Pronunciation can be difficult as it relies on multiple factors, including word stress, sentence stress, short vowels, long vowels, and many more factors. Learning accurate and clear English pronunciation requires a lot of practice but is key to the Speaking test. You will see in the public band descriptors that 25% of your Speaking test score is based on pronunciation.
Considering this, we will look at five things you can do to practice and improve your pronunciation in time for your Speaking test.
Tip 1: Take your prep outdoors
Is your IELTS preparation time spent indoors and online? While it’s not a bad thing, the best way to improve your pronunciation is by speaking English a lot. Take your preparation out into the real world. Try studying grammar by talking about it with friends or family members. Try watching or listening to your daily news in English only. Or, chat with people in shops, on the bus or in any other public space. The idea is, the more English you speak, the better your pronunciation will become.
Tip 2: Practice difficult sounds your language doesn’t have
Not everyone knows this, but languages aren’t consistent in the sounds they have. Some might have sounds which don’t exist in other languages. For example, in Japan, the ‘I’ and ‘R’ sounds are the same. This means that many Japanese people have trouble pronouncing words where these letters are interchangeable, such as ‘lice’ and ‘rice’. Or in Arabic, the letter ‘B’ and ‘P’ sound similar, so differentiating between ‘pat’ and ‘bat’ might be difficult for Arabic speakers. The key here is to find these sounds missing from your language and practice pronouncing them.
Tip 3: Have some fun with Karaoke
In China, they call it KTV, in Japan, it’s Karaoke. Wherever you are, watching music videos and singing along with friends is a fun activity. It’s also a great way to study English and improve your pronunciation. So next time you are out with friends at Karaoke, choose an English song to sing along to. Singing in English helps you use intonation and stress correctly, adding ‘life’ and ‘spirit’ to your speaking. And it will help you improve your grammar, vocabulary and listening skills.
Tip 4: Repeat, repeat, repeat for pronunciation perfection
If you work out at a gym, you will know that repeating the same exercises again and again can make your muscles more coordinated and improve their strength. The same thing can be said of practicing English. The more you speak, the stronger and more coordinated your spoken English will be. You may think this is repetitive and boring but adding some repetition drills to your study plan can really help you improve your pronunciation. Find a pronunciation app where you can practice sounds in a fun way and a quiet room to practice in so you can repeat, repeat, repeat as loudly as you want. You can call it your “pronunciation workout”.
Tip 5: Learn the physiology of spoken English
Visualisation is a great way to learn things. Some of the world’s top university students and the world’s best Olympic athletes say that it really helps them succeed. But what is visualisation? Visualisation is using your imagination to see yourself completing an action. For example, before a game, a soccer player will close his eyes and imagine scoring a goal. In his imagination, he sees himself playing well and putting the ball in the net. So how can this be applied to pronunciation? How can you visualise speaking? Well, you need to use specific muscles to speak a language. Every time you make a sound, you are using specific muscular actions. To apply this to speaking, you will need a diagram, or an animation that shows which muscle makes which sound. For instance, to make the ‘s’ sound, the muscle diagram will show your tongue behind your upper teeth while air flows out between your teeth. There are many pronunciation apps that show how sounds are made, and they encourage you to see and say the sound at the same time. You can search for pronunciation; speech diagram; ESL articulation; English pronunciation muscles, mouth muscles and similar terms in your engine.
If you put these five pronunciation tips into action, they can help you improve your pronunciation and speak more clearly in your IELTS Speaking test. And improving your pronunciation will get you one step closer to the band score you need to achieve your work, study or migration goals.