First impressions count. Your pronunciation is the very first thing that people will notice when you speak. It is, as it were, your business card as a foreign language speaker.
4 reasons and 3 tips for better pronunciation
1. Better pronunciation for better communication
You will become a more efficient foreign language speaker.
- When looking for a job, taking an official language exam, in a negotiation or when giving a presentation, this aspect plays an important role. Conversation will flow more smoothly, and there will be much fewer misunderstandings.
- You will get faster and more precise answers if the person you’re asking can understand your questions.
- You’ll be more confident and efficient when travelling abroad.
- You won’t have to repeat yourself.
Sounding better makes you easier and more enjoyable to listen to as a speaker. Imagine having to sit through a presentation, a meeting or a lecture in which you are constantly having to decode what the speaker is saying: You will come out feeling exhausted! Therefore try to make life easier for both yourself and others by improving your pronunciation.
2. Sounding right is good for your image
You will sound more competent.
When you start to speak, your listeners will immediately notice your pronunciation, rather than your sophisticated vocabulary or your excellent grammar. Good pronunciation can make up for a certain lack of vocabulary or the occasional grammar error. If your sounds are right your interlocutor will feel that you speak English well.
If you sound good and avoid making typical pronunciation mistakes, your listeners will perceive you as a competent language user, even if your grammar and vocabulary are not always perfect.
Likewise, poor pronunciation can have a negative impact on how others view you as a foreign language speaker.
Some of my more advanced students have great vocabulary and grammar; however, their pronunciation skills don’t always match their actual level of English. As a result, they sound like low intermediate even though they are actually upper intermediate or advanced level users of English.
Bad pronunciation can even give the impression that you don’t know your grammar, for example because you don’t say the final s in third person singular verbs or plural nouns.
Good pronunciation definitely takes your foreign language to the next level.
3. Better pronunciation results in better listening skills
You will start to understand native speech more easily.
The dream will come true! 😃
There may be words that are part of your active vocabulary but that you have never heard pronounced.
Especially in English, hearing those words for the first time might throw you off balance because you don’t recognise them. This can happen with place names, for instance, or with words that also exist in your own language but are pronounced differently in English. However, if you are familiar with native pronunciation, you will identify them without problem.
And once you also learn how a language connects words or alters some sounds, you will get better and better at sounding more natural AND understanding native speakers.
4. Good pronunciation boosts your confidence
Better communication + better comprehension = more confidence
All of the above – sounding more competent and understanding native speech – will make you a much more confident user of English.
No more worrying about your language skills before a trip, a meeting or a job interview – you got it!
Three tips to start improving your pronunciation
- Pay attention when you listen to English. Really being aware of pronunciation will help to polish your accent and get rid of pronunciation mistakes. Reduce the speed of YouTube videos (you can do so in the settings) and focus on the sounds you hear.
I suggest that next time you watch a series or listen to a podcast you focus on one sound – for example əʊ – and notice the words where it appears.
After that, go on to tip number 2:
- Imitate phrases. Copy their stress, their rhythm and their melody. Repeat them over and over, speaking out loud, until they flow naturally. Practise, practise, practise!
- Slow down. Speaking more slowly than you normally would helps your pronunciation and your overall accuracy. Plus it gives you extra time to think about what you are going to say.
To sum up: Better pronunciation benefits both you and your listeners.
Would you agree that good pronunciation is important, or do you think it’s not so relevant?