6 Tips to Help Students Improve Pronunciation

“Teacher, how can I improve my pronunciation?”

This is a common question that English learners ask their teachers. Below is a list of 6 useful tips to help your students improve their pronunciation and be understood in their everyday lives.

1. Use the IPA phonetic alphabet

Teaching your students how to read and pronounce phonetic symbols will give them a great advantage when it comes to improving their pronunciation. Encouraging them to check the phonetic pronunciation of new words will allow your students to learn how to pronounce words correctly, without the help of a teacher or English speaker. The website tophonetics.com provides both British and American pronunciations.

Our FREE Introduction to Phonetics lesson below is designed for teachers introducing their students to phonetics for the first time. Why not try it out in class?

Introduction to Phonetics - ESL materials to help improve pronunctiation
Free Lesson: Intro to Phonetics

2. Read lips, listen and imitate

Watching English speakers’ mouths and lips to check the correct position when pronouncing certain words and copying what they do can help students’ pronunciation. Check out the website forvo.com to hear English speakers from different English-speaking countries and regions saying words and expressions more naturally. This is very useful if your students plan to move to a particular location and want to be familiar with the local accent and dialect.

3. Check tongue position

Pronunciation errors will often be due to incorrect tongue position. Tell your students to be aware of their tongue position when improving their pronunciation. Use a sound articulation diagram to demonstrate correct tongue placement. Encourage your students to ask their teachers or other English speakers to describe how their tongue moves when they say particular words.

4. Notice the syllable stress

While listening, have your students take note of which syllable is stressed in a word. Phonetics can also help identify this. For example, in the word biology (/baɪˈɒləʤi/), the stress is on the second syllable /ɒl/. A high vertical line (ˈ) is placed before the primary stressed syllable.

5. Listen and repeat

Students often find the shadowing technique, or repeating after an English speaker, quite useful for improving pronunciation. They could do this with small chunks of language and record themselves to listen back and compare with the original. They should try to identify which words/phrases they’re pronouncing incorrectly. It would be beneficial to also read the text while listening to a reader, so audiobooks would be perfect for this activity.

6. Research typical errors

People with the same first language will often make the same pronunciation mistakes. Research the typical English pronunciation errors made by people who speak the same first language as your students to discover areas to work on.

We hope these tips help you and your students. Do you have any more tips to add to this list? We would love to hear them!

Please share your tips in the comments section below to help other teachers & students.

Happy teaching!