How To Improve Your Pronunciation

English may seem like an easy language for native speakers, but for anyone whose first language isn't English, it can be a bit tricky to learn the proper pronunciation of words. Not only must a new English speaker learn new words, but unlike most other languages (French, Italian), he must also learn what words to stress so that sentences sound correctly. Learning about stressed words in the English language will help improve pronunciation.

Step 1

Understand what is meant by ‘stressed language.'  English is a stressed language. What this means is that some words are given more emphasis than others. When speaking English, a sentence will have a mixture of stressed and unstressed words, depending on the type of word used. These few rules will specifically help you to improve your pronunciation.

Step 2

Identify content words. In English, content words are pronounced with more emphasis or stress. Content words are the important words of the sentence, since they offer the most information. Content words include nouns, principle verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Here is a sentence with the content words underlined.

Peter ran to the store to buy bread and milk for breakfast.

Read the previous sentence and listen to how you read it. Did you notice that you pronounced the underlined content words with more stress? To improve your pronunciation, you need to be aware of what type of word you're saying, and if it's a content word it needs to be emphasized.

Step 3

Identify function words. The English language also has words called functions words. As the name suggests, these words perform a function in the sentence, joining ideas, and separating phrases. Function words are considered any determiner (the/a), auxiliary verbs (am/were) prepositions (before/after), conjunctions (but/and), and pronouns (they/she). Function words offer little information in the sentence, so they're not too important to anyone listening other than to string the sentence together properly. For this reason, function words do not need to be stressed. When you read the following sentence and you come to a function word (which is not underlined), stress the word less. It will almost sound like you ‘swallowed' the word or said it using less breath.

Peter ran to the store to buy bread and milk for breakfast.

Step 4

Put your new knowledge together. You've just learned the basic tricks for proper English pronunciation. Now it's time to practice what you've learned. Open any book and read a few sentences. Focus on content words by stressing them, and glide over function words quickly by not emphasizing them. This practice, along with many, many hours of conversing with native English speakers, will help you to improve your pronunciation.


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