September 10

How to Improve Pronunciation – Part 1


Improving pronunciation is something that every language learner wants to do.  So, how to do it?

Listening lies at the foundation of learning languages.  Not only will great listening skills enable you to improve all the elements of your pronunciation, but it will help you with nearly every aspect of the spoken language you have set yourself to learn.  The meaning, the grammar, the idioms, the structure and even your writing! So improving your listening skills is fundamental to learning a second language, in fact any language!

Have a think for a moment, has anyone helped you to or even talked about how to improve your listening skills?  Of course you may have been told to listen carefully or to pay attention.  Is that the same as improving your listening?  It is a step, that’s for sure, but only one.

If you are going to enter into learning something, the first step, like anything, is that you need to establish if you really want to do it!  Are you prepared to give up the time you will need and put in the energy to get to where you want to get to? If you aren’t why even start?  So ask yourself, “Do I really want to improve my listening?”  Don’t just say yes without some thinking about it.  Reflect on it a bit and get to really feel that it IS important to you (or not!)

If the answer is yes, then you will need to be prepared to do some work on it as you will not get something for nothing.  But working is not enough.  Without working smart, you can work and work and get no where.  Imagine trying to get to the other side of the planet and you decide that digging is the best way to get there. You can work as hard as you want, but will you ever get there?

So what do you have to do?

  • Start to care about what people say.
  • Concentrate on what the speaker really means.
  • To listen well you have to get yourself out of the way.  If you keep thinking about
    • What can I get out of this?
    • Does he really like me?
    • What will I do after this?
    • What will we do on the weekend? 

Then you are diluting your attention and give little or no chance for your listening skills to develop,

There are general listening skills and there are focussed listening skills.  It is more likely that the focussed listening skills we use for improving pronunciation or for picking up clues to the meaning of a word, or for being able to pick up the difference in grammar etc will be better if our general ones are good too. If your general listening skills are wanting, then your focussed ones are more likely to have problems as well.

So the long and the short of it is that if you improve your general skills, your specific ones will more than likely improve to as a spill over.  And a side benefit will be that you will make more friends as now you are really listening to them!   Now that’s a bonus! Another bonus will be your improving pronunciation skills.

So for this coming two weeks, I would suggest that you pay some real attention to your general listening skills.  Have a look and see if you really are listening to your friends, your family, your colleagues, your teachers, etc.

I would suggest that you do this by seeing if you:

  • Listen to what they say without judging
  • Can see their point of view
  • Ask for clarification about what they say so you are REALLY clear before you say anything about what they say from your perspective
  • See if you can catch yourself thinking about something else whilst someone else is speaking to you and take yourself back to what they are saying.

I will be VERY surprised if you do this and find that on all fronts you find that you are a great listener..  Don’t beat yourself up if you find that, no, you aren’t really the best listener.

The first step to improvement in anything is to realize that our performance is not as good as we thought and it can be improved.  Once you have come to this realisation and decide it is worthwhile to improve your listening skills, you have put yourself on a lifelong journey.

I know that I have considerably improved my listening skills over my life (because I have wanted to) but I also realise that there is still more to do.  One essential realisation I came to early on was that the more relaxed I was (about myself, about situations, about others) the better I was able to listen.

You will find that once your general listening skills start to improve you will be able to see the effects of that improvement in your many aspects of your language, including your improving pronunciation.  Go now to the second post on this subject which will give you practical suggestions you can implement now to improve your pronunciation.

You can also  watch the video below I made on how listening skills can be improved under instruction. If you are attentive, you can see just how important listening skills are to improving pronunciation.


Improve pronunciation

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