How to SOUND BETTER in English!

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Communicating clearly in English requires clear pronunciation. In this advanced pronunciation lesson, I’ll share my top five tips to help you improve your pronunciation so that you can SOUND BETTER in English!

Improving your pronunciation in English will help you to be understood when you speak English and is such an important part of becoming fluent in English.

Video Transcript
Section 1
Now I’m sure you’re watching this video because you want to sound better when you speak English, right? Well, you’re in the right place! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and in this lesson today I’m going to show you how to sound more like a native English speaker.

You might think that sounding like a native speaker in a foreign language is almost impossible. Sometimes it feels like that, right? You can study grammar and vocabulary, you can work really, really hard on prepositions and adjectives and verb tenses. And after all of that hard work, it’s really, really frustrating when it’s your pronunciation that lets you down, right?

But the ultimate goal of learning another language is communication, right? To be able to communicate a message to someone else. And your pronunciation is the first impression that another person gets when they hear your English.

Now incredibly, good pronunciation can actually raise the level of your English. It can bring it up. Mistakes are easier to overlook or ignore if you sound good, if the listener can understand the words that you’re saying and the message still gets across.

But you know what that means, right? Poor pronunciation can actually bring the level of your English down because even if you’re speaking perfect English grammar, your English level seems to be lower because the listener can’t understand what you’re saying.

What is the point of perfect grammar then, right? Improving your pronunciation will help people to understand you and make communicating in English so much easier. To do it, it is going to take some practise. Quite a bit of it.

But with some dedication, some helpful tips and space to practise, I’m confident that you’re going to be able to do it. You’ll improve your pronunciation. I’ll give you the helpful tips and the space to do it but you have to bring the dedication. You are the one who has to keep coming back, completing the challenges that I set for homework in every lesson, right? Keep coming back and keep practising.

In fact, prove that you are a dedicated student of mine and subscribe to the mmmEnglish Channel right now so at the very least, I know that you’ll be back here to practise with me every week, right? And if you’re already a subscriber, let me know in the comments and say hi!

I’m here today to give you the tools that you need to sound better in English and I’ve got five tips that I want to share with you. But before we get into the lesson, I just want to take a quick moment to thank the sponsor of today’s class, my amazing friends at Lingoda. Lingoda is an online language school, you might have heard of them. Just like any other regular language school, they have qualified native teachers and a huge list of different classes, more than a thousand I think. And the classes relate to all of the different English skills that you need to develop: reading, writing, listening, speaking. They even have specialties like business English. But instead of having to travel and physically attend classes at a time when the school decides they’re going to put on a class, well with Lingoda, everything happens online like virtual classes at any time of day or night. So you decide when it suits you to study and practise English.

Now there’s two things that I love about Lingoda and why I think you should check them out. The first one is the size of their group classes. They’re small so instead of being in a room full of people, you’re going to be getting personal attention and you’re always going to have a chance to practise. This is super important when you’re developing your English skills but particularly your speaking skills and your pronunciation, especially if you want to do it as quickly as possible.

The other reason why I love Lingoda is that they genuinely care about their students like at every step along the way. They’re constantly introducing new features to their platform and thinking about how to help their students to enjoy the experience and improve their skills but also do it at an affordable price which is something that I really like. I’ve been taking Spanish classes with Lingoda this year. I think they also have a German and French classes too but as soon as I signed up, I got a free private lesson for an hour with a qualified native Spanish teacher Mercedes. She was awesome! She gave me some hints on how to use the platform and recommended a few different classes that I should sign up for so it was a great way to start.

So guys, if you’re thinking about taking your English to the next level this year, then have a look at Lingoda’s classes. They’ve even offered mmmEnglish students a fifty dollar or a fifty euro discount when they first purchase. Just make sure that you use the link in the description below and add my name, Emma, as the voucher code to get the discount at the checkout. Okay I have to stop talking about Lingoda now. I’ve got to get back to the lesson but honestly I can’t recommend them more, go and try them out and let me know what you think.

All right back to the five tips to help you sound better when you speak English.

Tip #1 Choose your accent

Which English accent do you want? Now if you know the answer to this question already, awesome! Tell me in the comments what’s the accent that you want but if you don’t have an answer to this question right now, that’s okay, we’re going to work on it. Because normally I would tell you that it doesn’t matter what English accent you use. Usually I’d say it’s more important that you communicate clearly. Your accent doesn’t matter.

But if you want to improve your pronunciation as quickly and as efficiently as possible, at least have an idea about how you want to sound. Know what your goal is that you’re working towards. Do you want an American accent or a British one? Do you want to sound like me? My accent’s Australian.

So between those accents, there’s actually quite a few different pronunciation rules. Some sounds and particularly vowel sounds, they’re actually quite different when you compare these accents, right? So it gets a little confusing if you’re trying to learn how to speak clearly. Some consonants and linking sounds, even syllable stress can be different between accents. Now if you’re not sure exactly what linking sounds are or syllable stress well, don’t go anywhere because I’m going to talk about them a little later in this lesson.

Now it really doesn’t matter what accent you choose, but knowing the accent that you’re working towards will make things just a little less complicated while you practise your pronunciation. To improve how you sound, you need to be able to hear the difference between all of these different sounds first, right? If you can hear the difference, then you can practise it, right? And you can imitate it. So I want you to pick an accent. If you like my accent, that’s great! If you don’t, well then you’re crazy! Just kidding!

If you want a different accent to mine, then you’ll need to find someone with the accent that you want. Listen carefully to the sounds that they make, spend some time each week training and practising your pronunciation with that person. There are just so many different resources available to you online in the accent that you want to practise, right? Videos, songs, lessons.

Just focus on the sounds that you need to hear and just to be clear, this tip, this one here, is specifically for sounding better in English, for improving your pronunciation. Listening to a mix of accents is an absolute must. You can’t just listen to one person or one teacher and then expect to go out in the world and understand everyone, right? I hope that’s clear.

For pronunciation practice, focus on the accent that you want to create for yourself but for all other English skills, make sure you use a range of different teachers and different accents and different videos and resources. All right, let’s keep going with the lesson.

Tip #2 Vowel sounds

Now correct vowel pronunciation is really important in English. Saying the wrong sound can completely change the meaning of the word. Can you pronounce this word? ht

No that was a trick question. Actually it’s kind of impossible because you really need to have a vowel sound in there, otherwise that can’t get pronounced. All right, let’s try it now. hot

So how would you pronounce this word? Would you say /hɑːt/ (standard American English)
Or would you say /hɒt/ (standard British English)

But the two accents pronounce it slightly differently. And if you use a different vowel sound altogether, maybe you make a mistake, it could come out sounding like ‘hat’ or ‘hut’ or ‘hit’ or ‘heart’ or ‘hurt’, ‘hate’..

Vowels are torturous in English pronunciation, aren’t they? But there’s nothing that you can do about it. Put your frustration to the side, push it over there and focus on the training that you need to do to make the right sounds in your speech.

So when you’re listening to someone speaking English, pay close attention, really close attention to the vowel sounds. In fact, slow down this video if you need to focus on some of the sounds that I’m making. Did you know that you can do that? Just click the settings icon below and click the speed and reduce it. Then try to imitate or copy me or whoever you’re listening to. That’s one of the best ways to check and improve your vowel pronunciation.

If you’ve practised with my imitation lessons before well, you already know how simple it is to practise your pronunciation at home. Improving your vowels is a huge step towards sounding better in English.

Tip #3 Schwa /ǝ/

Bless you!
No I wasn’t sneezing!

The schwa is the name for the most common vowel sound in the English language /ǝ/ 

That’s the schwa! The schwa is the lazier sound and it shows up everywhere in English. It even shows up in words that don’t even have a vowel and still there’s the schwa sound there. And English speakers tend to get very lazy when we speak. We reduce our sounds down and so our sentences fill up with this lazy sound. Take a look at this sentence.

Do you want a cup of water?

Now if you look up each of these words in a dictionary well then you’ll see that they should be pronounced like this:

/duː/ /juː/ /wɒnt/ /eɪ/ /kʌp/ /ɒv/ /ˈwɔːtə(r)/

But you’re more likely to hear a native English speaker say something like: /dʒə wɒnə kʌpəv wɔːtə/

Now notice how this sentence is suddenly full of schwa sounds when it’s spoken at natural speed. Like I said, the schwa pops up everywhere. Now if you’ve never heard of the schwa before, if you’re not sure what reduced forms are and other things I’ve been talking about, don’t worry! This video right here will explain everything that you need to know about this important and very common English sound.

Okay so there’s two more tips to keep going with, right? To improve your pronunciation.

Tip #4 Syllable stress

Now stress is really important in English. I’m not talking about stress that you feel before a big exam when you can’t sleep and you get really nervous. I’m talking about how some syllables in English are stronger than others and that means you pronounce one syllable more clearly in a louder, in a stronger way with a higher pitch.

Okay and this can be quite challenging if your native language doesn’t have any stress. You’re not used to it, right? Some languages have very simple rules about where and when to stress a syllable, right? (It’s so easy in Spanish!)

You probably already know that English is not a flat language, right? There’s rises and falls and rhythm in the way that we speak and stress can actually change the meaning of a sentence.

So how do you know which syllable to stress? Learning to recognise stress in the phonemic script is a really good place to start. So every time you look up a word, you’ll see this stress symbol before the syllable that’s stressed. And it will signal – it will tell you – which syllable needs to be stronger, louder and higher in pitch. Now if you want to learn more about syllable stress in words, then check out this lesson right here.

And guess what? Again, imitating native speakers is a really great way to practise the correct syllable stress in a word. And practising the correct accent is important here because sometimes syllables stress between accents changes a little. So you really want to make sure that you are speaking with the accent that you want to use.

Tip #5 Linking sounds

Have you ever heard a native English speaker say: Hello, what are you doing later?

Probably not. That’d be nice because it’s very easy to understand but not realistic. And if you’re trying to sound more fluent and more natural in English, then you really should try to avoid that type of speech as well. You need to learn how to link words together in English and there are some simple rules to help you do that. You just need to learn which words can link together and which linking sounds are commonly used in English. Let me show you some examples.

He has an apple.

Now can you hear how all of those words link together? That’s the linking that I’m talking about.

I didn’t do it!

This is an extra linking sound. One that we’ve added to help those words roll out of our mouths really easily.

My next lesson here on the mmmEnglish channel will help you with this. I’ll take you on an adventure to learn more about the linking sounds in English. Just make sure that you’re a subscriber so that you know when that lesson comes out. Practising linking sounds is actually really simple once you know the rules. You can practise just simply by reading out loud. You can look for the clues that will help you to link together and you’ll make that a habit. It will become easier and easier each time you do it.

That’s right! You’re done! You’ve got through the five tips that I have for you today. Now I just want to review them quickly with you so that you keep them top of mind when you’re practising your pronunciation and you are sounding awesome when you’re using English. So say them with me.

1. Choose your accent.
2. Practise vowel sounds in particular.

3. Really understand the schwa and how it’s used.
4. Use syllable stress correctly.
5. And learn a little more about linking sounds.

You got it! Incorporate those five tips into your pronunciation practice and I know you’re going to start sounding more natural when you use English.

Now don’t forget that next week’s lesson is going to focus on linking sounds so make sure you come back and join me next week same time, same place.

I really hope this lesson was useful for you and if you have any questions or ideas or suggestions, pop them in the comments below. Now let’s go practise linking sounds and natural English pronunciation right here in my ‘Can you say it?’ series. Or we can also practise together in this imitation lesson right here. See you in there!

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