- The Americans, the British and the Aussies all speak the same language, English. If you listen carefully, you will find a drastic difference in their pronunciations. This difference in pronunciation is what brings about so many different accents.
- English accents change a lot within India. Every region has its own way of pronouncing the letters and words.
- Sometimes it becomes difficult for a native speaker to perceive all these differences, thus making the colloquial form of Indian English bit hard to understand.
- This is where neutralizing the accent comes into play. You learn to speak not the American or the British English, but the right way to speak the English language. You shed all your typical Indian pronunciations and learn to speak English that is neutral and easily understandable.
Drop the tune of your native tongue. English has its own tune and voice modulation.
- Do not drag the English words to the tune of your vernacular language. If your native tongue has a musical touch to it, lose that while speaking English. This would be the first step to neutralising.
- Listen to newsreaders. Watch how their mouths move while pronouncing each word. Listening and observing are the best way to learn. Practice the mouth movements slowly. Practice this for words used in day-to-day conversation.
- Use a dictionary to learn phonetics. Phonetics is the pronunciation of letters in a word. A letter has a certain pronunciation. But when it comes in a word it might have a different sound. To learn this, dictionary is the best. The phonetic symbols will help you learn the correct way to pronounce the word.
- Stress is an important part of speech. Every word has a certain stress given to it either at the beginning, end or somewhere in the middle. Shifting the stress can even change the meaning. Learning the correct stress points of the words is important to communicate clearly.
For example, pronounce has a stress on the ‘n’ and pronunciation has stresses on ‘n’ and ‘a’. The syllable before the stress mark is pronounced for a short time.
Next thing to concentrate is diction.
- Diction is articulating the words. Articulation is pronouncing the words in the right manner. Clarity in diction will result in clear pronunciation of words. The pace of speech, modulation of words and sentence construction while speaking, mark diction.
Few tips on pronunciation
- Many words in English are just half pronounced while speaking. For example, ‘better’ is pronounced as ‘bet-uh’. The ‘r’ in the end is not pronounced fully.
- ‘R’ is merely ‘aar’ and not ‘aarrr’. The tongue vibrates just once, unlike the vernacular ‘rra’ sound.
- The ‘o’ sound of No, know, so, source, etc is not just o, but ‘ou’. The o is dragged a little bit.
- The words starting with ‘w’ should NOT be pronounced as the vernacular ‘va’. The teeth do not touch the lower lips as they would do in ‘v’. For a ‘w’, the lips should make a small o while pronouncing the ‘w’. Try pronouncing ‘went’ and ‘vent’; ‘wow’ and ‘vow’; ‘wine’ and ‘vine’. You will understand the difference.
- Many non-native speakers don’t move their mouths enough when they speak English. Be aware that the mouth position you use for your first language is probably quite different to the mouth position we use when we speak English. Yes that’s you – Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Polish, German and Japanese speakers! Move your mouth more when you speak English than you do when you speak your first language. Not moving and opening your mouth enough will make your English unclear (in English we call it mumbling). English has many open sounds like ‘ou’ in phone, ‘a’ in ‘start’, ‘a’ in ‘hat’. You need to open and move your mouth to make these sounds and others clearly and correctly.
- How much do you move your mouth when you speak English? Start to pay attention to your mouth and other people’s mouths when speaking.
- Do people ask you to slow down or do they often ask you to repeat? If yes you need to slow down…. now!
- As a non-native speaker it is likely that you pronounce some sounds incorrectly and use different stress and rhythms to native speakers. This gives you an accent and can make your English more challenging for people to understand. Slowing down helps as it gives your listeners time to process what you are saying. Don’t leave your listeners struggling to understand you. Instantly improve the clarity of your English by slowing down.
If you have difficulty controlling the speed of your speech try to:
- pause more, especially between phrases and sentences.
- emphasise the key words in your message.
- use more gesture. Moving your hands to emphasise words can help you slow down.
- If you speak too quietly, you need to speak with a louder voice. Practice reading out loud with a louder voice to get used to how it sounds. We need to hear you! Open your mouth and speak more loudly.
- The first step is to become more aware of your pronunciation. Become aware of how your mouth moves and the sounds you make when you speak. Once you are aware of these things then you can change them.
- If you are not aware, then you won’t have the control that’s needed to make change! Pay careful attention to the positions you make with your mouth when you speak or read out loud. Listen carefully to the sounds you are making.
- Listen to the rhythms you make – is your English flat or does it go up and down? Are you making the consonant sounds at the ends of words?
- Recording your speech helps you become more aware of how you sound. When they listen to a recording of their speech, many people find they sound different to how they thought! Listen carefully and try to identify sounds and words that are difficult or that sound different to a native speaker.
- So, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day, start to open your ears to speech sounds and the ‘music’ of English. Focus on pronunciation – the way people move their mouths and the sounds that they make. The way you move your own mouth and the sounds that you make.