Improve Pronunciation in English with these 3 FUN Pronunciation Exercises
I get questions all the time from students asking me how they improve their pronunciation.
And time and time again I tell them that the goal should not be to have zero accent, the goal should be intelligibility. Intelligibility is the degree to which you are understood by the listener.
In other words if your accent is preventing you from being understood, then it might need some work. If your accent is NOT preventing you from being understood, then don’t worry about it.
Now I get it. As someone who speaks a few foreign languages myself, I’ve worked hard over the years to speak with as correct pronunciation, intonation, and correct connected speech as possible.
But again, don’t worry too much about your accent if people can understand you.
Alright, with that I’m sharing three fun ways to improve your pronunciation in English.
Let’s do it.
TED Talk and Transcripts
You may be familiar with TED Talks. These are motivational, informative, and inspiring speeches and talks on so many diverse subjects shared by so many diverse unique individuals hailing from all over the world. I used TED Talks in my English classroom as well as in my communication classes. They’re fun to watch.
Have a look at the TEDTalk website and browse through their talks, they have over 3,700 of them. You’ll definitely find many talks that will interest you and in the subject areas that you’re curious about. Once you’ve found a talk you’d like to watch, play it first without any transcript. You should be paying attention to the speaker. How do they move their mouth when they pronounce the words? What are they doing with their face? What about their hands? How’s their tone of voice? Make a mental note of these things or you can take physical notes using pen and paper. Then, you’re going to watch it a second time around. This time, click on the transcript in English and press play again. As you listen to the talk, your eyes should be following the transcript. What’s great is that they highlight the words being spoken so that you can follow along. This will help you make the connection between the word and how it is pronounced. You should go through this round of listening slowly and I would pause every once in a while, to practice the sentence or phrase out loud. This will allow you to check your pronunciation and get as close as possible to the speaker.
This is a great exercise to do because it’ll not only improve your pronunciation, but you’ll also learn something in the process, as well!
Sing-along to English Songs
If you’re someone who likes music or even singing, you’ll find this exercise heaps of fun.
Choose some of your favorite songs. Google the lyrics and listen to the song verse by verse why singing along as you follow the lyrics.
This will help you not only with pronunciation, but also where the stress and emphasis is placed on words. It will also help with connected speech.
Keep in mind however, that the best songs for this specific activity are ones where the singers enunciate well. Meaning, are the words clear and crisp or are they muffled and blend into one another?
Songs are fascinating.
Take the Beatles, for instance.
The Beatles were a popular English rock band popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
When they sing, they sound as though they have an American accent, but when you hear them speak you hear their British English accent. It’s fascinating.
So definitely give it a try yourself.
As you sing along you might notice your accent fade away.
Record yourself and hear the difference. Then try to speak the sentences out loud instead of singing it. Try to replicate the pronunciation you would when singing.
One thing that can help is repletion. This is why I highly recommend you choose a song you can play on repeat.
Play it over and over and go through verse by verse repeating and singing your heart out.
Singing is so fun and you can do it in the privacy of your home or during a karaoke session with friends! Totally up to you!
Alright for the final pronunciation activity.
Use the transatlantic accent! This is one of my favorite accents because it sounds so glamorous and authoritative. The transatlantic accent is also known as the Mid-Atlantic accent. It’s a blend of British English pronunciation and American English pronunciation.
If you’ve ever seen a movie from the 1930s, 1940s or even the 1950s you can hear the transatlantic accent.
It is a consciously-learned pronunciation, meaning that the actors would have to learn this style of pronunciation, as no one was born speaking this way.
What’s great about this accent is that it is so clear. Every word comes out so purely and in a way that’s easily understood by the listener.
This is what makes it a great pronunciation exercise.
As you listen to the transatlantic accent, repeat it as closely in the same way as you can.
You’ll notice that the speech isn’t that quick, it’s clear, crisp, and authoritative.
Actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood between 1920 and 1960 spoke this way in the films they appeared in.
Actors like Carey Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Doris Day, Gregory Peck, and Audrey Hepburn speak this way in the movies they star in.
Find a few old films with these actors or during the period of time from the 1920s to 1960s and listen carefully. Keep the remote in your hand and be ready to press pause so that you can repeat the phrase in as close a way as they say it.
For extra credit, put the English subtitles on and write down the phrases that sound nice to the ear. Keep a notebook of these phrases and say them in a transatlantic accent.
It will take practice, so don’t expect to get it on the first try.
As you practice, you’ll notice that you’re enunciating your words more clearly and that your pronunciation improves.
I use this technique I created with my English and Communication students all the time. Definitely try it out because it’s heaps of fun.
Again, the goal here is not necessarily to have a transatlantic accent unless you want that to be your goal. Rather the ultimate goal here is to help you articulate and enunciate the words more clearly and make the connected speech crisp yet fluid.
So those are my three go-to pronunciation exercises to improve pronunciation, articulation, enunciation and connected speech.
1. TED Talk transcripts + listening first while watching and the second time around using the transcript to follow along
2. Songs in English (listen while studying lyrics and break it into verses, repeat over and over)
3. Transatlantic Accent (old movies 1920s and 1960s) listen, pause, and repeat again and again
Practice these three fun pronunciation exercises and you’ll see and hear huge improvements in no time!
Alright Advanced English learners. Hope you enjoyed this lesson. Subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already and be sure to share this lesson with someone you think would benefit from it. I’ll see you in your next lesson where we’ll continue advancing your English.
Until then, keep up the awesome work.
See you soon!