The first step in learning correct English pronunciation is to focus on individual sounds. These sounds are named "phonemes". Every word is made up of a number of "phonemes" or sounds. A good way to isolate these individual sounds is to use minimal pair exercises. To take your pronunciation to the next level, focus on stress on intonation. The following resources will help you improve your pronunciation by learning the "music" of English.
Practice with Pronunciation Using English is a stress-timed language and, as such, good pronunciation depends a lot on the ability to accent the correct words and successfully use intonation to make sure you are understood. Simply put, spoken English stress the principal elements in a sentence - content words - and quickly glides over the less important words - function words. Nouns, principal verbs, adjectives and adverbs are all content words. Pronouns, articles, auxiliary verbs, prepositions, conjunctions are function words and are pronounced quickly moving towards the more important words. This quality of quickly gliding over less important words is also known as 'connected speech'. For more information on the basics of the stress-timed nature of English, please refer to:
Intonation and Stress: Key to Understanding
This feature takes a look at how intonation and stress influence the way English is spoken.
How to Improve Your Pronunciation
This "how to" focuses on improving your pronunciation through the recognition of the "time-stressed" character of English.
I am continually surprised to see how much my students' pronunciation improves when they focus reading sentences focusing on only pronouncing the 'stressed' words well! This feature includes practical exercises to improve your pronunciation skills by improving the stress-timed character of your pronunciation when speaking in full sentences.Some Examples
Take a look at the following sentences and then click on the audio symbol to listen to the examples showing the difference between the sentences spoken:
- In a plain manner, focusing on the 'correct' pronunciation of each word - much as some students do when trying to pronounce well.
- In the natural, manner with content words being stressed and function words receiving little stress.
- Alice was writing a letter when her friend came through the door and told her she was going to leave on holiday.
- I had studying for about an hour when the telephone rang.
- Fast automobiles make dangerous friends.
- If you can wait for a moment, the doctor will be with you shortly.
- I'd like a steak, please.
Lesson Plans based on these Pronunciation Exercises for Teachers
English: Stress - Timed Language I
Pre-intermediate to upper intermediate level lesson focusing on improving pronunciation by awareness raising and practice of stress-timing in spoken English.
English: Stress - Timed Language II
Awareness raising followed by practical application exercises including: function or content word recognition exercise, sentence stress analysis for spoken practice.
English: Stress - Timed Language III
Comparison of unnaturally and naturally spoken English by looking at the tendency of some students to pronounce every word correctly. Listening and Oral repetition exercise developing student ears' sensitivity to the rhythmic quality of English.