How to set English pronunciation


Pronunciation in English is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. Most of the sounds that seem similar to Russian are actually pronounced differently.

Traditionally, problematic sounds in English are those that are not in Russian: [r]; [θ, ð]; [w]. But if you dig deeper, vowel sounds are no less of a problem.

To start with (and many don’t even know about it) that in English almost all vowels exist in two varieties - short and long, i.e., for example, they have a short sound 'a' and a long 'a'. For Russian speakers, this is not quite a familiar thing, and this significantly complicates the development of English phonetics.

Also, sometimes two vowels merge to form diphthongs. For example, the combination of sounds 'a + i' gives [ ai ]. In total, there are 8 such combinations in English. Some of them are unusual for us and create difficulties in pronouncing words.

Another problem related to pronunciation is the melody of the language, which also differs from Russian.

Two opinions regarding the setting of pronunciation:
There are two directly opposite points of view on the question of pronunciation.
First: Pronunciation is key . Some experts believe that without setting the pronunciation from the very beginning, it is impossible to study the language. Otherwise, the errors will become fixed, and it will be impossible to get rid of them in the future.
Second: Pronunciation is secondary . Others argue that pronunciation is irrelevant. We will always sound like foreigners. Trying to get rid of an accent is an unrealistic task.
We believe that pronunciation can be worked on while developing other language skills. If, as you master the language, there is a desire to bring the pronunciation closer to the ideal, then you can do more targeted work on it. That is, we can postpone it to a more advanced stage, when we already understand English and speak tolerably.
In doing so, keep in mind the following:
First, it is important to accept that pronunciation is, in many ways, a matter of ability. For some it is easier, but for others it is a real problem. In the latter case, this should not demotivate and deter from learning English.
Secondly, much depends on the goals that a person sets for himself. If he has a confident conversational level and you need to put a certain pronunciation option - please.
Thirdly, many do not realize, but the problem is often not in the pronunciation, but in the SPEAKING of the words. They must be pronounced correctly. For example, if instead of "island" (island - island), you said "island" (which is incorrect), then no matter how good the pronunciation is, you will not be understood.
The practical goal, in our opinion, is more modest and consists in pronouncing words and sounds in such a way as to be understood in conversation without asking again.
What is required for pronunciation:

We will talk about a popular way of working on pronunciation among polyglots. For this we need 3 things:

1) Tool. In order to know how to pronounce sounds correctly, you need a good phonetics course.

2) Material. Like any skill, pronunciation needs to be trained - it’s not enough just to know how certain sounds are pronounced.

3) Technique. A habit can only be formed when the procedure becomes a habit. You need to build work in such a way that you can do it daily, without making much effort. Everything should be simple.

Pronunciation procedure:
And now more about the technique - what exactly we will do. Working on pronunciation is part of a simple and effective method of learning a language, the essence of which is to repeatedly listen to audio files. I have identified three main stages, which I will demonstrate in lesson number 1 of our course:
1) Get acquainted with the material.

At the first stage, we listen directly to the lesson in order to understand what it is about, without being distracted by pronunciation. Then we practice with the English parts, answering the narrator's questions.

Lesson 1 (lesson 1)

2) We define "problem" sounds.

Now we are not just answering questions, but also starting to do 'shadowing' (shadow repetition) - we imitate the narrator, trying to pronounce the words at the same time as him.

After several attempts, it becomes clear which sounds cause the greatest difficulty. You can try to read the English text aloud and even record your performance on audio - problem areas will come to light more clearly.

Part 1-5 (all English parts of the lesson)


No need to rush to all the sounds at once. It is necessary to identify one to three "problems" for each part of the lesson - these are the sounds that we will work on.

3) We work with the "problem" sound.

We consistently work with the English parts of the lesson (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) - do 'shadowing' and read aloud, paying special attention to the "problem" sounds. Our goal is to confidently reproduce them in context. I will give an example (we are talking about American English, because some sounds are pronounced differently in British English - see the article on English variants ).

Part 2. Listening to the second part of the lesson, you can focus on the sounds:

  • /ɔː/, as in 'st o ry /ˈstɔːri/'. You will find that in words not followed by /r/ - 'n o t /nɑːt/', 'wh a t /wɑːt/', etc., this sound is pronounced as /ɑː/. That is, 'o' here sounds almost like 'a' in the word 'f a ther' (father).
  • /w/ - consonant sound in words: w hat, w ill ...


Then we move on to the next piece of audio (an excerpt from our course), where new sounds appear.

Part 3. In this part of the lesson, you can work on the sounds:

  • /t/ in words: abou t /əˈbaʊt/, si t ua t ion /sɪtʃ.uˈeɪ.ʃən/, t ell /tel/, i t /ɪt/.
  • /ɪ/ this sound can be heard in the words: i t /ɪt/, hobb y /ˈhɑː.bi/, w i ll /wɪl/, etc. Note that this sound is different from the Russian “and”.

Part 4. This part of the lesson can be devoted to sounds:

  • /r/, as in the words: tomo rr ow /təˈmɔːr.oʊ/, r ight /raɪt/.
  • /h/ in words: h usband /ˈhʌz bənd/, wh om /huːm/.

Part 5. Here we hear a story that summarizes all the previous parts. You can try to “link” all the worked sounds.

  • there is also an opportunity to practice the difficult sound /ɜːr/, as in the word 'h er '. It only remotely resembles the vowel sound in the word "honey".
  • or a neutral sound /ə/ (called the 'shwa' sound) - like the unstressed “e”. It occurs in almost every word: t o morrow /t ə ˈmɔːr.oʊ/, a bout / ə ˈbaʊt/, situat io n /ˌsɪtʃ.uˈeɪ.ʃ ə n/, husb a nd /ˈhʌz b ə nd/.

So you can work with each lesson of the course. Pretty quickly we will work through all the English sounds. In addition, by imitating the narrator, we instinctively train intonation.

Gradually, our speech will become more natural. In addition, when performing the described procedure, other language skills are unconsciously improved. Hearing the passage many times, we:
  • develop the ability to understand speech by ear;
  • remember words and expressions in context;
  • We bring grammatical constructions to automatism.