I love teaching pronunciation.
Pronunciation is not what many students think it is.
There are two main categories of pronunciation skills:
- the little parts (like /th/, and /r/ vs. /l/)
- the big parts (like stress and timing)
Students often think that pronunciation is only the first category.
But did you know that if many people frequently have trouble understanding you, it’s probably because of the second category?
In English, if a word’s stress is wrong, or a whole sentence has no stress, or your intonation is off, communication can fail. Even if your grammar and vocabulary are correct. Even if you pronounce each sound perfectly.
Some English learners say that working on the second category of pronunciation feels like singing. It feels unnatural and a bit silly to speak this way.
But really, embracing the “music” of English will help you communicate more effectively.
Remember, English pronunciation is not only about making our weird /th/ sounds or figuring out /b/ vs. /v/ or /p/. Its rhythms and intonations are important for meaning, too.
For the next week, listen for the “music” of spoken English. Do you hear how some words are fast and some are slow? Do you hear how we “sing” our questions? Do you hear how the most important words are stressed? You can’t pronounce it if you don’t notice it. [Hint: you can start by listening to me read this piece. The link is below.]
Listen to Emily read this post. (I recorded using Vocaroo.com. It will open in a new tab.)