If you want to improve your pronunciation, there are two things you MUST know.
If you don’t know the first thing, you may not be able to permanently improve your pronunciation.
If you don’t know the second thing, it’ll take a long time to see a significant improvement.
I talk about these two things in this new video.
Watch this before you start doing any kind of English pronunciation practice:Show transcript
Let’s start by talking about a very frustrating problem.
Suppose I currently mispronounce this word. Suppose I say pogam instead of program. I want to fix this mistake. So I learn the right pronunciation and I repeat it over and over. program program program.
Now here’s the problem. Because I have mispronounced this word for so long, the incorrect pronunciation has become a habit. And because of that, I can only say the word correctly if I pay attention to my pronunciation. If I don’t pay attention, I will revert back to the old habit.
So how can I solve this problem?
Well, the answer is…I have to increase the number of repetitions.
Imagine that right now inside my brain there are two memories associated with the word program. One of them is old. The other is new. The old memory represents the wrong pronunciation – the bad habit. The new one represents the right pronunciation that I’ve just learned. So these are memories of how to coordinate the muscles in my tongue, lips, and other parts to say the word “program”.
The reason that I mispronounce this word if I don’t pay attention is that the old memory is much stronger.
If I want to break this old habit, I have to repeat the right pronunciation many, many times. Every time I do that, the new memory gets stronger, and the old memory gets weaker. I repeat – the old memory doesn’t stay the same. It actually gets weaker.
This phenomenon is called Retrieval-Induced Forgetting. It happens when there are two or more memories competing with each others. It’s a phenomenon where retrieving one memory makes us forget other memories.
This is why you have to be careful when fixing a mistake. If you accidentally repeat the mistake, it’ll strengthen the old habit and weaken the correction that you’re trying to make, making the problem worse.
So that’s the first thing to keep in mind. You have to repeat, repeat, and repeat.
This sounds good in theory. But in practice, there’s huge problem with repetition.
So what’s the problem with repetition?
Well, it takes a tremendous amount of time. Fixing just one mistake requires a lot of repetition. Who has time for that? After all, you probably have lot of mistakes to eliminate.
So what can you do?
Fortunately, there’s a technique that you can use to speed up the process. And that is exaggeration.
Going back to our previous example, suppose I pronounce this word as pogam. That’s incorrect because the R sound is missing. If I want to fix this mistake quickly, I will exaggerate the R sound. pRogRam pRogRam pRogRam.
Here’s another example: Let’s say I pronounce this word as “banana”. This is incorrect because I don’t stress the second syllable. So to fix this, I will stress the second syllable real hard. baNAna baNAna.
This sounds silly but you will not believe how much faster your pronunciation will improve when you exaggerate.
But how does this technique help you improve your pronunciation faster?
Well, one of the reasons that we mispronounce words is that we replace certain sounds with other sounds that are easier to say. So a non-native speaker might pronounce this word as “taught” instead of “thought”. We also tend ignore certain sounds. So we might pronounce this word as hoss instead of horse.
This is because the brain is lazy. It has the tendency to pronounce words in the easiest way possible.
But when you exaggerate, you’re telling your lazy brain that the sounds being exaggerating are important. You’re basically telling your brain, “Hey, these sounds are important. Do not ignore them.” So you when speak normally, you will sound much clearer.
But that’s not all. When you exaggerate, you’re strengthening the muscles involved in speaking, especially your tongue muscles. This is a huge benefit because if those muscles are strong, you will speak much clearer.
So to summarize: There are two things that you can do to quickly and permanently improve your pronunciation. Number one: You can use repetition to break bad speaking habits and replace them with good ones. Number two: You can speed up the process by exaggerating everything that should be exaggerated.
Alright, that’s all for today. To help you get started, I’ve created a resource page that links to a lot of free pronunciation exercises. So click here to go to that page.
Now that you’ve watched the video, let’s start improving your pronunciation by doing these English pronunciation exercises.