A few months ago, I was teaching a young boy from China, whose father is very insistent on improving his son’s pronunciation. Every night we practiced charts that the father had supplied. In one of our classes we tried playing a little game where the son would say a word and I had to type the word I heard. The boy would then tell me if I heard it right. If so, then the boy pronounced it right. If not, he would try saying it again until I figured it out or he said it correctly. These types of exercises, and others like it are great. However, they require a someone, like an English coach, to ensure you are saying the words correctly and to give feedback as well as corrections.
Therein lies the problem, though. They do not allow you to effectively practice on your own. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, you can still practice reading them by yourself, but the problem is, how do you know if you are saying them correctly or not? You could get a friend or a family member to listen, but now you are back to not practicing alone. In addition, what if the people you ask are not native speakers? How can you be sure they are correcting you properly?
As a result, one of the most common questions I hear from my students is:
”How do I practice my pronunciation by myself?”
Well, my friends, the answer is very simple. You use technology. All you need is a way to record your voice. You can use the sound recorder app that many phones and tablet PC’s come with, or you can download one to your device. Once that is done, the rest of the process is quite simple.
Open up a dictionary website that gives audible pronunciations. For American English, I recommend Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary. For British English you can either use Cambridge’s dictionary site or Oxford’s dictionary site. Since I speak and teach American English, I am going to use Learner’s Dictionary for this tutorial.
Search for the word you want to practice. For this example, let’s search for the word ESTIMATE. So, type it into the search box.
Notice that if a word has more than one form (noun and verb or verb and adjective) then both will be shown. Make sure you choose the correct form before moving on. Once you’ve figured out which word form you are dealing with take some time to find the audio pronunciation tool.
Let the website pronounce the word for you a few times to familiarize yourself with how to properly say it.
Open the sound recorder app on your device and make sure you know how to use it.
Record yourself saying the word and then the record the website saying the word.
Repeat the last 3 steps a few times.
Play the recording back and listen to how you said the word compared to how the website says it. You should be able to hear a difference if you are saying it incorrectly. Make sure you listen carefully for all the sounds.
Keep practicing until you are confident that you can pronounce it correctly.
Practice this every night right before you go to bed.
Now that you are saying the word itself correctly, it is time to incorporate it into a sentence.Try to create a new sentence for every time you say the word. Record yourself saying the word (or words) in a sentence and play it back. See if you are still saying it correctly or if the other words caused you to make a mistake.
As I said above, and like I tell my students in class, it is a really good idea to do any language practice right before you go to sleep.