The relationship between Pronunciation and Listening

G’day mate. How are ya goin? Today, I am going to talk about the relationship between Pronunciation and Listening. Some people say Pronunciation is not that important for Listening. Others argue Pronunciation is the key to improving Listening skills. Pronunciation is more than just listen or repeat. It apparently includes the features of English vocabularies and grammar rules as well. People are subconsciously pronouncing the words by noticing and understanding grammar rules and some patterns which lie beneath the surface of spoken language. Let me explain what I think.

You should be able to hear clearly if you can pronounce the 44 sounds of the English pronunciation with a certain confidence

I don’t really think you can hear and catch clearly what a native speaker is talking about, if you don’t know how some words should be pronounced. Thus, your understanding and accuracy of the English pronunciation is closely associated with your listening skills. You probably have a few particular sounds that you might often be mispronouncing, which has an adverse impact on your listening comprehension.

You should be able to hear clearly if you know word accents or diacritics of most basic words

You should know word accents in English. For instance, when you are hearing the word ‘comfortable’, you should’ve heard cOmfortable, not comfOtable nor comfortaBle. The first syllable must be accentuated. If you misunderstood this, you wouldn’t be able to hear the word correctly, in which case the word ‘comfortable’ would be gone like a noise from your ear instantly.

Diacritics being attached above is another thing you might often see, which is also a kind of accent system. I reckon they are stemming from Spanish and French. If you know all of them, that’d be awesome mate not just for your listening comprehension, but also for writing as well.

You should be able to hear clearly if you understand some connected speech manners such as liaison and elision

Even if you can pronounce all English sounds crystal clear, it doesn’t always mean that you can hear and catch all words and sentences, in part because your lack of understanding towards connected speech manners might impede Listening. You probably know what liaison is, whereas you mightn’t know what elision is, I reckon. Elision is like the omission of a sound or syllable such as I’m or Let’s. Like a contraction form. In especial, conversational elision is more common than written one. That’s why you should know all connected speech manners for improving your listening skills.

You should be able to hear clearly if you are used to a standard native speaker’s speed

If you listen to English exams’ listening audio materials only, then it’s a bit hard to catch up with a standard native speaker’s speed. To be honest, the IELTS’s listening, for instance, is quite a slow speed and too formal compared to other general audio sounds such as BBC, CNN. So, even if you can pronounce all sounds crystal clear, and understand word accents as well as connected speech manners, it’s still sometimes a bit tough to get the hang of exactly what a native speaker is saying. It’s not an insurmountable issue at all. You just listen to BBC radio, Nature podcast, the Economist podcast, and so on and so forth. It’s dead simple. The more you listen to normal speech audios, the clearer you will be able to hear.

You should be able to hear clearly if you understand some of the major English accents such as British, Australian, American, Indian, South African, etc.

This is the highest level that you’re aiming for. Pronunciation and listening is inextricably interlinked with each other. Pronunciation comprises not just pronunciation itself, but also accents. Australians have distinct English accents, while we Japanese have also distinctive ones as well. Just don’t get me wrong. Someone’s lack of understanding what you are trying to say does not necessarily mean your first language-prone English accent, but it’s usually due to some mispronunciations out of the 44 sounds. Too strong accent might interfere someone’s understanding, as a result of which you may think that it’s sometimes difficult to hear someone’s talking because you don’t know nor get used to other English accents. To overcome this, you need to go through an intensive training using a variety of different English accents. But, at the same time, you also try to neutralise your accent as much as you possibly can. It doesn’t mean you have to become like an Australian accent or British one. No. What you should do is to minimise your accents so that everyone could understand you with ease.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading!

Have a good one.

Published by Masato Kawaguchi

I am an English entrepreneur here in Australia. I've been teaching the PTE exam for the last 2 years or so, now mainly general English online.

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