The best way to improve your pronunciation?

Paul M   Thursday, February 19, 2004, 02:36 GMT
In your experiences, what do you reckon is the best way that I can use to improve my pronunciation on foreign languages.

Is it better to start with single phonems first then gradually go up the ladder?
For example, master all the phonemes of the target language then try single words then two and so on. Or should I try to mimic the sound of normal dialogues and get the rythem of it first?

The thing is I tried both and I feel like I failed.
My English sounds exactly like it was before. My mother tongue is Korean and I notice that I'm still using the Korean phonemes for most of the similar English sounds. I don't feel like I'm communicating thoughts when I speak English, rather I feel like I'm making an effort to think up the English words I have to use and try to make it sound as real as possible. In other words, my speech is not spontaneous, there goes a lot of effort into producing and uttering a single sentence despite the years of living in an English surroundings.
And I blame my imperfect pronunciation.

Can somebody help me on this one please.
Sara   Thursday, February 19, 2004, 13:47 GMT
Well, my advice is to spend a lot of time repeating and repeating one phoneme, until it sounds perfect to you. If need be, why not record your speech on a tape and compare it with a native's one? This can help to understand exactly what is wrong.
Then, as you said, you can practise the pronunciation of one word, then string some others to it, etc.

This is what I'm doing at the moment and I can see I've progressed a lot thanks to this method.

Good luck to you!
Paul M   Thursday, February 19, 2004, 21:00 GMT
Thanks very much for the kind reply Sara.

Just curious, diid you start from vowels or consonents, and did you practice every single phonemes or just the ones you find it hard?

Anyways, that was exactly what I needed to hear.
It's not easy to go back to learning single sounds after years of experience but you convinced me.

And good luck to you too~
Fly   Thursday, February 19, 2004, 21:23 GMT
Un Yone Har Sai Yall :)

I am from Nova ( Northern Virginia). There are a lot of Korean here, and some really good Korean restaurants. I don't like Kim Chi though.

Anyway, yes, I think recording your own voice is very important. When i was learning French, I used the same method too. In that way, you can really focus on the way you pronounce when you listen to your own voice. It's always hard to pay attention to how you pronounce words when you are actually speaking. But as you are living in the states, I'm sure you have plenty of chances to talk to the native speakers, right? Or you just hang out with your Korean buddies?
Paul M   Friday, February 20, 2004, 01:07 GMT
Thanks. It's more of.. Ahn n-young Hah Sae yo but anyways ;)
I'm not living in states but Australia, and I'm afraid I don't have that much of chances to talk to the natives.
It goes like this. If you are not confident about your English, natives tend to get irritated and end the conversations pretty short. End of story. Not that I'm complaining, I would've done the same thing unless I'm teaching someone.

Just recently I started learning french to see if that can help my English.
It actually helped me to realise I've been doing it all wrong..
Sara   Friday, February 20, 2004, 14:44 GMT
That's it Paul, I practised every single sound, in order to get rid of my habits. If I try to speak quickly, the old habits tend to come back, that's why... better do it all gradually.

Since I have studied each sound, I am able to distinguish some of them (such as ”cup” and ”cap”!) and most of all, now I recognise them when hearing an English speech, which shows me... how mistaken I was before!

Though, I know my pronunciation is still not perfect, that's why I have decided to restart it all from the beginning. I mean just like a baby!
How do babies learn to pronounce so perfectly? They only listen to their parents, and all people surrounding them, and repeat what they hear, even sentences they don't understand at all.
That's why at the moment I listen to the bbc everyday, concentrating to forget all my old pronunciation habits, and repeating what I can hear as exactly as possible.
Then, I make my own sentences alound (once the radio is off), trying to speak with the right pronunciation by my own, without having the "model" of the bbc voices.

About your learning French, well...
I'm a French native speaker, and my native language has had a bad influence on my English for a long time. Even if the French "way of thinking" (I mean the use of words) and grammar are much closer to the English ones than Asian languages are, some points about French and English can easily be mixed up...

So I don't understand how learning French can have helped you realise you've been doing it all wrong. Can you explain?
Paul M   Friday, February 20, 2004, 21:27 GMT
Salut Sara :)
Just like you said. I got into a bad habbit of hainging onto the meanings only when I'm listening English. When I listen to french, I can concentrate on the sound simply because I don't know what it means ;) and this helps me to train myself to listen to the sounds and not just the meanings. Besides, it's cool to be able to speak French ;)

By the way, do you know any good french radio station where there are a lot of talking and less music?
Sara   Saturday, February 21, 2004, 11:05 GMT
Salut Paul ;)

You're lucky to be at the very beginning of your learning French.
I'm often sorry it didn't occur to me to start learning the English sounds before trying to learn any word.
It's very hard to get rid of your habits after so many years!

About the French radio, I know one you can listen to on the web in which there is pretty much speech, with various programmes. I would say it's quite similar to the bbc.

Here's the link:

Click on ”écouter” once the intro has been displayed.
Paul M   Saturday, February 21, 2004, 12:50 GMT
Thanks for the link Sara. You are very kind. Hopefully I can learn French fast enough and make conversation with a french native speakers like you. :)
AT the moment, I can't utter a single sound right. French sounds are quite different from anything I heard I'm afraid. :(

I love French movies like "Amelie" although I don't know much about who is who although I thought the actress who played Amelie was very pretty.

Ok, I'm listening to the radio now and.. two guys are talking about something, probably politics given their serious tone of their voices and it also sounds boring. ;)

Do you guys have different dialects for different places?
Sara   Saturday, February 21, 2004, 13:24 GMT
There used to be loads of dialects in France, but ages ago a reform imposed the Parisian dialect on everyone. Now some dialects remain (like Occitan at the very south, Alsatian at the very North East...) but as far as I know, they are mainly used at people's home given that any other language than the standard French is forbidden in schools, advertisement and so on.
In most of regions, almost no one can speak their local dialect (regarding me, I don't know anything about the dialect of my region and don't know anyone who knows anything about it!).

About the French sounds, well if you're looking for some similar sounds, you can find them in Italian, Spanish and all latin languages.

By the way, did you know that about 40% of English words come from French? Here is a small paragraph I found on the bbc website:

>>When William the Conqueror (a French duke) seized power in England, French became the official language of the court. This didn't mean that the conquered Saxons all started to speak French. The mass of the populace contined to speak Old English, but French began to influence their vocabulary. An amazing 10,000 loan words entered English, including such words as enemy, battle, peace, religion, service, miracle, design, beauty, romance...<<<
Sivaram Balakrishnan   Saturday, February 21, 2004, 15:13 GMT
Hi Paul
I am an Indian, and been training myself in BBC English Accent (British English) and I'm happy to say that I've achieved a great deal of success in a short period of just over a year.

I'm willing to share it with all how I did it. But a word of warning - it is easier said than done. You have to invest a lot of time in learning and practising everyday - not lesser than 2 hours a day. I'm still continuing my practise and I reckon it would be another year before I could compete with a native in a speech competition, but I'm far better off compared to Indians over here.

So here's what I did. Try it and see if you see a difference

1) Mastered the core words in English (which number around 6000) - the exact pronunciation for each of those high-frequencey words using the Macmillan CD (check out

2) I'm (still) practising hard with top-rated fluency course material from

The first step ensures that you get the basics right - the individual words, the second step ensures that you get all the right expressions for use. Good luck!
Paul M   Sunday, February 22, 2004, 05:06 GMT
That was indeed very interesting fact there, Sara.
40% huh.. does this mean if you speak french, you can speak 40% of English?
Actually, before I tried french, I first had a go at spanish and italian which didn't last longer than 3 days. Yes I can hear some similarities between the languages except french sounds very nasal.

I believe that it gets easier to learn a language once you master one or two foriegn languages first, not that I have mastered any. :(

At the moment, I'm listening to English "Ah" sound and I find the sound to be very.. how can I describe it.. deep and explosive than I originally thought. If I listen the same sound in a very short space of time, it almost sounds like bouncing ping pong ball. Do you think I'm on the right track?

Hmm... anyways, all the best.

Hi, Sivaram

Thanks for sharing your method.
I'm willing to invest the time, I guess I'm just not exactly sure how I should go about.

I always wondered how so many Indians are very fluent in English. When I watch international cricket, all the Indian players seem to speak English pretty well. Do you guys speak English as a second language in India?

The website seems very confident about their method although not very specific how they do it. Have you found their method to be helpful in improving your speech?

Well, I guess I should start with getting basics right and.. I have Collins cobuild cd-rom so I think I can use that.

Thanks again guys and gals. ^^
Monnio   Sunday, February 22, 2004, 11:49 GMT
Hi all

I am from India too. Yes we do speak English as a second language. I guess we speak more of English than local languages nowadays - it is because people who don't speak fluent English are looked down upon here, and treated with disrespect.

Yes, I've tried the content material of "fluentzy" course, and found it effective. It is so popular here. But a word of warning - the material is effective only if, and only if you practise very very hard indeed. I can tell you that it is the ultimate material I've come across for spoken English, but it is vast like an ocean that you would be overwhelmed by it. But I'd still recommend it.
Tom   Sunday, February 22, 2004, 12:34 GMT
Can you write more about the contents of the Fluentzy course? Their website keeps waffling on about the theoretical foundations, but doesn't even provide a single example of what one can expect.
Monnio   Sunday, February 22, 2004, 12:47 GMT
Hi Tom
Try downloading the pdf manual from the site. The contents are much too exhaustive to discuss.