SEVEN Pronunciation Exercises you need to know to improve your English Pronunciation
Pronunciation Exercise 1. Effectively Pushing Out R and W Sounds:
R and W sounds are extremely important in American English Pronunciation. These sounds are found in all positions of words - the beginning, middle and end. These two sounds require a "pushing out" motion of the mouth and lips that most foreign speakers are challenged by. If your goal is to be easily understood in everyday conversation, these sounds need to be mastered. So you must practice "pushing out" the mouth and lips when you pronounce these letters. (The Free PronunciationWorkshop.com Video Demo provides a great illustration of how to form these sounds.)
Some examples of words that need the pushing out sound/motion in order to be correctly pronounced are:
- Correct -> not cadect
- Won or One -> not un
- Girl -> not gahl*
- Word -> not wad*
Pronunciation Exercise 2. Choosing the Correct Vowel Sounds:
Switching the correct vowel sound for an incorrect vowel sound is an extremely common error made by foreign speakers. This substitution error is significant because it often completely changes the meaning of the word. The reasons foreign speakers tend to switch vowel sounds include:
- they substitute the vowel sound from their native tongue onto the American English vowel
- they are confused by the inconsistencies of English spelling
- they do not recognize the sound because it does not exist in their native language, indeed, often they cannot even "hear" it until they are trained to do so.
- Hit -> not Heet or Heat
- Heat -> not Hit
Pronunciation Exercise 3. Knowing When to Voice the "S" Sound as a "Z" Sound:
Did you know that approximately half of all "S" sounds in English are pronounced as "Z" sounds? That's right! By not correctly pronouncing these sounds, your spoken American English skills will sound sloppy and may give the impression that you are not educated or intelligent. When to voice the "S" sound as "S" or "Z" has to do with the neighboring sounds in the word. This seems difficult to understand, but is actually quite easy to master once you understand it. This topic gets lots of attention in the PronunciationWorkshop.com Video Training Course, but here are some words to practice:
- 1 Cup -> 2 Cups (S sound)
- 1 Fork -> 2 Forks (S sound)
- 1 Spoon -> 2 SpoonZZ
- 1 Glass -> 2 GlassIZZZ
- Deserve -> DiZZerve
- Busy -> BiZZy
Pronunciation Exercise 4. Properly Pronouncing the Invisible "Y" Sound:
The Invisible "Y" sound is found throughout American English. However, typically foreign speakers of English do not know about or use this very important element of pronunciation. Although you will never see the letter Y in these words, this subtle sound must be included in pronunciation or it will be very hard for listeners to understand what you are saying. When you are able to learn when to pronounce the invisible "Y", you will be amazed at how much better your English will sound!
- Create -> pronounced Cree-Yate
- Reunion -> pronounced Re-Yunion
- Distribute -> pronounced Dis-tri-bYute
- Interview -> pronounced Inter-Vyu
- Regular -> pronounced Re-gYu-lar
Pronunciation Exercise 5. Be Careful NOT To Drop the Endings of Words:
Many foreign speakers drop the last sound in a word, or the ending of a word. This can have a significant impact on listeners being able to clearly understand your speech or meaning. When speaking English, be sure to clearly pronounce the final P, B, T and D sounds in words:
- hope -> not hoe
- tube -> not tue
- cat -> not ca
- would -> not wou
Pronunciation Exercise 6. Properly Pronounce all Friction Sounds:
Friction sounds are quieter sounds that are produced by creating friction in your mouth. These sounds are found at the beginning, middle and ending of English words. In American English, some of these sounds include: TH, F, V, SH, S. By mispronouncing, omitting, or not stretching these sounds out, your spoken American English skills will remain poor.
- Leave -> not leee
- Think -> not dink or tink
- Bath -> not bat
- Those -> not dos
Pronunciation Exercise 7. Learning the Unique Rhythm and Melody of American English:
Learning proper American English pronunciation includes learning its unique style and sound. Mastering this skill is very much like taking music or singing lessons. Unfortunately, most foreign speakers never learn to create this melody and rhythm, and therefore, they go through life speaking English at an incorrect pace and style and/or in a dull or flat monotone.
Given the proper instruction, it is quite easy to learn how to make your English sound bright, fresh and interesting.and most importantly CLEAR and UNDERSTANDABLE. The entire PronunciationWorkshop Video Training Course is inherently designed to teach you this technique. Here is one suggestion which you can begin to use immediately:
When speaking, divide longer sentences into two or more sections, or thought groups. A thought group is a portion of a sentence set off from the rest by a pause or pauses. When we pause in a sentence, it is usually for one of three reasons:
a. To make the meaning clear: Example I was about to leave my house, (pause) when I realized that I left all the lights on.
b. For emphasis: Example: Frankly my dear, (pause) I don't give a damn (famous quote from the movie "Gone with the Wind").
c. To have sufficient breath support when producing longer sentence.
Example: My spouse and I decided to remodel our house, (pause) and then we realized (pause) that the money we would spend on remodeling (pause) we could put towards the purchase of an even nicer home (pause) in a better neighborhood.
If pauses are made too long or too often, the result is choppy speech, which is difficult and unpleasant to listen to. However, keep in mind that the ESL speaker's most frequent error when speaking American English is the failure to pause and divide sentences into thought groups.
There are no set rules for dividing sentences into thought groups. Different people will emphasize different ideas, and speakers vary as to their ability to speak without stopping for a breath. However, pauses should only occur prior to, or following a thought group, not just anywhere in a sentence. As a general rule, do not pause within a thought group.
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