How can I improve my English pronunciation?

How can I improve my English pronunciation?

hortetamareta asks "Can you be kind enough to make a post about improving English accent for a crazy Catalan speaker like me?"

Interesting question. I’ve done a bit of research….

It seems that for most Catalan speakers one of the main issues with English pronunciation is recognizing and producing English vowel sounds.

According to Norman Coe (in Learner English) Catalan has eight pure vowels. English, though, has twelve pure vowel sounds: /ɪ/, /e/, /æ/, /ʌ/, /ɒ/, /ʊ/, /ə/. /i:/, /ɑ:/, /ɔ:/, /u:/, /ɜ:/. Five of these vowel sounds are long vowels (/:/ indicates length), but Catalan doesn’t have any long vowels. This can lead to problems with the following:

-       /i:/ and /ɪ/ can get confused, so sheep becomes ship, peep becomes pip etc.

-       /ɔ:/ and /ɒ/ are often pronounced the same causing difficulties with words like caught and cot.

and so on.

The best way I’ve ever seen of helping learners produce English vowel sounds is Adrian Underhill’s method. The workshop in this video is aimed at teachers, he starts by explaining the rationale behind his method which is very interesting but you can skip to 0:05:45 to practice. It might help if you try out the sounds in front of the mirror!

For further practice of vowel sounds within words have a look at Ship or Sheep (move your mouse over the 'minimal pair' to access the exercises). Also have a look at my book recommendations.

How’s that for starters? Let me know how you get on!

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