no cash no cards
3. No Handlebars – Flobots
Look at me, look at me
Hands in the air like its good to be
Alive and I’m a famous rapper
Even when the paths are all crookedy
I can show you how to dosey doe
I can show you how to scratch a record
I can take apart the remote control
4. Thrift Shop – Macklemore
I’m gonna pop some tags
Only got twenty dollars in my pocket
I – I – I’m hunting, looking for a come-up
This is fucking awesome
5. The King Is Dead – The Herd
Finally the King is Dead,
We cried off with his head
Everything must change, Everything must change
We danced like new year’s eve
We danced from relief
Everything must change, nothing stays the same
Nothing stays the same oh, Nothing stays the same oh
These songs are just suggestions based on songs that I have used with some of my students. Now you need to focus on your English and your specific needs.
A good way to test your own English flow is by recording your own voice and critically analyzing your pronunciation. Once you have analyzed your own voice, think of the SOUNDS that you are having difficulty pronouncing, find a part of a song that uses this sound a lot, then repeat, repeat, and repeat again.
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