I receive a lot of messages from English learners like you. Many, many English learners like you feel the same frustration: you want to speak English better.
There are three main parts to speaking English: knowing the right words (vocabulary), putting the words in the right order (grammar), and saying the words properly (pronunciation).
Speaking is the hardest skill for English learners to improve because you need to find someone who can correct your mistakes and tell you how to improve. It would be great if every English learner had their own native speaker to practice with, but that’s not going to happen!
You need to be your own teacher. You need to correct your own mistakes.
One of the most powerful and effective things you can do right now to improve your pronunciation is record yourself speaking English.
It’s strange and uncomfortable at first, and you will think that you sound funny, but it is the best and fastest way to improve your pronunciation.
Reasons Why You Should Record Yourself
1. Do you know what you sound like when you speak English? Have you ever heard yourself speaking English? How can you improve your pronunciation if you don’t know what you sound like? What are you going to improve?
People say you need to learn from your mistakes, but how do you know what mistakes you are making?
2. You bring the sounds from your native language with you when you start speaking English. This is normal. Everyone does this when they learn a new language. That’s why you speak with an accent.
How do you know what those sounds are? How are you going to reduce your accent if you don’t know what your accent is?
3. It is much more powerful to hear yourself and hear your own mistakes than to have someone tell you what your mistakes are.
You are not going to improve your pronunciation by reading out loud every day. You will just keep repeating your mistakes without ever correcting them.
If you record yourself speaking, you can hear your mistakes and correct them.
How to Record Yourself
1. Find a video or other recording of a native speaker you want to sound like.
Look for a video or recording with a transcript or subtitles. (A transcript is a copy of the words that have been spoken. Subtitles are the words you see on a TV screen or in a video.) This important. You must be able to read the words!
Start with a short sentence. Later, as you practice more, read longer paragraphs.
Here are some resources:
The English Teacher Melanie Podcast (Hey, that’s me!)
NPR (National Public Radio) podcasts
BBC 6 Minute English (British accent)
BBC Words in the News (British accent)
2. Record yourself reading the same words.
See below for a list of apps, software, and websites you can use to record yourself.
3. Listen to the recording.
Compare how you sound to how the native speaker sounds. What are you doing right? What do you need to improve?
4. Practice making the sounds that you hear.
Mimic. Imitate. Copy. All these words mean the same thing: try to make the sounds you hear.
Remember, you have to hear an English word to know how to say it. Don’t try to guess the pronunciation from seeing the word.
Do you ever make fun of someone speaking your language with an accent? Do you ever copy the way they speak?
That’s what you need to do in English.
5. Continue recording yourself until you are happy.
Find a new recording of a native speaker and repeat steps 1-5.
Apps, Software, and Websites
1. Voice Memos
This is a native Apple app that is already on your phone. (On my phone it’s in the Utilities group.)
It’s very simple and straightforward. You tap the big red button and start recording. Remember, the microphone on your phone is at the bottom. You can save your file on your phone, use iTunes to sync and transfer to your desktop, or upload it to Dropbox.
You can also use the microphone that comes with the ear buds.
2. Camera and video
Use the video function in the camera app on your phone to make a video of yourself speaking. You can see your mouth and hear yourself at the same time.
Do you use your iPhone to record yourself? Leave a comment below with the name of the app you use!
Android does not have a native voice recorder app, but here is a list of good apps, free and paid, that you can find in the Google Play store.
You can also use the video function in the camera app to record of video of yourself speaking English.
I don’t have an Android phone, so if you are an Android user please leave a comment below with recommendations for a good recording app!
Desktop and Laptop Software
You can use the built-in microphone on your computer, but the sound is clearer and you can hear yourself better if you use an external microphone, like a microphone attached to a headset.
1. GarageBand (on a Mac)
GarageBand is the recording and editing software that comes with your Mac. Look for the red circle! That’s the record button. Here is information how to save a recording in GarageBand as an .mp3 file.
2. Sound Recorder
Sound Recorder is the Microsoft software that comes with all versions of Windows. Here is an article on how to use Sound Recorder.
Audacity is a free recording and editing program you can download. I think Audacity is confusing, but I know a lot of people like and enjoy using it. Here are some instructions on how to use Audacity.
On the Internet
This is the easiest way to record yourself. You click record, allow Vocaroo access to your microphone and camera, and then you speak. However, you cannot save any of your recordings. You can only record yourself and listen. When you record something new, you lose your previous recording.
You need to create an account, but if you have an account, use this link to record yourself. Here are some instructions on how to record yourself using SoundCloud and how to upload your recordings.
Do you record yourself speaking English? Tell me about it the comments below!
If you haven’t tried recording yourself, try it today!