Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Improving your English pronunciation helps you communicate better with other English speakers. Let's take a look at some ways problems occur and what we can do to improve our pronunciation in English.
It's easy to get your listener confused when you're pronouncing a word incorrectly.
How many times have you tried to communicate what you're thinking or what you need without success because the other person just didn't understand what you were saying? You thought for sure you were saying the right word, and if you could have written it down, then the other person would have understood.
But instead, you were stuck saying what you needed over and over again in hopes the listener would understand you.
Confusions like this happen all the time to all of us language learners.
If we are talking about numbers, say knowing how many people are invited to a party, and we say 15 but it sounds like 50, the person we’re talking to won’t be able to understand how many people will show up. The difference between 15 and 50 can be a lot when it comes to people at a party.
I myself have gotten confused about what time I'm meeting with someone or supposed to be back by. One tour guide in Peru would say to meet in 15 minutes, but it sounded like 50 minutes. So I'd have to ask him to clarify if he meant 15 or 50. And he'd say 15 but pronounce it like /fē-tē/. I just couldn't hear that N consonant sound /n/ at the end of fifteen /fif-tēn/.
I know the tour guide was getting frustrated because he was repeating 15 over and over again, even though to me it still sounded like 50.
As a bystander, it would have been quite funny to watch us go round and round about the time!
I just decided that 15 was probably was he was really saying.
But that's not the only time I've gotten confused between someone trying to pronounce numbers!
Numbers aren't the only thing that's important to pronounce correctly. It's easy to get confused in conversations as to what exactly the other person is talking about.
Take for example the Y consonant sound /j/. Pronounced incorrectly, this consonant sounds more like the J consonant sound /g/. For instance, someone could be talking about a toy yo-yo, but it actually sounds like they're saying jojo, those delicious fried potato wedges.
I have taken plenty of taxi rides in my early days of living in Mexico and Peru when my Spanish pronunciation wasn't so great. I would tell the taxi driver where I wanted to go and he would take me to a completely different area of the city. He just didn't understand what street name I was saying to him because my pronunciation was poor. That was so frustrating for both of us!
I bet this has happened to you many times, too. But we can work on improving our ability to pronounce words in that second or third (or more!) language so that miscommunication with others happens much less.
Take a look at my video for helpful tips for improving your English pronunciation.
Want some more English pronunciation tips or maybe pronunciation tips for another language?
In fact, I'll be kicking off our month of free live videos by teaching American English pronunciation!
Here's the Facebook and Instagram Live schedule for the week of April 6-12, 2020. Note that all the times are in Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), so check your time so you don't miss out on these LIVE lessons!