Accurate pronunciation is one of the most difficult ordeals faced by students in ESL Program, as well as in the real world. We are talking about the terribly awkward sensation of having to make a choice on how to say something in a language foreign to them. Just think, it is even an issue with native speakers of a language; just imagine how ESL students feel. We all know there is nothing worse than trying to talk to someone in a foreign language and looking at the person’s puzzled face across from you probably thinking, “I wonder what she’s trying to say”. At this point frustration is too much to bear. So, the question that plagues many students when coming across a word unknown to them is, how do I pronounce this when I have never heard it before? Here are some great tips that can help:
*Learn phonetic rules, learn to use the dictionary
Like many other things, phonetic rules can be learned. Using a dictionary can certainly help when you want to know the meaning of a new word and it can be equally as practical when you need to know how to pronounce a word. Unfortunately, most ESL students don’t know how to fully take advantage of dictionaries. Dictionaries contain the phonetic pronunciation of words. As you probably know, phonetic symbols are a great help when it comes to learning to pronounce English words correctly. Any time you open a dictionary, you can find the correct pronunciation of words you don’t know by looking at the phonetic pronunciation that follows. Unfortunately, learning the phonetic alphabet is not always the easiest thing to do but, it’s a great way to start.
*Use online dictionaries where you can hear pronunciation
Online dictionaries are a super way to learn proper pronunciation. Most have icons you can click on to hear the words you want to learn how to pronounce. Nothing beats that! Also, going back to phonetics, you can see the phonetic symbol, and then hear the word, which makes it a great way to learn symbols
*Focus on correct, and then go for perfection
Don’t expect to pronounce like a native speaker. If you do achieve this, great! It is just an unrealistic objective when you are learning a second language. Instead, you can acquire proper intonation and stress. English is a stress-timed language and, as such, good pronunciation depends a lot on the ability to accent the correct words and successfully use intonation to make sure you are understood. In other words, spoken English stresses the principal elements in a sentence - content words - and quickly glides over the less important words - function words. Nouns, principal verbs, adjectives and adverbs are all content words. Pronouns, articles, auxiliary verbs, prepositions, conjunctions are function words and are pronounced quickly moving towards the more important words. This quality of quickly gliding over less important words is also known as ‘connected speech’.
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