How to improve your pronunciation in 10 steps

Record yourself
Record yourself. Credit.

Every language learner wants to, or should want to, improve your pronunciation.

Here’s a technique I picked up while teaching English in Vietnam: how to noticeably improve your pronunciation in just 15 minutes.

What you need

  • A short recording of a native speaker either talking or reading a short text. (I’d recommend 200 words maximum.)
  • A transcription of this recording. I like to have it printed out with double spacing so I have room to make notes, mark pauses etc.
  • A recording device (your computer, phone etc).

10 steps to improve your pronunciation using recordings

  1. Listen to the native recording.

    Listen to how the native is speaking and the rhythm they use.

  2. Record yourself reading the transcript.

    You can read it through a couple of times but there’s no need to practice at this stage.

  3. Listen to and compare the native recording and your recording.

    Listen out for pronunciation differences and make a note of them.

  4. Practice these problem sounds and words.

    Imitate the pronunciation of the native speaker. Practice repeating individual problem sounds. Try techniques such as backchaining for problem words.

  5. Listen to the native recording and mark where the speaker pauses.

    There will be short pauses (eg. to breathe) and long pauses (such as the end of a sentence). Noting this will help you say each sentence with a correct rhythm.

  6. Mark the stress.

    If your language has stressed words within a sentence (like English, Spanish, etc), listen to the native speaker again and mark these stresses. There isn’t an exact science to this, just mark it where you hear it. You probably need to play the native recording twice.

    Annotate your transcript
    Make notes on your transcript to help improve your rhythm and stress.
  7. Practice reading the transcript with these corrections and modifications.

    You may wish to play the recording and mumble along (like when you’re listening to a song and singing under the breath, or when you don’t know all the words) to practice the timing and build up to recording yourself.

  8. Record yourself again.

  9. Listen to the difference in your first and second recordings.

    Congratulate yourself on how much you’ve improved already!

  10. Share your recording

    Share this second recording with a native speaker to get more feedback on what else you need to correct.

To increase the impact, do this again tomorrow with another recording! After all, it only takes 15 minutes.

Want to challenge yourself? Get your materials ready and make a 30 day challenge of it!

Over to you: How do you improve your pronunciation? Are you going to try this method?

Language & Culture

The ‘no’ tone is actually…

You might think that the so-called ‘no’ tone (known as ngang) is the easiest of Vietnamese’s 6 (or 5) tones, however I was having problems with it until a fellow learner gave me a gem of information…

The ‘no’ tone is flat, but it’s high.

If you look at this graph plotting the sound of the six Northern tones from Wikipedia, you’ll see that the ‘no’ tone starts higher than any of the other tones, but stays more or less flat.

Tone Chart

Well, there we are! Try taking words with this tone up a scale but keeping them flat. For example, đi.

Now try a sentence, keeping each word high but flat: Em đi ăn cơm. In natural speech the tones aren’t so defined but it’s good to get your voice used to making this high, flat sound.

Over to you: Have you had problems with the ‘no’ tone? Have you tried our suggestion and noticed a difference?