In this episode, I’m showing you the ins and outs of the exact method I use to teach pronunciation to my students, and how you can use the same method on your own to get great results.
Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 364. And today we are going to talk about how to practice pronunciation effectively.
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for being here and listening to another episode of the InFluency Podcast. And today, I want to talk about effective practice. So for years, I’ve been investigating and learning high performance and productivity, and how to use my time in the most efficient way. And it doesn’t mean to accomplish more, it means to do better work with the time that I have, to stay more focused and to enjoy what I do. And I think it’s really important.
Because when I don’t enjoy something, It takes me forever because I’m so distracted and I don’t enjoy it. And I keep doing different things and it takes me a long time because of that. And I, you know, I constantly realize how important it is to love what you do, but also to do things in a way that is optimized so that you can get the best results out of the time that you spend.
Because one of the worst things to experience is to do the work and to still feel stuck. Which I’m sure a lot of you have felt that at some point in your English journey. It feels like you’re on a hamster wheel or a treadmill, right? Like you’re running, running, running, running, running, but you’re not actually moving anywhere, which is really frustrating. And sometimes that happens because we just don’t practice effectively. And today I want to talk about that experience when it comes to pronunciation.
And I will give you some tips and strategies on how to turn your pronunciation practice into an effective practice, so you get more for the time that you invest. All right, let’s get started and listen to today’s episode.
Do you study pronunciation on your own, but you’re not sure what would be the most effective way to practice pronunciation? What would be the best use of your time? And how much time should you even spend on learning pronunciation? Should you do it once a week, every day, five times a day? Today, I’m going to share with you my favorite practice strategy that I’ve been using with my students inside my programs, and that I have done myself when working on my own pronunciation.
Hi, if you’re new to my channel, my name is Hadar, I’m a non native speaker of English, and I am here to help you speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom. You can find out more about me at hadarshemesh.com, where I share a ton of resources and lessons for you to learn on your own, and practice effectively.
Now, if you’re new to learning pronunciation, just recently I released a video on how to get started with learning pronunciation. So, if you’re still not sure what strategy you should have for learning pronunciation and what you should focus on, make sure to watch that video right after this one.
So, the first thing you need to understand when it comes to learning pronunciation is that it’s all about building new speaking habits. Sounds are speaking habits. A habit is something that you do automatically, spontaneously, without thinking about it. This is how you want it to feel like when you are learning a new sound. For example, the R sound, [ur].
If you tend to pronounce it as [rrr], then to switch to [ur], it’s not enough to just know how to make it, you have to make it your own. And to do that, you have to practice it and turn it into a habit. And you know how you create a new habit, right? Repetition, repetition, repetition. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
So the ideal pronunciation strategy is to carve out for yourself a few minutes a day where you consistently practice the sound that you’re trying to simulate into your speech. So at the beginning of the week, what I would do is plan out my practice time. This is really important because if it’s not in your calendar, you are less likely to actually make it happen. Things always happen during the day. There are more important things than your English practice, I get it. But every person has 10 minutes a day, that’s all you need. So I recommend my students to do it first thing in the morning, before the day starts, before everyone comes to you with their requests and demands, and before you open your inbox or social media.
Then you want to decide what it is that you’re going to practice every one of those days. And ideally, if you can, spend time with organizing the resources for you to practice. And at the end of the video, I’m going to share with you how you can find free resources online to practice pronunciation effectively. But you want to plan it out and you want to already organize it. You can put it in the calendar, links to those resources.
You can have a Google doc with a plan, what you’re going to do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and links to the videos you’re going to learn with, or the practice sheets you’re going to learn with. And once that’s organized, then there is a lot less friction when it comes to showing up for your practice. You know, you just open that doc and you have it all organized and prepared for you. And you’re more likely to do it then.
Now, once you plan it out, which again is a significant part of this work, you have to understand that it’s not just about repeating the sound again and again and again. You want to create some kind of escalation in how you use the sound.
So here’s how I use it when I create practice sheets and PDFs for my students. First, I identify the sound that we’re practicing, the R for example, and then I create lists of words. The lists also start with very simple words that are, let’s say, one syllable: red, run, ready. And then maybe a few words where the R is in the middle: around, area, already. And then maybe some words where the R is at the end: care, fear, more.
So, you start with lists of words where the sound is either in the beginning, middle, and end. And also you want to create for yourself or find lists of words where you have words that are one syllable, but also sometimes words with five syllables that have the R sound in them.
Then I like to practice those words in phrases. You can do it on your own by making up phrases. Now, by the way, I have created a ton of free PDFs and practice lists with audio practice that you can download for free. I’m going to link all of them in the description below. So if you want to practice the R and the O and the flap T, I have those resources for you that you can include in your daily practice.
So, once you practice the words, you want to practice phrases. So for example, if you say the word ‘run’ – I’m going to run away, ‘ready’ – I’m ready to go. Because the word always has to come in context. And of course, when you say the phrase, you want to make sure that you connect the words together within the phrase and that you actually pronounce the sound that you’re focused on the same way that you pronounced it when you said it in isolation.
So you say the word, and then the word in a phrase. And this is a really good fluency practice as well. So even if you don’t have those phrases written out for you, then it’s a really good practice to say the words that you practice in isolation in context, and you make up that phrase.
Then, you want to practice minimal pairs. By the way, a minimal pair is two words that sound exactly the same, except for one sound. And that change in sound changes the meaning. For example, right – white, or red – led. Okay? I only changed one sound at the beginning and that changed the meaning of the word.
And if you struggle with the R, because when you pronounce it, it sounds like a W sound – ‘wed’, then you do wanna practice those minimal pairs to make sure that they don’t sound the same: wed – red, white – right.
So, after you practice words, phrases with those words, and minimal pairs, then you want to go into more challenging sentences. Now, again, when I create these sentences for my students, I start with easy sentences, shorter sentences, just with a lot of Rs, let’s say if we practice the R.
But then the sentences could get more complicated until we reach a level of a tongue twister: ‘Betty bought a bit of butter’. And tongue twisters are really good, not because we use these phrases in real life, but because it teaches you how to control your tongue when speaking, how to organize your sounds, how to organize those sounds in your brain. And when you are in control while practicing, you’re more likely to be in control while speaking. So that is how I recommend for you to practice each sound individually.
Now, the last thing is, how do you know if you’re practicing it correctly? Here’s the thing. You can and should practice pronunciation, even though you may not have someone telling you if you got it right. What I would recommend for you to do is to record yourself and to listen to it. Trust yourself, your brain knows how to hear the difference between how it should sound and how it actually sounds. Now, you might not know exactly what you need to do to change, but really there is so much that you can do on your own that you don’t need a teacher for. And this is one of those things.
So, recording yourself and listening back to it. If you have a reference, right, maybe you can find someone on YouTube, or you can look up this word on YouGlish. YouGlish is an incredible platform that offers you videos of people using that word. Again, I’m going to link to this in the description. And if you’re listening to this as a podcast, cause this is also on my InFluency Podcast, then it’s going to be in the show notes. So, you can use those references, you can compare it to the original, and then start asking yourself, What is different, and what can I do to change that?
Now, if you’re asking yourself, how do I come up with lists of words and phrases and sentences to practice with? So first, like I said, I already created a lot throughout the years, so I’m going to link all of them in the description below. There’s also a great website for speech pathologists called Home Speech Home that have resources on their website with lots of words, based on the sound or the position of the sound in the word, and also minimal pairs. I love this website, and I think it’s a great resource for English learners.
Now, I also recently made a video about ChatGPT. ChatGPT is an AI language model, and it’s like a language assistant that you can request texts for you to practice with. So you could write a prompt ‘Share with me many examples of minimal pairs like sheep and ship’, or ‘Create a sentence with a minimal pair sheep and ship’. And you actually create those practice exercises for yourself using ChatGPT, and it’s absolutely free, which is amazing.
So as you can see, there’s a lot that you can do on your own with only 10 minutes a day, but with clear strategy and with planning. And I hope that my video gave you a little bit more clarity around how to practice during those 10 minutes a day, but also how to plan your week knowing exactly what you’re going to do, and eliminating friction by scheduling it first and planning ahead and preparing all the resources ahead of time.
Now, if you feel like learning on your own is a little bit overwhelming and you feel that, you know, you need more guidance, then I invite you to sign up for my wait list for my program New Sound. New Sound is my most extensive program that eliminates overwhelm, confusion around what you need to do when learning pronunciation.
I create those daily exercises for you, I provide you with all the resources and of course, all the lessons and the guidance. And I also help you understand what to focus on and how to identify your priorities. We open doors for this program twice a year. So, if doors are closed as you’re watching this video, I highly recommend for you to get on the list to learn more about this program if you don’t want to do it on your own, and you would like my guidance, coaching, and support.
All right, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, if you have been practicing pronunciation for a while, how does your practice look like? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you so much for watching. I hope this was helpful.
If you enjoyed this, make sure that you subscribe to the channel. And that’s it. Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day, and I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.
Not sure what sounds to start with? Watch this episode: How to get started learning pronunciation
Resources I’ve prepared for you with words, phrases and sentences to practice:
More resources for you: