It is easy to think of pronunciation as just an aspect of the external speaking skill ……. But pronunciation activity also takes place internally, in your mind, when you do other language activities. For example:
When you read, your inner voice may be saying, and therefore pronouncing, the phrases.
When you prepare to speak, an inner voice may be rehearsing the words, and therefore of course the pronunciation.
When you write, you may be saying the phrases internally with your inner voice, and without thinking about it you are practising your pronunciation.
Pronunciation is everywhere!
And what about when you listen? Well, in this case your pronunciation is being tested all the time as you use sounds (and context) to recognise and discriminate sounds and words from each other, identifying them and fitting them into what you think is being said (and sometimes being confused by them). There is a relationship between what you can say with your mouth and what you can hear with your ears. Once you can say it, you can probably hear it, so developing pronunciation improves listening. Pronunciation affects everything!
Here is a wonderful practice tip: It needs no teacher and takes no time!
1… Whenever you hear a word in English that interests you (on TV, in a shop, on the bus, at a movie, in school, in a song) just let your inner voice repeat that word a few times, so that you are hearing it internally in your mind’s ear! You make no external sound! Don’t change the word, don’t try to say it, Just let the word repeat in your mind’s ear, as if you are tasting it! Do this for 5 or 10 seconds, no longer.
After you have done this a few times you may notice that you get better at hearing the word internally, and better at not changing the word, and better at letting it repeat itself in the original speaker’s accent.
When you can do this, then add this second step:
2… Slow the word down in your inner ear, and simply count how many sounds it contains (for example the word ‘how’ has 2 sounds, ‘many’ has 4 sounds, ‘contains’ has 7 sounds). It doesn’t matter if you are wrong or right since the aim is to make yourself hear the sounds in a word, and by doing this you will get better at it. Again, don’t take longer than 10 seconds.
3…. Finally, put the sounds together to make up the word, listen to it internally again, and now, but only now, say the word (or phrase) aloud quietly to yourself (unless you want to surprise the people around you)
The aim of this is to use your inner ear and your inner voice to develop your talent for sounding good when you speak, and for gaining confidence.
I think this is what smart learners do!
You don’t need to go to school to do it and you can practice it any time, even just for 5 seconds. Try it for a few days and see what changes you notice.
Remember what Henry Ford said: Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!
What do you think about this activity?
Another great idea, Adrian. I’ll definitely be recommending this technique to my students. Paul