A lot of people ask me “MD, how can I improve my pronunciation?” And I also get asked “How do I fix pronunciation inconsistencies?” I’m going to share with you language strategies and communication techniques to improve pronunciation. Let’s get right to it.
First of all, let me start by saying that if you notice inconsistencies between your pronunciation and Native English speaker pronunciation, that’s great! The first step to remedying any language or communication issues is noticing.
Noticing allows us to notice the correct form of a word and how it should be pronounced. It also allows us to notice the incorrect pronunciation. And, lastly it enables us to notice the way you’re pronouncing the word. If there is alignment between the correct pronunciation and your pronunciation congratulations! You are pronouncing the word correctly!
However, if you are noticing misalignment between the correct pronunciation and your pronunciation that means you are pronouncing the word incorrectly. To remedy that, you can isolate the word in question and record your pronunciation. Listen to the correct pronunciation and repeat it several times. Then re-record your voice and continue to get your pronunciation as close to the correct pronunciation as possible.
So try this technique if your pronunciation is incorrect and you want to get it closer to the correct pronunciation.
But sometimes your pronunciation is correct some of the time, but not all of the time.
You might notice that your pronunciation varies. At times, you pronounce the word correctly, and other times you pronounce it incorrectly. This means that your pronunciation is inconsistent. In some situations it’s correct, in others it’s not.
So now I’m going to address what to do about inconsistent pronunciation.
When you notice inconsistent pronunciation, first thing is to make note of it. And because you have the self-awareness to identify that incongruity, that’s great. Noticing is the very first thing. You notice that your pronunciation is inconsistent and changes in different communication events.
Once you’ve identified that you have inconsistent pronunciation it’s time to pay attention to the situation. In what situations do you pronounce the word correctly and in what situations do you pronounce the word incorrectly?
With what audience members or speech participants does your pronunciation vary? In other words, how is your pronunciation when you give the barista your morning coffee order? How is your pronunciation when presenting in a meeting? And how is your pronunciation when you’re interfacing with high-profile clients at work?
We are trying to answer the question: “Why do you pronounce the word one way in one setting and completely differently in another situation?”
I encourage you to make note of as much as you can with enough detail so that you can get to the bottom of the pronunciation inconsistencies.
Once you’ve gathered the data, see if there are any common themes. For example, maybe you notice that in stressful situations and tense work environments your pronunciation is one way. And you also notice that in calm and relaxed situations your pronunciation is another way.
It’s probably no surprise that the more tense and stressful a situation is, the worse the pronunciation. Does this sound familiar?
The point is, if you can pronounce the word correctly some of the time but not all of the time, it’s less of a pronunciation problem and more of a social anxiety issue.
One great tool to combat social anxiety is breathwork. Breathing techniques help ground you in the present moment. Slowing your breath down and in particular, extending and lengthening your exhale can calm the nerves. And this allows us to think more clearly, rather than panic or feel anxious. When we clear our headspace we can think more clearly. When we can think clearly, we are more aware of our pronunciation but also relaxed enough that we don’t tense up.
Try out these two useful tools to improve your pronunciation and align it to the pronunciation you are seeking to replicate.
If there is misalignment and you’re pronouncing words incorrectly. Single out and isolate the words you want to pronounce. Record your pronunciation and the correct pronunciation. Repeat this process until your pronunciation and the correct pronunciation are aligned. A more advanced version of this exercise is to reduce the pronunciation to a few words but maintain the connected speech aspect. And you can continue this process until you’re satisfied with your pronunciation.
In terms of pronunciation inconsistencies:
When you notice inconsistent pronunciation make note of it. It seems like you already have the self-awareness to identify that incongruity, which is great! Noticing is the first step. I'd like for you to record the inconsistency, which you can do simply on your phone. Practice saying the entire sentence and make note of the context that that certain pronunciation popped up. For example, who were you speaking to, what was the situation, what was the topic, how did you feel? (i.e., confident, nervous, etc.) and so forth. Then I'd like you to ask yourself, "why was this pronunciation inconsistent?" Try to find any commonalities between the situations and communication participants. Finding a theme can help you address the issue. We discussed social anxiety as being one of the root causes of this issue. And breathwork can help remedy it!
So there you have it. Be sure to practice as often as you can. Pronunciation is one of the areas that can be improved, even though you might think it to be impossible. It’s totally possible to improve your pronunciation and it comes down to the techniques and exercises we discussed in this lesson today.
Alright Advanced English learners, thanks for joining me in this lesson. If you are watching this lesson on YouTube be sure to give the lesson a big thumbs up and subscribe to the channel. If you’re listening to the podcast version of this lesson and love our podcast, be sure to leave us a 5 star review, that really helps us out! And turn notifications on so you never miss a beat! The full transcript of this lesson can be found on our blog, so be sure to check out advanced english dot co forward slash blog. And while you’re there feel free to sign up for our free newsletter so you can get lessons delivered to your inbox each week! See you in the next Advanced English lesson where we’ll continue advancing your English together! Until then, keep up the awesome work.