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On this week’s episode of the AOBE, we will be talking about pronunciation and giving you some tips on how you can improve your English pronunciation to help you sound more fluent.

The Pronunciation Trap

Many students get stuck with their pronunciation and it is one of the main complaints I hear among mine. Unlike with some other languages, English words are not spelt the same as they are pronounced. Furthermore, there are nearly twice as many phonetic sounds in English than there are letters in the alphabet, 44 to be precise compared to only 26 letters.

So, here are a few tips on helping you improve your pronunciation and avoid the trap:

  1. 1
    Try learning the correct pronunciation from day one. It is very difficult to correct your poor pronunciation of a word once you have internalised it.
  2. 2
    Try learning the 44 sounds of the phonetic chart in English.
  3. 3
    Try to remember that you are not native, so having perfect native English pronunciation will not always be possible. Plus, for native English speakers, those who speak with an accent often sound cute. So, our advice is that you should embrace your accent and not feel embarrassed by it.
  4. 4
    Try copying the way native speakers say words. This means understanding the “singing” sounds, the intonation and the rising and falling tones of the language.
  5. 5
    Become aware of the schwa and elision. These are common phonetic sounds that native speakers employ to make sounds merge together more naturally.

Learn the Schwa

If you can only learn one thing about English phonetics, it should be the schwa. This is the most common sound in English. Listen to the episode where we discuss it and look at the information below.

The schwa symbol is represented like this:

It is formed in your mouth like this:

Try to say all the vowels and/or words in the chart and feel where they sound.

Notice that the difficult ones (like schwa) are right in the middle of the mouth.

Elision in English pronunciation

Elision is very common in spoken English, especially in less formal, everyday English. You can see examples of elision in song lyrics.

So, what is elision. Put simply, it is when we remove sounds, syllables or words in speech. Native speakers do this to make the pronunciation of words easier, smoother and faster. It is generally accepted to be a natural phenomenon of speech and not something that people are aware of.

Here are some examples of elision:

“I don’t know” = I duno
“A cup of tea” = a cuppa tea
“Kind of” = kinda
“Temperature” = Temper-ture or tempra-cha
“Family” = fam-ly
“Sending” = sendin

Weak form of “of”

One more common occurrence with English pronunciation, is the weak form of “of”, which is pronounced “ov”. We often use the weak form here to help us link words together.

Some common examples are:

“Because of the dogs”
“A cup of tea”
“A handful of nuts”
“Rule of thumb”
“Freedom of choice”
“Conflict of interest”

Final thoughts

Learning proper pronunciation will help you sound more fluent and help others understand you as well. Take the time to focus on learning how we use the schwa to help you improve your comprehension.

I hope you enjoyed this episode! If you did, please share it with your friends, family or colleagues.

As always, if you have further questions or if you would like some advice, please leave us a comment or contact us on our Facebook page.

See you all next week. Take care, bye for now.

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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