Many people tell me that they have learned the correct English pronunciation, rhythm and intonation, but they aren’t able to make the new techniques stick. That is they learned the techniques intellectually but weren’t able to actually use them in practice. Here are some tips to help you achieve permanent results.
1: Discriminate. To change the way you speak, you need to be able to hear the difference and discriminate between the way you speak, a particular sound, rhythm, or tone, and the way a native English speaker speaks. Of course you know there’s a difference, but you need to break down those differences into small elements, such as the difference between the sound “ee” and “i,” or the difference between the sound “t” and “th.” You need to be able to instantly hear the difference on yourself and evaluate, are you doing it right? or are you doing it wrong? There are very specific exercises which will help you do this, such as repeating word pairs to contrast the sound you produce from the correct sound. Here are some examples, “tree–three,” “tip–tick–thick,” or “eat–it,” “eel–ill,” etc. But the key is to do many of these every day so that you gradually can feel and hear the difference on yourself.
2: Auditory memory. Once you can hear the difference between your sound and the correct sound, you have to be able to memorize the correct way of saying it. This memory will come from very specific practice of words containing the sound that you need to learn. For example, if you want to get better at pronouncing “th,” you need to practice many words with “th” at the beginning of the word, at the middle of the word, and at the end of the word until you have memorized the difference in sound.
3: Muscle memory. Whether you realize it or not, much of your speech deals with muscle patterns that developed very early in childhood. For example, the sounds “th” and “r” involve intricate muscle pattern coordination which is learned at a young age and then later becomes fixed in the way we move, and the way we coordinate our mouth to speak. In speaking English, or any other language, you need to establish new muscle patterns. The solution for this is to do a very simple exercise every day for the sound that you want to learn. For example, let’s say you want to pronounce the “r” sound in the North American way. You practice the “r” sound at the beginning of the word as in “run,” the middle of the word as in “berry,” and at the end of the word as in” car.” You repeat these words slowly, fifty times in a row. The goal of this exercise isn’t just to get it right, but to get it right over and over again so that your muscles remember what they have to do to pronounce the sound correctly when you’re in conversation.