Pronunciation Practice – A Guide

Pronunciation is like any other skill – practice makes a huge difference!

As our mouth muscles learn new, unfamiliar positions and movements, we need to practise independently between coaching sessions to develop new muscle memory, just like learning to drive, dance, or play a musical instrument.

I can always tell when my clients practise. They come to the next session with the latest learning point more integrated: one step further along the path of confidently producing and ‘owning’ a vowel, consonant or rhythm aspect. Lack of practice can make the next session feel a bit like starting again.

Little and often

Years of coaching have taught me that successful practice is about quality over quantity. Better progress tends to come with 10-15 minutes of focused practice per day than from an hour the night before the next lesson! By focused practice, I mean reflective, gently critical and engaged: noticing and adjusting the mouth positions according to feedback given by your coach and comparing with the supporting audio and video material.

While I provide practice material (worksheets, audio and video), there are other fun ways we can slide our new pronunciation habits into our lives! Schedules are busy, so any habit that can slot easily into our routine has the best chance of staying. 

Tips for practice in daily life:

  1. Talk to yourself 

Working at home alone? Talk about your activities as you go about them, like a narrator! Exaggerate, correct yourself and have fun. This is a great low-pressure way to build muscle memory.

  1. Articulation exercises in the bathroom

Yes, including the one where you stick your tongue out.* It only takes a minute and only your mirror has to know!

*If you don’t know what that is, book a free call with me via the link below and I’ll demonstrate!

  1. Read aloud (alone or with audience)

Similar to #1 but without having to think about what you say. Start with 30 seconds’ reading aloud of a couple of paragraphs from a book or article, a poem…or your own work emails (great for using the words you’re likely to say most often in real life).

  1. Audio diary

Like #1 but recorded – record yourself talking about your day for 30 seconds. This is particularly useful when you listen to and assess yourself afterwards. 

  1. Video diary

As above – great for checking your position of a particular vowel or consonant (compare it with my demo videos).

  1. Get specific

Every day, pick one vowel or consonant to focus on. Let the others slide for that day and be meticulous about that one. Change to another one the next day.

  1. Zoom challenge

In your next online meeting, use one or two words that contain your sound of the day (see #6).

  1. Zoom advantage

Studies show that we need to focus a little harder on video calls than in face to face conversations. Turn this into a practice opportunity by articulating more carefully than you would face to face, as if people had to lip-read you.

  1. Take it outdoors

Go for your walk or run with pronunciation audio files in your earphones for company. Find a quiet corner of the park and repeat in peace!

 10. Mini-habits

Repeat three words, read aloud one sentence, speak in your new accent for 10 seconds. You’ll probably then ‘get into it’ and end up practising for longer…

Finally, enjoy. These new sounds and techniques belong to you as much as they do to anyone else! While I can’t claim that practice makes perfect, I know for sure that it gives results.

To find out how voice, speech or pronunciation training could help you get your valuable message across first time, with impact, book your free 20-minute Clarity Call.

Sonya Ross

I'm a voice, speech and English pronunciation coach based between London and Hastings, UK, and worldwide online. I help busy international professionals speak clearly, confidently and with impact so that they get their valuable ideas across in the way they intended at work and in life.