What’s the most difficult part of trying to speak another language?
If you’re like most language learners, getting your pronunciation just right is near the top of the list. After all, it’s not easy to get used to even small differences between your native language and the one you’re learning.
However, making yourself understood and being able to understand others is a key part of any conversation. It’s even more important if you want to appear professional or advance your career.
But how much should you really worry about your pronunciation? More importantly, what can you do to make sure poor pronunciation isn’t responsible for holding you back in the workplace?
Is your pronunciation a problem?
Most of the time, you already know that your pronunciation needs work or you believe it could be better. If you’ve recently started learning a language, you might struggle to pronounce words or realise that native speakers have a hard time understanding you.
However, if you’ve been learning for some time, you might also wonder if it’s possible for your pronunciation to get better. What if you can’t improve?
Even more importantly, how do you know if your pronunciation is affecting your professional interactions? Sometimes, it can be hard to tell if someone else really understands you or is simply being polite during a presentation or meeting. You might not be able to figure out if a job interview didn’t go well because of poor pronunciation or because you were too nervous.
In that case, try to pay attention to the way others respond to you when you speak:
- Do others seem confused or ask you to repeat yourself often?
- Do people have trouble responding to your questions or give you strange answers?
- Do you feel like others prefer to contact you via e-mail rather than in person?
If so, it might be a good idea to work on your pronunciation.
How to improve your pronunciation
Now, how can you improve your pronunciation, especially when it feels like you aren’t making much progress? Honestly, you might feel stuck, especially if you always have difficulty with the same words or sounds.
The key is to work on both input and output. That means taking the time to improve both your listening and speaking skills. Start by:
- Listening to the language you’re learning
- Repeating what you’ve heard
- Working with a teacher, tutor, or conversation exchange partner
Tips for practising
So, you need to keep listening, repeating, and practising. It sounds simple, but how do you know if it’s working? What if that’s what you’ve been doing and you don’t think it’s helping?
Luckily, there are ways to monitor your own progress, both on your own and with the help of a teacher or native speaker.
It sounds scary at first, but it’s a great way to listen to the differences between your own pronunciation and that of a native speaker. Plus, you don’t have to let anyone else listen to the recording if you don’t want to.
Listen to real conversations
You don’t necessarily need to surround yourself with native speakers (though, it can be helpful). You can also watch films or listen to podcasts and music.
Try a tongue twister
Tongue twisters can be a fun way to practise a sound you have trouble with. Just remember that it’s perfectly fine if you mess up.
Ultimately, the best way to improve your pronunciation is work on your confidence while speaking. The less discouraged and out of place you feel, the more people will want to pay attention to what you have to say.