How to improve pronunciation?


Some simple exercises and activities to improve pronunciation when speaking.

How to improve pronunciation?



Speech is one of the fundamental capacities of the human being, and an aptitude that for thousands of years has shaped the way we live and interact. It is the most common and universal way of using language, and for this reason, it has allowed us to develop forms of abstract thought and the ability to establish, in a matter of seconds, complex social interactions in almost any situation in which there are several people.


But just as happens even with the most characteristic physical and psychological traits of our species, there are individual differences to take into account. There are those who stand out for their extraordinary fluency in speaking, and there are also those who experience significant difficulties in this regard. But luckily, there are several ways to enhance the use of speech, and in this article, we will focus on those that have to do with improving pronunciation.


Useful techniques to improve pronunciation

There are many possible reasons why a person may have difficulty trying to pronounce well when speaking (and speaking with the proper fluency and rhythm). In some cases, these are small defects that do not represent symptoms of a disorder, and in others, this phenomenon can be spoken of as clinically relevant alterations; neurodevelopmental disorders, brain injuries, and strokes, etc.


In any case, regardless of the causes, in most cases, it is possible to make significant progress even among those who suffer from severe speech problems, provided professional support is available. In fact, both from speech therapy and from psychotherapy, the extraordinary flexibility of the human brain (and the rest of the nervous system) is taken advantage of when learning, for, through exercises, in training both the body and the mind in the correct pronunciation of phonemes, the diction of words, the way of spinning the latter into sentences, etc. These techniques designed to improve pronunciation are an example of this.


1. Sensory triangulation

Learning to pronounce better is, above all, a process of practice, training. In other words, it has more to do with perfecting our technique in a sport than with studying a book. We must immerse ourselves in experiences of practice and fluency, and not so much of introspection and understanding of the language from a purely theoretical and intellectual level.


One of the best ways to achieve this is to repeat the pronunciation of phonemes and words, attending not only to one channel of information but to two. This dual path, which should normally be visual (lip reading in a series or film, or in a person in front of us) and auditory, will allow us to reinforce and enrich our way of associating the concept of each of the phonemes with the muscles of our body that we must activate and coordinate to pronounce them. Starting from two reference points, it is easier to see towards which place they converge, as happens in geometry.


2. Start with slow pronunciation

Keeping in mind our level of ability and conforming to it is essential to learn anything, and this includes the use of techniques to pronounce better. For this reason, it is important not to demand the impossible (this will discourage us and lead us to throw in the towel) nor to repeat over and over again exercises that we always execute without any difficulty (they do not contribute too much).


Along these lines, it is useful to imagine an ascending difficulty curve that is always a little ahead of what we know we can do at all times so that we are always exposing ourselves to tasks that pose a challenge for us. And having as a reference the speed of pronunciation is usually a good way not to lose track of our progress.


Starting slowly, it will be easier to familiarize ourselves with the chains of movements necessary to pronounce, as well as their sonority, and to internalize each of the phonemes separately. From there, it will be easier to progress trying to gain fluency in speech.


3. Recordings to detect frequent errors

Each person has unique errors when it comes to pronouncing. To adapt to our case, the most useful thing is to make recordings that allow us to recognize errors and patterns in our way of speaking. For example, in this way, it will be easier to see to what extent fatigue is a factor that influences bad pronunciation, if we do not breathe well, if our jaw is too tight, etc.


4. Take into account the position of the tongue

One of the most useful measures to improve pronunciation, especially at the beginning, is to take into account the position of the tongue in those phonemes that are difficult for us, and use a visual aid of that position while we try to pronounce it (in words and phrases, not just in isolation). This will help us distinguish it from other similar phonemes and not end up resorting to the latter.


5. Practice controlled breathing

Although it may not seem like it has much to do with it, learning to breathe well is essential to correct possible problems when pronouncing. And it is that many times we misuse our lungs without realizing it. Properly taking advantage of the capacity of these organs will help us not end up forcing our speech to compensate for the lack of air.


6. Singing practice

Singing is a good way to gain fluency and mastery of the range of motion in all the organs involved in speech since the properties of music (rhythm, melody, nuances, and harmony) act as “supports”. Thus, much of the progress achieved through singing can be extended to normal speech.

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