How to learn correct English pronunciation?

YOGESH BARI   Monday, June 02, 2003, 19:51 GMT
I am a British and American Accent trainer with MA (Linguistics). Based in Bangalore (India), I have experience of English and accent training for MNCs and call centers like Deltaworld and Dell. I would like to give some advice to accent learners who speak English as a Second/Foreign Language (ESL/EFL).

First, decide the accent model. You can choose between Standard British Pronunciation (aka Received Pronunciation – RP) and General American (GA) Pronunciation, which are a few of the standard English pronunciations understood widely in most parts of the world. Your choice depends on your interaction with foreigners. For example, many South Asians will choose RP because of British Rule legacy. But if your business or profession involves (telephonic) interaction with Americans, GA Pronunciation will be useful. Modern English print and electronic media is largely dominated by American English, so learning American English and pronunciation can be an added advantage.

Here are a few guidelines for learning an accent:

1. Listen carefully: Watch BBC/CNN/Fox, etc. news channels to learn the formal English speech style. Star World serials can be used for learning colloquial/informal American English. Pay attention to the sound/pronunciation. Observe the mouth movements. Imitate them. Do not be discouraged by comments of the people around you. Watching movies can also help you a lot. Also, you can know the culture of native English speakers, which is an essential part of language learning these days.

2. Buy audio materials and books on pronunciation. Repeat after the instructor’s voice. Record your pronunciation and listen to it. You will discover many pronunciation mistakes that need to be improved. Also imitate the vocal quality of the target accent speakers.

3. Learn English Phonetics and Phonology: This will give you scientific understanding of the English pronunciation—sounds (production of consonants and vowels), sound clusters, weak forms, stress, intonation and rhythm.

4. Use (pronouncing) dictionaries: Learn to use dictionaries for learning correct pronunciation. Learn phonetic symbols.

5. Read aloud: This will strengthen your muscles for the accent. Generally it takes about three months of daily practice to develop strong mouth muscles for speaking with a new accent. Exaggerate your pronunciation so that even if you are tired your accent is not affected.

I wish this can be of some help to you. All the best!

Yogesh Bari
Jim   Monday, June 02, 2003, 23:45 GMT
My advice: be proud of your own accent, don't try faking someone else's but don't ignor Yogesh Bari's tips: they are useful for general pronunciation training.
javier   Tuesday, June 03, 2003, 11:57 GMT
Thanks Jim for praising foreign accents, but if business calls for a determinated accent, we cannot oppose it
Kabam   Tuesday, June 03, 2003, 12:28 GMT
Jim, I don't feel the French accent fit very well with English language. IMO, one of the attractive features of the language is its accent and I want to know it perfectly.
Chantal   Tuesday, June 03, 2003, 14:58 GMT
I think accent is one thing and phonetics and phonology another. I listen very carefully to my classmates in my English classes. I hear some big mistakes that have nothing with accent but with the wrong pronunciation. For example, /ID/ for idea/I-dee-a/, moné for money/mun-ee/, média for media/mee-di-a/, ...etc. Kabam can tell more than me about this topic.

I know Italians in France who speak relatively good French after a short staty in France . They learn French with correct phonetics after a few years living in France, although they have a slight Italian accent.

When I go to the US for my holidays, I don't try to imitate the Americans but to catch some good phonetics by listening to them and looking how they articulate. Faking doesn't give you the right accent and sometimes may be ridiculous.
tulip   Tuesday, June 03, 2003, 15:02 GMT
yes as YOGESH BARI insists listening is a good quality and helps you to learn the right accent. Some people just talk and blabalbla without paying attention to their English teachers or native speaking.
Noor   Sunday, June 08, 2003, 05:30 GMT

Good suggestion. Keep on sending messages like this.