Although English does not use any written accents to give clues to the way that the language should be spoken. There are some stringent rules about English pronunciation, which should be followed if you want to be correctly understood.
It can be challenging to understand the notion of the hidden tonic accent in English, and many words just have to be learnt individually. For example the word ‘read’ which can be said in 2 ways, both have different meanings. This word has no accents or indications of how to read the word nor which pronunciation is correct until it is added to a sentence to give context.
We see this occurs a lot in English, for example, why are two words that are almost identical (beard and heard) not pronounced following the same rules?
To communicate in English, follow our advice and we will squash some of these mysteries!
You will have noticed, that pronunciation in English is very different from your own language. If you already practice English, you probably already know about the different elements that are involved:
• The pronunciation of English sounds.
• The pronunciation of English words.
• The rhythm of the sentence.
• The intonation within a sentence.
There different English sounds internationally. Photo Source: Unsplash
It is very likely that even with a grammatically correct sentence, that you have already been misunderstood, especially by a native English person. A significant part of proper pronunciation is practising the language and learning how to pronounce each word.
Even native English speakers have to do this because how you read a word does not always equal how you say it. For example, ‘Southwark’ which is an area in London is not said how it read. I used to see tourists come onto the bus all the time asking for South-Walk and no one knew what they were talking about. But once you learn that the area is called suth-ark, you can be immediately understood.
In this case, you need to learn this word independently and add it to the long list of irregular words in the English language.
English is one of the most commonly spoken languages on the planet, many countries speak English as a first language. All of which have their own expression of the language. To complicate matters further not only are there different English sounds internationally and different ways to pronounce words but also within countries you can find different pronunciations.
Make friends internationally with people who are open to globalism. Photo Source: Unsplash
In the United Kingdom, the spoken accent between the north and south of the country as very different. For example, when I travel from London up to the north in Scotland, I do struggle to understand the English spoken there. While the English words have a similar meaning worldwide, the rhythm and the intonation do differ significantly in all parts of the English speaking world.
So when we speak about English accents, it is better to try to focus on one country zone at a time. For example, asking what is the English accent like in the united kingdom or the USA is a more straightforward question to answer although still too broad to give a sensible answer. The English accent is vast and varied all over the world.
The first step to speaking English as a native is to agree to be flexible in the way that you speak. Indeed, it is often said that children learn English more easily, but children are just more flexible in their thinking and have no problem changing their way of thinking and speaking. But adults are only as able to pronounce English correctly and progress in the English language provided they agree to change the way they form their words and express them verbally.
If it is your aim to learn to speak English quickly, it is best to listen to it as often as possible! This can be in conversations, in movies, on the radio, online or in exchanges. This is how children learn to speak their mother tongue. Using the same technique and given dedication and patience, you can do the same. Listening and imitating is of course very important when you are working to improve your pronunciation skills.
Regularly learning by exposure is a great way to make your language learning more accessible. Listen to the radio in English, watch films in English listen to music in English, you have access to English in many areas all of which can help to solidify your learning.
But be careful, not only to listen do back up everything you are hearing with lessons about what it is that you are learning.
YouTube has many wonderful videos which can help you learn all about how to pronounce a word in English. Audible is an audiobook website which allows you to listen to books. The great thing about this is that you can buy the book in English and follow along with audible.
Netflix and Amazon Prime are a few online streaming services which allow you to watch movies, documentaries and TV series with subtitles. The great thing is that they also have options to listen in multiple languages and read subtitles in various languages too.
Listen To English To Improve Your Pronunciation. Photo Source: Unsplash
Online apps like Babbel which allow you to meet with other language learners and improve your English oral skills by exchanging a language or working together.
Websites like Couchsurfing are an international travel community where you can also interview new English people or make friends internationally with people who are open to globalism and meeting people from other cultures and background.
The point of couch surfing is for you to share your culture and help people from other countries. In their forums, you can find many English speakers who will be willing to help you. Also, should you choose to you could host an English speaker in your home or travel to meet a native English speaker.
You can join forums like those on the lonely planet website to meet people who would like to help people from other countries so that you can learn and concrete your English.
Errors in English are easy to make and hard to correct when you are unsure of what mistake it is that you have made. Some common errors seen in English are:
Pronouncing the ‘th’ – This is one of the hardest sounds to pronounce in English, and it can be pronounced in a few different ways.
Confusing the ‘L’ and the ‘R’ – these sound are often mixed up which gives a different meaning to the words altogether. For example Rice and Lice.
Confusing the ‘W’ and the ‘V’ – This is often noticed when saying the word water or west. Again saying Vater instead of water gives your sentence a different meaning which could give confusion to listeners.
The changing intonation with the letter ‘E’ – Adding an ‘e’ to a word changes the syllables, for example Not and Note although they look the same are not said with the same intonation. Not is said with 1 syllable and Note has 2 syllables.
Silent consonants – Many words in the English language contain letters which are silent, words like Wednesday which are said Wensday. It is hard to know which words have silent letters as there is no structured rule to define how it works.
Learning the words with silent letters is an excellent way to make sure that you are pronouncing words correctly.
English can be a very frustrating language with its different rules, lack of structure and disconnection between the pronunciation and writing of the language. This is perfectly expressed in the poem Our strange lingo
When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it’s true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose, and lose
And think of goose and yet with choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone –
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don’t agree.
The inconsistencies in English comes about because the language has been inspired by Germanic, Norse, French, Italian, Arabic and many more languages. Since we can’t change the rules of English spelling and pronunciation, we might as well learn what we can and study hard to overcome them. Enjoy and good luck!