I’m not saying that having an accent when you speak is a bad thing, but lessening it can help you be better understood AND make native speakers more comfortable speaking to you. If you want to learn more about the importance of good pronunciation, be sure to read this.
If you have ever wanted to improve your pronunciation in another language, or even eliminate your foreign accent all together, then keep reading because today I am going to teach you a technique that will help you have FUN training your pronunciation.
Why Your Pronunciation Sucks
Pronunciation is something that schools do not generally place any importance on, so it’s natural that your accent from your other language might be thick in your target language.
Teaching pronunciation can’t be done through a book–which is probably why most schools don’t teach it–an abstract subject like pronunciation is much harder to teach than having students memorize grammar rules.
Why Reading Too Much can be a BAD Thing
Pronunciation and flow expert, Idahosa Ness, relates reading to something he calls “Lexomania” (an obsession with words). Although reading can be a great way to improve your English or other target language, too much of the written language can be a bad thing, especially at the beginning of the language learning process.
If you haven’t learned the correct pronunciation yet, that little voice in your head that accompanies you while you read is WRONG and by reading a lot you are actually reinforcing the erroneous pronunciation.
This is completely contrary to how languages are taught through traditional methods. We learn the language by looking at the words–usually not by listening to them.
This traditional method is completely opposite of how we learn our first language, which is by listening to and imitating those around us. This also causes us to falsely compare the sound of the target language to our native language, which leads to us speaking our second language like our first one. This can make you difficult or even impossible to understand.
So with this, consider a listening before reading approach (like your first language).
The Fun Way to Improve Your Pronunciation
Idahosa shows you how you can speak a language with a near-flawless accent without any prior knowledge of it.
His technique is great–a revolutionary, unique way to learn a language!
The only problem I have with this technique is that if you already speak the language at a decent level of fluency, it is difficult to view the language just as sounds, as you already innately form the syllables into words in your head.
However, this technique can still be a great way for you to improve your English or another language’s pronunciation even if you already have a good level in it.
First, what is this technique?
Improve Your Pronunciation with Music
The steps he gives are the following:
- Using Audacity, cut out a part of the song and slow it down (see tutorial video below)
- Listen and copy down the individual syllables you hear (NOT the words)
- Put the syllables into groups of five or so
- Memorize syllable groups
- Once memorized, put it all together and rap the whole lyrics
- Repeat at normal speed
If you are a beginning language learner–I think Idahosa’s method is a great way to first expose yourself to the language.
However, this approach is time consuming and inefficient if you already speak the language fairly-well because you naturally want to pick out words. By tweaking this process, you can make it much more effective for you as an intermediate or advanced English learner.
Pronunciation Technique for Intermediate and Advanced Learners
First do steps one and two. Number two is a terrific exercise for improving your listening because you are changing the way that you look at the language from words to sounds. You must determine the individual syllables without reading anything, which will be extremely useful for English because there are many difficult sounds that don’t exist in other languages.
Next, you will put away what you’ve written down and try to say the syllables out loud while listening to the slowed down audio (do this just by listening–no cheating by looking at the written syllables). Listen and sing on repeat until you are comfortable with each syllable (you don’t necessarily have to memorize them, although this is a good exercise).
Now that you have attempted to identify the sounds without necessarily trying to identify words, you are going to look up the lyrics to ascertain that you heard the sounds right and to fill in the blanks in your comprehension.
In this video I show you exactly how to do this activity and how to use Audacity:
Several things might surprise you:
- You realize that some words are pronounced differently than you thought
- You might notice that some words cut, morph, or link together with other words (especially in English)
- You see that you heard several sounds wrong. For example, you might have written down a “v” sound as a “b” sound. Go back and listen over and over again until you can distinguish the two sounds. This will help both your listening and your pronunciation A LOT!
Remember, this is the REAL language, how it’s really used. We often speak (and sing) much differently than the written language. This is why it is so important to expose yourself as much as possible to English how it is really spoken, and to speak yourself.
Last, share it with somebody! This is the best way to get over any fears you have of speaking and to communicate confidently. Your friends might even be impressed hearing you rap in English.
Click here to check out my rap in Catalan after this exercise.
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