A few tools for your English pronunciation workout or routine: a computer with Internet access, a gadget to record, a notebook to help you keep on track.
How many times have you gone to a book (Targeting Pronunciation, American Accent Training, Focus on Pronunciation, Perfecting Your English Pronunciation–these are all good!) to help you with your English pronunciation? How many times have you Googled or gone to YouTube to find out how to produce a specific sound? Maybe you found the perfect walk through. After spending 5-10 minutes on this, you then recorded yourself and what you heard sounded more like what you saw or heard on Google or YouTube.
The problem is, and I hear this all the time: How can you ensure that what you learned & practiced actually makes it to real-time spontaneous speech. It’s tricky because when you’re talking in real-time spontaneous speech, you’re paying attention to the information and not to how you’re producing the sounds and rhythm in spoken English.
Continuous. Steady. Ongoing.
No matter where you go to learn more about the English sound system (sign up for my newsletter, this could help as well!), what’s important is that you develop a continuous, steady, and ongoing practice routine. This is key! It must be a routine where you’re focusing on something specific (e.g., consonant articulation or the stressed syllables in words). Where you’re actively paying attention to this feature in others’ spoken English as well as your own.
I think it can also be helpful to observe this feature when you speak in your first language (or the language that you use most often when you’re not speaking in English). Does the sound exist? Are the final consonants which you might see in print actually articulated? Do you have stressed and unstressed syllable sounds in words, or is there some other variation (or cue) in the sound that makes up the rhythm of the language that you are speaking?
A few practice techniques
I’d like to share a few specific practice techniques that I recommend using daily. Again, the goal here is to move whatever speech feature you have learned about (e.g., consonant articulation, syllable stress in words, intonation for questions) into real-time spontaneous speech. This takes time and continuous, steady, ongoing practice & attention.
What’s critical is that you focus on only one speech feature. Not two or three. Not everything. Be very specific.
- Read out loud technique: Commit 5-10 minutes and read some form of written text out loud. This can be a paragraph in a book. A power point. The newspaper. It really doesn’t matter. Concentrate intensively on your chosen speech feature.
- Peer practice technique: Have a friend or colleague who’s also wanting to improve their spoken English? Sit down for 15-20 minutes to practice and peer monitor. First decide on which speech feature you will both focus on. Also, decide on a way to communicate that you don’t hear the feature. Eg., pinch your peer, raise your hand, repeat what you heard (or didn’t hear). Have a very slow and careful conversation where both of you are paying careful attention to this speech feature.
- Record & self monitor technique: Allow 5-10 minutes for this self-reflective activity. Talk about something that you are very familiar with for 1-2 minutes and record. Listen to your recording and focus on the specific speech feature. If there is a word, phrase, or sentence that you think needs improvement, write it down. Underline or highlight what you need to remember. For example, if you don’t hear your word endings consistently, write down the words which need improvement. Underline their word endings. You may need to listen once or twice. Then, re-record on the same topic and incorporate the marked-up words, phrases, and sentences into your speech sample. Concentrate intensively on whatever you’ve marked up.
Note: I recommend focusing on the same specific speech feature continuously one week at a time.
Need additional guidance?
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