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How to speak with a perfect English accent! 5 steps to learning English pronunciation

4 min read
10 February 2021
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Learning proper pronunciation in any language is a huge challenge. Depending on your native language, you'll face a variety of difficulties when learning the ins and outs of correct English pronunciation.

A big problem for a lot of students is that their native language simply doesn't have the sounds that they're trying to say in English.

Luckily for English learners, there is a short-cut! By learning about how word sounds are formed we can stop guessing at the sounds and start practising the correct mouth shapes. With a bit of time, we can learn to pronounce words just as well as a native speaker. Follow these five steps to master any tricky word or sound.


Step one: spot the problem sound

When we were babies we could hear the differences between every speech sound, or 'phoneme', in existence. Now we're grown, our brains combine phonemes so that only the important sounds in our language are audible. This means that sometimes its very difficult for us to hear the parts of words that we're mispronouncing.

The solution to this is to pinpoint the exact sound we're having difficulty with and practice it. We can do this using a tool called a 'minimal pair' - a pair of words with different meanings that differ in only one sound. For example:

Pin - Bin
Bat - But
Mat - Mad

By pairing difficult sounding words with their minimal pair, we can spot the exact sound that's causing us trouble. Finding a minimal pair can be tricky, so we've done it for you in our free Kaplan pronunciation app for iOS and Android.


Step two: identify the sound

Lots of languages have an alphabet, but did you know there's also a universal alphabet that contains all the speech sounds from every language? It's called the International Phonetics Alphabet (or IPA) and its useful for helping us to spot the exact sounds we're having trouble with. All you need to do is search for your word hereand take note of the IPA spelling.

Once you know the sound on the IPA chart, go back to your pronunciation app and see how to correctly shape your mouth to create the sound. There you can watch teachers' videos that will show you how to correctly form the sounds.


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Step three: practice the sound on its own

It might take a little time for your tongue to get used to the movement required for some particular sounds. Though it might feel a little strange, spend some time practising the sound out loud until you get the hang of it. You can try practising the sound on its own, or when its in a word. Record your own attempts at pronunciation and compare them to a native speaker in your app.


Step four: practice the sound in a sentence

So you can pronounce the sound on its own? Great job! Now it's time to put all that practice into action by reciting practice sentences. Try building your own sentences and checking them with an English conversation partner - it's great for practising grammar too!


Step five: use the word in conversation

As useful as books and apps are, you can't learn a language by reading alone! Get out there and practice using your new words in real-life conversation. You'll learn quickest by listening carefully to native speakers and applying everything you've learned in the real world.

That's it! Follow these five steps for all your difficult sounds and you'll be able to pass for a native speaker in no time. Good luck!


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