When people talk about pronunciation, they usually mean the sounds of individual words. This is not the whole story. Having good pronunciation also means having a good knowledge of word stress, sentence stress, intonation and rhythm.
The good news is that problems with the individual sounds of words are usually easy to fix.
- It’s not always possible to know how to pronounce a word from the way that it is spelt.
- Some words are spelt the same, but pronounced differently. E.g. ‘A dove is a bird.’ and ‘I dove into the water.’; ‘She gave me a present’ and ‘I am going to present a talk at the conference.’; ‘I want to tear up the letter.’ and ‘A tear rolled down his face.’
- Some words are spelt differently, but pronounced the same. E.g. ‘allowed’ and ‘aloud’, ‘bored’ and ‘board’, ‘hour’ and ‘our’, ‘knows’ and ‘nose.
- Your language may not have the same consonant sounds as we have in English. E.g. is there a difference in your language between ‘v’ and ‘w’? does your language have the ‘th’ sound?
- English has 20 vowel sounds and diphthongs. Does your language have this many? Most don’t.
- English has sound combinations which many other languages don’t have. E.g. Does your language have ‘s’ after ‘th’ as in ‘months’?
- Learn the international phonetic alphabet (IPA). Click on ‘Learn the Sounds of English‘ to do this the easy way.
- Practise saying any of the sounds which are difficult for you to pronounce.
- Make sure you practise these sounds, and combinations of these sounds, in words and sentences.
- Practise any sound combinations which are difficult for you to pronounce.
- Use your knowledge of the IPA to look up the pronunciation of words in your dictionary.
- Some online dictionaries allow you to listen to the sounds of words. Practise repeating these.
- When you listen, pay attention to the individual sounds in words, especially those you have problems with.