Learning English pronunciation
Why should you study English pronunciation? Because pronunciation is the biggest thing that people notice about your English.
Test your English pronunciation: Can you pronounce basic English words correctly?
How to learn English pronunciation
Learn to recognize all the sounds of English.
- Why is it important to learn about the sounds of English? Because English uses different sounds than your native language. You have to be able to recognize them and pronounce them.
- The sounds of English and their IPA symbols – our popular chart with recordings
- Learn about phonetic transcription and word stress.
- Choose your pronunciation model: American or British.
English pronunciation is hard because the spelling of a word doesn’t really tell you how to pronounce it. Two similarly spelled words, like weight and height, can have different pronunciations. This has two consequences:
1 It’s incredibly easy to make pronunciation mistakes, which can become bad habits. That’s why you should always check the pronunciation rather than guess it.
2 You have to learn not just spellings, but also pronunciations. You cannot use spellings as a shortcut – you just have to put thousands of pronunciations in your head. You can do this in two main ways: by listening to spoken English and by checking pronunciations in a dictionary.
- When you’re speaking and you’re not sure how to pronounce something, don’t guess the pronunciation – English pronunciation is tricky (see right), so you’ll probably get it wrong.
- While you’re reading in English, keep asking yourself: “Do I know how this word is pronounced? What sounds does it contain?”. If you’re not sure, look it up in a dictionary. This should happen very frequently when you’re a pronunciation beginner.
- Listen and notice. Get some spoken input: TV shows, podcasts, movies, audiobooks, etc. When listening, pay attention to how sounds and words are pronounced. Think about what sounds you hear. When you listen to non-native speakers, notice their mistakes.
Practice pronouncing English words and phrases from time to time. Practice can take many forms. You can practice in a systematic way (e.g. a 15-minute session with a dictionary or online pronunciation exercises), or you can just repeat a couple words while you’re doing something else (e.g. watching a movie or taking a shower). The important thing is to do it regularly — that way, you will make steady progress.
- Don’t worry if you can’t produce all the English sounds correctly. You should first focus on getting the pronunciation right in your head.
- Consider learning the pronunciations of the most common English words in a systematic way. You could get a list of most frequent words and look up their pronunciations. Or you could use our English pronunciation software that teaches you the pronunciations of the most frequently used English words and makes you remember them.
- What is good English pronunciation? There are three levels of English pronunciation. Your pronunciation is good if it is understandable and pleasant.
- Useful phonetic concepts:
- We created the ASCII Phonetic Alphabet because the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet are difficult to type on computers. The ASCII Phonetic Alphabet uses only symbols which you can find on your computer’s keyboard.
- Demonstration of phonetic transcription: Listen to recordings and read the transcriptions.
- English vowel chart: See how the vowels of English are pronounced relative to each other and relative to the vowels of other languages.
- Things you should know about phonetic transcription: Phonetic transcriptions are not precise instructions on how to pronounce English words. They don’t give you the whole picture and can even be misleading if you take them too literally.
- In the “Myths and facts” section: “You are a foreigner, therefore you will always have a foreign accent”
- Comparative review of English pronunciation dictionaries: the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary and the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary