Pronunciation is one of the most complex problems facing non-native speakers of English. It is the principal obstacle to overcome when trying to achieve fluency. Many non-native speakers have studied grammar for many years, but are unable to speak like native speakers due to their incapability to pronounce the sounds of words correctly.
In point of fact, your pronunciation is the first and most important thing native speakers notice during a conversation. Knowing grammar and vocabulary are important but useless if you are unable to pronounce those structures or words correctly. Also, native speakers are more likely to understand you if you make grammatical mistakes, rather than if you make mistakes in pronunciation. Mispronunciation will keep you from effectively communicating with native English speakers. Achieving good pronunciation should be your main goal!
English is a language that has many different accents which are different from pronunciation. In fact, pronunciation is the way in which a word is pronounced. Accent is a series of pronunciation, rhythm and emphasis that is local to a region or city. It is important to pronounce words correctly so that you are understandable.
Accent isn’t necessarily important, you can speak English with a Spanish accent for example and be totally understandable if you are pronouncing the words correctly. This accent will tell people that you are from Spain and that your first language is probably not English.
Realize that the English spoken in England, Australia or Canada is different than the English spoken in the United States. Even within these countries there is a wide range of accents. People from New York speak different English than people from San Francisco. In any case, if your pronunciation is good, you will be understood anywhere you go!
- The most important thing to remember is practice - learning English takes time, but if you practice often you will soon improve and be able to pronounce words like a native speaker.
- Practice pronunciation in front of a mirror. You have to train your mouth to move in new ways in order to make new sounds. Watch your mouth as you speak.
- Think about each word before you say it. Try to imagine the position your mouth needs to be in to produce the sound.
- Always remember that English is not "phonetic" - the spelling of words and their pronunciation are often different.
- Remember that English has a lot of silent letters, and they create problems for non-native speakers of English, because they make it complicated to guess the spelling of many spoken words or the pronunciation of many written words.
I'd like to end this post with a really nice "pronunciation poem"! Enjoy it!