Study Tip – How to Improve Your English Pronunciation

by Melanie on July 12, 2012

 

(Photo by Leo Reynolds)

One of the most common questions I am asked is, “How can I improve my pronunciation?” I wrote this post to answer that question, and hopefully help you improve your English pronunciation! I believe that good pronunciation is essential for speaking AND understanding spoken English well. Below is a list of my best tips for improving your English pronunciation.

 

 

1) Decide what kind of accent you would like to speak with

There are many different kinds of English accents. The two most common are British and American. There are many different accents even within British or American pronunciation, but most learning materials will help you learn either a standard British accent or a standard American accent.

American pronunciation and British pronunciation are completely different. The consonant sounds are the same (except for the letter ‘t’ and an ‘r’ after a vowel), but the vowel sounds are very different. The British accent has more vowel sounds, and some vowel letters are pronounced differently.

 

2) Learn the IPA and the individual sounds of English

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a collection of symbols that represent the different sounds of a language. When you know all the sounds of English and the symbols that represent those sounds, you will be able to pronounce any word in English. [Click to tweet this!]

American Pronunciation:
An Introduction to the IPA

British Pronunciation:
BBC Learning English
Interactive IPA Chart

 

3) When you learn a new word, learn how to pronounce it correctly

The longer you say a word incorrectly, the harder it becomes to learn to say it correctly. You’ve developed a bad habit, and it takes a long time to break a bad habit! This is why it is so important to learn the IPA and use dictionaries specifically for English learners. [Click to tweet this!]

For example, let’s say you see a new word when you’re reading a book: outrageous. How do you pronounce this word? Let’s check two of the online dictionaries specifically for English learners:
MW Learner’s Dictionary
MacMillan Online Dictionary

Both of these dictionaries show you the IPA/phonetic transcription of the word (including which syllable you must stress): /aʊtˈreɪʤəs/

You can also click on the red speaker icon to hear someone say the word.

 

4) Watch YouTube pronunciation videos

American accent:
Teacher Melanie (me!)
JenniferESL
Lisa Mojsin @ Accurage English
Rachel’s English
Pronuncian/Seattle Learning Academy
Eva Easton

British accent:
The Phone Voice
VirtuAule

 

5) Try to imitate spoken English

To ‘imitate’ means to copy someone/something, to do something the same way, or to do the same things as someone else. Do you really like the way someone speaks English? Try to copy the way they speak.

Do you ever try to make fun of someone from another part of your country by imitating his accent? That’s what you need to do in English!

This is a great activity to try: Close your eyes while you’re listening to something in English (podcasts, songs, TV shows, movies, etc.). Listen carefully to what the speaker is saying and try to make the same sounds. Hear the sounds, don’t try to see the words. Choose a word or sentence, and listen to it many times.

Here are some resources that are useful for this:
English Teacher Melanie podcast (me!)
ESLPod podcast
Coach Shane’s Daily Dictation

Try to imitate the sounds that native speakers make.

 

6) Practice HEARING the sounds of English

Before you listen to an English podcast, song, etc. read the words first. Highlight, circle, or underline the sound you want to work on. For example, if you have trouble with the /I/ sound, highlight all the words that you think have the /I/ sound. Read the passage out loud to yourself, focusing on the words with /I/. Listen to the podcast (or song, etc.). Can you hear the /I/ sound? Practice the sound by trying to imitate what the speaker is saying.

 

7) Record yourself

It’s important to hear what you sound like speaking English so you know what you need to improve! You can compare what you sound like to what you want to sound like. For example, you record yourself reading a sentence from one of my podcasts. Then, listen to me say the same sentence and compare your pronunciation.

If you don’t have any recording software on your computer (like Windows Sound Recorder or GarageBand on Macs), you can use a web-based audio recorder:
audioboo
Vocaroo
SoundCloud

You may also be able to find a cheap digital voice recorder at your local electronics store.

 

8) Practice for at least 30 minutes every day

There is no way around it: the only way your pronunciation will improve is if you practice, practice, practice! Your pronunciation will not magically improve just because you’re speaking English. The sounds of English may be very different from the sounds in your language. It may be difficult and even uncomfortable for your mouth to make some of the sounds in English.

You need to practice with a purpose. [Click to tweet this!] Practice the sounds of English until they feel as natural and comfortable as the sounds of your language. It won’t happen overnight, but gradually your pronunciation will improve.

 

9) Pronunciation Books

Here are the two books that I use to understand and teach American pronunciation. Check your local library for these books. If you attend a private language school, ask if it has these books. If you live in a large city, look for these books at an English bookstore. Buy these books online.

Mastering the American Accent – Lisa Mojsin

This is quite possibly the greatest book on American pronunciation for both teachers and advanced learners! It does not go through each and every sound (like the book below does). It focuses on the things that will help a non-native speaker speak with a standard American accent (like the kind you hear on CNN!): difficult consonant sounds, linking, syllable and word stress, intonation, and the difference between casual and formal speech. At the back of the book there is a ‘native language guide’ that explains what different nationalities (Chinese, Spanish, Russian, etc.) need to focus on. The book also includes 4 CDs so that the learner can listen to someone speaking almost every exercise.

 

English Pronunciation Made Simple – Paulette Dale and Lillian Poms

This book explains each individual sound in standard American English, as well as all the other elements of spoken English: rhythm, stress, intonation, consonant clusters, plurals, contractions, past tense verbs, etc. This is a great book for teachers to use as a classroom textbook as there are a lot of exercises teachers will find useful in the classroom. It is better for teachers than for students, as the 2 included CDs don’t say all the words and exercises. This book also helps to learn the IPA as it uses the IPA symbols to help explain American English pronunciation.

10) Have your pronunciation professionally evaluated

When your pronunciation is evaluated by a teacher, he/she can tell you exactly what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. He/She can tell you exactly what sounds you need to work on to sound more like a native speaker.

Use the search terms “English pronunciation assessment” or “English pronunciation evaluation” to find teachers online.

 

 


1 john Medina October 26, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Hello miss Melanie,
I just have join in your page and I found it very interesting, I will do my best to understand how it really work so I will be able to take the best advantage of your teachings. Thanks for the tips about other sites we can use as well

2 Hoa My November 4, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Hi Ms. Melanie, I really love your youtube channel as well as this website. I've been in U.S for almost 3 years and I've been working so hard on my pronunciation. A teacher in my school told me that my speaking is really good now. I really don't know if she just tried to be nice or that was the truth. I honestly feel a little bit improvement with my speaking but what I really want to do is speaking like a native speaker. I know it might sound silly but I really wanna do that. I watch American TV like at least 30 mins everyday, I make friends with lots of Americans so I can practice. If I can't say a word, I practice it till I can say it completely right. What else can I do to be better (: Thanks

3 Melanie November 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Hi, Hoa My!

Wow! You sound like a very dedicated, hard-working English learner! Keep up the great work!

You didn't mention if you had ever heard yourself speaking English. Have you tried to record yourself speaking English? This is the only way for you to know for sure if you sound like a native speaker or not! Then you will know what you are doing well and what you need to work on.

I hope that helps,
Melanie
= )

4 Danilo November 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Way to go! I found this post really useful to everyone who wants to improve their pronunciation. Keep up the great work!

5 Melanie November 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Thanks so much Danilo! I know how frustrating it is learning another language, and I know how frustrating English pronunciation is. I hope I can make it a little bit easier for English learners!

6 Fr,simin nazareth May 13, 2012 at 4:09 am

thanks for ur article and advice i will help many others through you,… great.

Melanie 7 Melanie May 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm

That’s great to hear! I hope this posts helps as many people as possible improve their English pronunciation. = )

8 houda July 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Thank you so much for all this; I can’t describe you how it’s helpfull for me
especially that i don’t consider myself having a lot of trouble in english
writing but my prounonciation is really awfull. You’re such a good teacher your lessons and tips are helping me a lot through this.

9 Javier Villatoro August 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Hello, Miss Melanie!, Warm regards from Guatemala!, I found this blog really helpful and definitely I’m looking forward to get those books you recommend us, all I can say is: thank you! for helping me to improve my knowledge!.

Best. J.

10 Maria August 30, 2012 at 9:23 pm

hello melanie , I had learned english at school in the united states but i moved and now i have four years of speaking spanish. since i left, I have been worried about forgeting english but i found your page and i really liked it, ill try to visit your page more often . Im very glad i found it.

11 Deepak Dudhane October 15, 2012 at 12:24 am

Hi.
I found your suggestions very useful.
I’m teaching English as a volunteer in a small school in the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai.

As we teach using print media, and use “Indian English”, where our pronunciation is closer to Queen’s English, rather than American, could you suggest some books which are based on British pronunciation.

Thanks and best wishes,
Deepak

Melanie 12 Melanie October 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Hi, Deepak!

Unfortunately I don’t know any books about British pronunciation. I focus on American pronunciation & I mainly use online resources, so I don’t know any British books. I’m sorry!

13 shiya October 16, 2012 at 1:03 am

Hai Melanie,
After practising all tips which given its really working. I can practise very easily without any difficulty.Today I have my final round interview hopefully i will clear it.

Thankyou.

14 Mr.G October 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Hello M,s
am really interested in you website and now I’m improving my pronunciation in engish. Thank you so much for your tips and I really appreciate it.

15 Juan Diego C November 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Hi, Melanie,
I’m from Costa Rica, and I tray to speaker english and tray to learneing english every day, so I found your suggestions very well.

I don’t knok how to tanks you.

16 Julia November 16, 2012 at 8:18 am

i like it

17 nur affandi December 14, 2012 at 8:38 pm

bravo,thanks,my English is better now,succes always with you.

18 Abraham January 11, 2013 at 11:55 pm

This is what i was looking for!! Thank you!!

19 Jon January 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

A big THANK YOU! My wife and I have been teaching English and Citizenship to Hispanics for over 4 years. We teach one-on-one in their homes after their children leave for school.

I purchased Mastering the American Accent for my advanced students, but had difficulty using it with beginning students. Last Fall I started a class using material from StarFall.com because it is a good, basic phonics program. I use the IPA symbols and am writing an English-Spanish dictionary with the words introduced in each StarFall unit. I am also folding in lessons & videos from Mastering the American Accent and from You Tube.

Today I downloaded several of your videos and will show them to my students on my iPad Mini. I had to download them because many of students do not have Internet in their homes.

Thanks again for the great videos.

20 rashid January 25, 2013 at 2:46 am

really its good site, where someone can find best tips for improving English pronunciation and language as well.

21 Letícia Silveira January 31, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Hey!
I’m studying English abroad and I’ve ended up in the Advanced class. My teacher told me, though, that I should sound more natural.
I know that the best thing would be ask him, but can you explain to me what he meant when he said so?
And, with these advices, can I do it?
Cheers.

Melanie 22 Melanie January 31, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Hi, Letícia!

Congratulations on reaching the advanced level!

Well, without hearing you speak or knowing anything about you, it’s hard to know what your teacher meant!

Do you speak Spanish or Portuguese? Where are you studying English?

Here are some of my guesses of what your teacher meant by “natural”:
- intonation
- stressed syllables / stressed words in a sentence
- English phrases/collocations instead of translating from your language into English

The best thing to do is imitate speakers that you like. Are you studying at a private language school? It can be difficult to find native speakers to talk to. Try watching TV shows or movies & imitating things the actors say.

= )

23 swarnika February 22, 2013 at 5:27 am

its grt..thnxs..:)

24 Justin February 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm

It is awesome website of tips for improving English

25 nsc February 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Thank you for your help.
My teacher said That I have a nice fluent speakin’ but I bad pronunciation. Is could be possible?
I have read that if you can understand a natural conversation You can’t have problem with the speak.
I know that my vocabulary is poor but in a conversation I can understand like 80%.
and since my teacher told me in my last class that I feel very unsure.
Can you give me some tips?
PS I’m from Mexico

Melanie 26 Melanie March 21, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Hi, NSC,

Hmmm, this an interesting comment!

Yes, it is possible to sound fluent but still have problems with individual sounds. There are three main parts to English pronunciation:
1. Sounds
2. Rhythm
3. Intonation

If you watch a lot of American TV shows & movies, you may have picked up the rhythm & intonation of English, but you may still pronounce individual sounds wrong, especially the vowel sounds. Spanish only has 6 vowel sounds, but American English has about 15 vowel sounds.

“I have read that if you can understand a natural conversation You can’t have problem with the speak”
I have not heard or read this before. Understanding the conversation has nothing to do with being able to speak. Speaking English well = pronunciation + grammar + vocabulary

The thing to focus on is your long-term goal. If you just want to be able to communicate and for people to understand you and not worry about being ‘right’ or ‘correct,’ then you’re doing fine. If you want to speak fluently & properly, you will need to focus on individual sounds, as well as improving your grammar & vocabulary.

Have you ever heard what you sound like speaking English? I think the best thing for you to do is to record yourself speaking English, and compare it to a native speaker.

Good luck to you!

27 nsc May 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Thank you.
I’ll try to improve my vowels, and record myself.
Have a nice day.

28 Alireza March 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Im Alireza. Im from Iran .your site and your sort of teaching is very much good.
THANK YOU

29 Nadir Ali Hashmi April 15, 2013 at 1:40 am

Hi dear,
It’s good to see this site aimed at aiding the English speakers to perfect their pronunciation , improve their confience and communication skills when dealing with the people of different nations.I would like to enhance my speaking skills as well by following all the tips and techniques advised by you and come as close to the utterence of English words exactly as that of a native speaker .

30 GUNA April 23, 2013 at 5:55 am

IT IS VERY USEFUL FOR ME

31 Dianne April 29, 2013 at 12:20 am

hi!! I love your youtube channel!!

32 rajwinder kaur May 28, 2013 at 2:13 am

this post really helpful

33 maryjane nopre May 29, 2013 at 8:00 am

hi!ms melanie
i would like to thanks this website that help us and some info,how to emproved pronounciaton,, this is very helpful

34 Ehsan Eidy May 31, 2013 at 6:04 am

Hi . It works. Just do it to the best of your ability to get the best result. But pay attention that the best way to learn something is to teach that. So If you are interested to speak with the best accent try to say the words aloud like a teacher and take a note of those (on the board suggested) in order to say them everyday and practice over and over again. It helps you on your pronunciation.
What do you think Melanie?

35 deeh June 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

hi Melanie. Your website is helpful. Thank you

36 Sami June 19, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hi Melanie,
i don’t actually know how i can exactly discripe my favorfeeling to say you are the
best teacher i met .
but my problem is ( i hope you might be able to help me fix it ) that i can’t express myself very well and i used to make a huge amount of mistakes whether in grammer or in speach ,finally my pronunciation all my trial to imrove it meet many of problems and sometime i recorded myself to hear it i found my pronuciation is good however all who speak with me told me that i just mimk the actors and it is according to them is a big mistake furthermore they told me i can never get the accent and the dialekt i want because i were born neither in US or in UK , so is all what they told me right or not ? i have been learning English for 16 years by the way , actually i began learning since i was 4 years old

i wish i could to get your respond as fast as you can .
Sami.

Melanie 37 Melanie July 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Hi, Sami!

“however all who speak with me told me that i just mimk the actors and it is according to them is a big mistake”
~ Who told you this? Imitating or mimicking American English speakers is a great way to improve your pronunciation!

“furthermore they told me i can never get the accent and the dialekt i want because i were born neither in US or in UK”
~ This is not true! I know many people who have learned to speak English without an accent even though they don’t live in an English speaking country.

If you don’t live in an English speaking country, the best thing to do is listen to as much English as possible! Listen to English all the time & try to imitate what you hear. This will help you learn natural sentence structure as well.

Good luck to you!
= )

38 Elena August 6, 2013 at 6:53 am

Many thanks for information, it’s really useful (=

39 Mery August 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Hey ms Melanie,

I find your website really interesting and I know that make it really good it takes some time and dedication, but I really appreciate all the help I am receiving from this useful website.

Again, thank you so much for this wonderful job you are doing, keep it up!!!!
Kiss n hugs
Mery

40 denis August 13, 2013 at 7:51 am

Hello, Ms. Melanie!
Your information was interesting.
Thank you from Russia

41 nelson August 26, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Madame Melanie,

Your very kind and educated person. I like your teaching through Internet the way it reaches us more tips about American language. You are a mentor, the way I perceive and competitive English speaker. You encouraged us to become mature and responsible in sharing your ideas.

I am from the Philippines and I like people like you who share ideas very professional. I am teaching English subject as fundamental as that of your tips in our school. I like your suggestions and introductions very often to share also to my students.

Thank you very much the knowledge I learned from you in this web.

Nelhzone

42 AD September 13, 2013 at 10:59 am

Hi Melanie,
thanks for these useful tips! I’d be glad if you could help me solve an issue. I’ve found that repeating sentences and sounds does improve my pronunciation, but when I have to make normal conversation all of these efforts seem lost and I end up switching back to my native accent – Italian if you care. I guess it may be because I focus on what I have to say and have no time to think of *how* I’m saying it.
I don’t really have many chances to pratise real conversation, and my English practice mainly involves writing and listening.
Do you have any tips to fix this?
Cheers,
AD

Melanie 43 Melanie September 20, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Hi, AD,

How long have you been speaking English? I’m going to guess that you have been speaking English with an Italian accent for a very long time! You switch back to your native accent because that’s what your brain knows. It’s “muscle memory.” It feels comfortable.

You can’t change your pronunciation overnight. I read an article once that said it takes 21 days to change a habit. You have to re-train your brain! You have to keep practicing & repeating things until it’s completely natural & it’s stuck in your brain and you don’t have to think about it anymore.

= )

44 Lorenzo November 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Hey Melanie
I’m brazilian and i have this life goal that i really want to achieve it,which sounds silly and imature for now,so,here it goes, i really want to be an actor and have an international carrer,so,i still have to take care of the first steps,and one of them is my pronunciation,i really want to thank you for your help here,i already speak much better(still needing some improvement haha) in contrast of your help,i’ve found a way of mixing all you tips in one big “system” of living,i only think in english,and most of my friends and family speak english as well so i only talk with them in english,when i’m alone i kinda yell speeches and try to talk as fast as i can,i really hope the neighbour don’t think i am crazy,haha thanks for eveything.

Melanie 45 Melanie November 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hi, Lorenzo!

This is not a silly or immature goal at all! This is a great goal!

I wish you all the best,
= )

46 Matt December 5, 2013 at 8:13 am

Thank you so much!
I’ve been struggling with my pronunciation since I got here in Australia. It was okay in my country (Singapore) but people here think our accent is irritating. So I started trying to change my accent but my mouth looks so weird when I speak. I think I need to learn IPA though it seems like a challenge for me. :)

47 chayenne werry December 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm

hi i ‘m chayenne werry and i am 12 years old i sit on the comprensive school i think that i not good at english are.can you help me?

groetjes.chayenne werry

Melanie 48 Melanie December 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Hi, Chayenne!

You should look for a private tutor to help you with your English skills. There are probably many British people who live in the Netherlands. They can help you with your English. Do you live near a university? There could be some students from England who can help you.

Good luck to you!

49 angel December 11, 2013 at 9:06 am

hi, I’m from Iran and so happy to find this web I’m sure your tips will help me to improve my accent thanks

50 Bruno January 23, 2014 at 12:36 pm

this fantastic post there are many tips I can use to improve my English , I´m from Brazil and Brazilian accent is really difficult to reduce though I´ve seen some good results.
Thank u very much for this post .

51 Martha January 28, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Miss.Melanie,thank you so much.I have learnt so many new things.thank you once again for your wonderful advice

with love,
Martha

52 alex March 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Dear Melanie,

Thank you for the tips, I found them very helpful and interesting, def. I will apply them with my English Pronunciation groups :D at least during my social service.

53 Remi March 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Hi Melanie,

Wow, great tips. I’ve been Iiving in the US for 10 years, took a course on American pronunciation a couple of years ago, and keep striving to be understandable. I want to keep my French accent! People like it. The biggest challenge is to catch your own pronunciation mistakes. Toastmasters, a club for public speaking, helps me a lot for receiving feedback on how to improve on words I had no clue I mispronunced them.
Thanks a lot for sharing all this.

54 Umm Abdullah April 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Hi Melanie ,
I’m new in English , and i’m so happy to start from here.

Thanks.

55 ashrasqt April 17, 2014 at 12:12 am

I like the content of the page. and I will try my best to use all these comments and suggestions and I hope to get a satisfy results.

Thank you so much

56 bikki kumar May 7, 2014 at 11:31 pm

this is the best to record our voice and listen it again

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