If you’ve already started your English-learning journey then you’ll know that there can be a big difference between the way a word is spelled out on the page and the way that it is pronounced. Like any language, it’s important to get to grips with the verbal use of English, as much as the way you handle it written down. There are many different factors to consider, from which syllables should get the most weight in a word to dealing with those words that have silent letters (e.g. subtle). If you’re keen to polish up on your British English pronunciation then these are our tips to help you do it.
- Spend time listening to examples of authentic speech. There are many different ways that you can do this, from watching films to listening to the radio or podcasts. Try to pick up on the intonation that is used when someone is speaking. If it’s helpful, choose some short phrases and repeat these using the same intonation as the original speaker.
- Listen back to your own pronunciation. Sometimes it’s only when we hear ourselves speaking that we realise just how off we are in terms of pronunciation. A simple way to correct this is to record yourself speaking - take those short phrases you’ve been practising and record them so you can listen back to how you sound and notice where you can tweak how you speak.
- Get into the phonetic alphabet. This is incredibly useful because most dictionaries will provide you with a phonetic transcription of the word that you’ve looked up. If you’re able to use that then you can avoid many of the mistakes that non-native British English speakers tend to make. Get comfortable with the International Phonetic Alphabet and you could see your pronunciation skills soar.
- Use dictionaries. As well as the phonetic description that you’ll get from a paper dictionary there are also online dictionaries where you can actually hear the pronunciation of the word that you might be struggling with. Using these is a simple, fast way to build confidence by working with a reliable source.
- Spend some time with minimal pairs. These are basically words that have almost the same pronunciation with just one difference, for example kip and keep. Working with minimal pairs can help to increase your familiarity with these words and give you some structure for tackling the pronunciation of unknown words going forward.
- Start doing some vocal exercises. Native language speakers often tend to move their mouths in a similar way and this can create challenges for anyone who is trying to learn that language but more familiar with another. It may be that some sounds feel almost impossible to make because they don’t appear in our native language at all. Vocal exercises can help to increase ease and familiarity with all British English sounds and train your mouth to feel comfortable making them - The Sounds of English section on the BBC's Learning English site is a great resource for this.
These are just some of the simple ways you can polish up on your British English pronunciation.