Key tips: Pronunciation (vol.1)

G’day mate, how you going? Today, I am going to talk about the first three tips about English pronunciation. First of all, please note that my pronunciation is not perfect, but just good enough to be able to express freely without having any significant issue. I’m a non-English native speaker, and I’ve been living in Australia for 11.5 years in total. I’d struggled to pronounce four sounds out of 44 patterns before I seriously refined them. Ok, that’s enough introduction, then the main topic today is give you some tips for those struggling to improve pronunciation. Pronunciation problem is not just simply involved in itself, but there are several other aspects that need to be taken in account. Let’s get underway.

1. Let’s pronounce vowels a bit gently, and instead do pronounce consonants a bit louder and clearer

Vowels are stronger and consonants are weaker, which is one of the typical characterisations of Japanese language. If you are learning Japanese, then you probably know and feel like that. English, by contrast, should be opposite, I reckon. Some of you guys might have already experienced when you were having drinks and chats with native speakers or someone who’s speaking English very fluently. That is, you might think it was hard to hear and understand what they were talking about, in part because you could not catch up with consonant sounds or it was just too noisy. But, mainly I think it should be due to the fact that you tend to pronounce vowels much louder than consonants, which might have an adverse effect on your listening comprehension. Someone thinks that it’s joking, but it’s unfortunately true.

I’ve got a good example here. It’s like a young people’s texting language. For instance, you’d text to your close friend, like ‘Thx! C u l8r!’ As you can understand, you omit all vowels, not consonants, right? If you do it conversely, then no one can understand you. The same thing can apply to speaking as well. So, when you are in a noisy environment, you can hardly hear and understand clearly what people are talking about. However, the majority of native speakers don’t have any issue about this. Why? Because they can fairly easily catch consonant sounds even if some vowels are missing or inaudible.

2. Let’s get rid of any unusual intonation or rhythm, and instead do speak flat like in a monotone

Many non-native speakers try to speak like a native speaker, but you don’t have to be like a native. It’s of course good to emulate how native speakers say with high and low intonations, but ultimately it’ll be nonsense if you have too many awkward intonations within a sentence, which in fact negatively affects your listener’s comprehension. Instead of having such odd intonations, I highly suggest speaking flat like in a monotone. Although it sounds boring, it’s going to be so much easier for the listener to catch up with what you’re trying to say.

Speaking of ‘rhythm’, on the other hand, you should have appropriate pauses and no unnecessary ones when you’re speaking. My suggestion is that you should have 0.1 to 0.3 second’s pauses when you use commas, and should have 0.5 to 1 second’s ones when you do full stop sentences. This is especially important when you do read aloud English articles.

But for these two aspects, people might have to strain to hear and understand what you are trying to say.

3. Let’s consciously enunciate the ending of the word or sentence that you tend to unconsciously omit, mumble or say unclearly

This aspect is associated with tip 1, because the ending of the word or sentence are often consonant sounds. And, people tend to say them unclearly. Are you one of them? This is due to the fact that you probably tend to pronounce vowels much louder and less clearer than consonants, don’t you? For instance, here is a piece of a simple sentence: ‘Tony has willingly provided me with such fantastic English lesson texts.‘ Can you read this aloud crystal clear? In particular, verb’s -ed ending, and texts’ plural noun’s -s sound. These two are crucially important to be sounded out impeccably, otherwise your listener is highly likely to misunderstand what you mean, or in some cases, mislead his/her into dealing with something in a wrong way.

Always make sure you enunciate the ending of the word or sentence crystal clear. If you can consistently do so, then people can understand you with ease even if your pronunciation itself is a bit wonky.

To be continued!

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading!

Have a good one mate!

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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