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Pronunciation for ESL Learners

Are you interested in ESL – English as a Second Language? Read carefully the article below.

What exactly is an accent? The answer is that it is a carryover sound from a person’s native language into the new language they are speaking. When we are babies, we actually have the power to speak in any language. We are born with all of the necessary mechanisms of speech and the ability to learn any type of language. The language we end up speaking is the dominant one which is the only one that is reinforced. For instance, American parents who only speak English to the baby will have a child who learns and speaks English.

Now, if you are in an ESL class you do not have the same advantage as a baby who was born into the language. Even if you currently live in a country where it is necessary to know English, you will likely still be hearing and speaking your native language at home, and with family and friends. ESL learners also have another special challenge-expectation. For several years you may have heard speech patterns which provides and exception of what you are hearing when you hear other people talk. You predict the sounds that will come next and this is based upon your subconscious language knowledge. This is known as the listening accent. You have to get past this barrier in order to actively listen and honestly hear what others are saying.

When it comes to pronunciation, to learn is to listen. What this means is that you have to keep in mind how to make each sound in your original language first. Next you have to add some American sounds that are not included in your original language. Try making a recording of yourself reading a short paragraph and then listen back to what you sound like. Make a note of what you hear yourself saying, not what you were trying to say. How does it differ from the writing that you read? Perhaps you said a word that sounded like “th” when it was written as a “d”. When performing this pronunciation exercise, stick with consonant first as they have differences that are much easier to point out than vowels do.

Overall, the most important thing that you can do is practice, practice, practice! In the beginning you may feel as if your English pronunciation is overdone, but trust me when I say that native English speakers will hardly notice, if they notice at all. If they do notice, chances are that they will be impressed with your new English pronunciation.

For more help with English pronunciation, visit TalkInEnglish.


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