Many students studying English or preparing for IELTS have always understood the importance of pronunciation, but why is it important? Many students want to sound like a ‘native speaker’, but why is this so important?
A speaker can have clear pronunciation which a native can easily understand; and still at times it can be heard with a foreign accent. Most non-native speakers of English will struggle to be able to pass as a native speaker in English 100% of the time for seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Yet, many students still aim for this ‘native speaker’ level of speaking.
So, first of all, we need to separate these two terms, accent and pronunciation.
The goal of having clear pronunciation, in order to be well understood in your new language, should not be underestimated. It takes time to achieve this, but getting it right will almost certainly boost your confidence when speaking and will help improve your IELTS speaking score.
Many students use guides and resources that skip over pronunciation, vowel and consonant sounds and important phonemes of language. These building blocks are essential for clear pronunciation. When studying, it makes sense to review the sounds of a language, as it gives us opportunities on how to pronounce words clearly and recognise these sounds. Therefore, if we can learn how to say words and connect words more accurately, the better we can communicate.
It’s good to aim to speak in a chosen native-sounding accent. This could be an American or British accent. This doesn’t mean you should hide or be ashamed of your own accent. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you work on your pronunciation, you will find that your accent will naturally improve over time. Try to speak in English as much as possible, with both native and non-native speakers. The key to good pronunciation is forming correct sounds, and over time, your accent will reduce, little by little, over time, with practice.
So, how can I improve my pronunciation?
- Try to imitate the way your teacher speaks.
- Closely study the chapters from your resources that look at alphabet and pronunciation.
- Practice speaking words you write down and read when studying.
- Pay attention to the individual sounds and combinations of sounds.
- Look at the stresses and rhythms of the language in each sentence.
- Record your voice and compare it to the native speakers from a book, TV show or movie.
What are some easy ways to do this?
- Look at the sounds of speech guide for help with sounds.
- Look at the positioning of your tongue in their mouth when looking at the at the sounds of speech guide, where the sound is made, and how the air comes out.
- Ask a native speaker/friend/teacher for feedback on the sounds you are making. Practice together with them for instant feedback.
- Try imitating the accent of a language in your own language. This can really help you master the sounds and rhythms of the language without worrying about vocabulary and grammar.
- Finally, enjoy speaking! Laugh along with your friends/teachers and other speakers if you make mistakes. It is much easier when you enjoy speaking!
You need to keep practising these sounds and continue to get feedback to improve your accuracy. Like any part of your English study, this takes time. But the more you speak, the more you practice and the more you improve your pronunciation and accent, the better you will be able to communicate, and the better chance you have of increasing your IELTS scores, both in listening and speaking.
Remember pronunciation is 25% of your speaking score, so follow the steps above, and feel free to post any questions or comment below!