How to improve English pronunciation
Summary: How To Improve English Pronunciation
Your English pronunciation will improve with real world practice. You need to get yourself out of classroom books and practice with some real everyday English.
Today’s podcast takes a passage from a short article in an English Sunday newspaper with lots of everyday English speech. The article by Jeremy Clarkson, who is the famous presenter of "TopGear” uses some “dry humour” and “tongue in cheek” humour you might expect in an English conversation.
We pull the English text into smaller sentences and explain the vocabulary and then practice the pronunciation, including where to stress the words used.
Audio Transcript: How To Improve English Pronunciation
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. This is our Monday podcast and therefore is the longer of the two podcasts that we put out every week. We’re aiming to increase our listenership – that means the number of people who listen to us – this year, in 2019. So help us out by telling other people about Adept English and how it can help you improve your English. And today specifically – Adept English answers the question ‘How to improve English pronunciation?’
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Improving your English Pronunciation
So ‘How to improve English pronunciation?’ Well, why don’t we discuss some tips for pronunciation practice and then go with some examples and exercises, so that you can try it out, have a go? So I’ve produced podcasts previously on ‘How to improve your English pronunciation?’. There was one back in November last year which focused on the different stresses that you might put on words – like present or present – so the stress changes the meaning. That’s really important in English and it may be something that you don’t notice easily as an English language learner. There was another podcast cast back in September, in which I talked about those difficult THR- words and STR- words, so focusing on words where there are several [consonant] letters together. And another podcast from February 2018 gave you some practice at English sentences – so opportunity to repeat after me, like we do on Course One.
It’s likely in the future that I’ll do a whole course for you to buy on ‘How to improve your English pronunciation?’ because it’s something that people struggle with. Let us know if you think that that is a good idea. But for now, how about we do some pronunciation sentences again? If you’re someone who is good at understanding, so you can easily understand the podcasts and most of what I’m saying now, but the problem comes when it’s time to speak, then this is a good way of ‘bridging the gap’ between listening and understanding – and pronouncing and speaking.
Using a newspaper article for practice
So let’s take a paragraph of text – this one is from a Sunday newspaper in the UK. So this is Jeremy Clarkson, writing in the Sunday Times, dated January 20th 2019. You might know Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear? Well, here he’s writing about a suggestion in some research that the ‘middle classes’ in the UK are helping bees by having lovely gardens – and thereby there’s also a suggestion that working class people don’t have nice gardens. The whole thing is what we call ‘tongue in cheek’ - that means Jeremy Clarkson is not being entirely serious, and it’s intended to make you smile. So he’s talking here about his experience of gardening and how he’s middle class, but he just doesn’t get it. So he says:-
The short piece by Jeremy Clarkson
‘Gardening, I’m afraid, is not an option, because I don’t understand it. I go sometimes to my local garden centre, and all you can buy is a plastic pot full of mud with a dead twig sticking out of it. And when you look at the label, it’s always in Latin.
I have occasionally bought one of these twigs and taken it home, and a year later, when it’s still a twig, I’ve put it in the bin. Occasionally some working class person will come round and explain that it needed more sunshine or less, or that I’ve given it too much water, or not enough. The end result is always the same. It stays dead.’
Vocabulary for the short piece
So just some vocabulary to help you – and this is what I do on Course One, so that you can understand the material. ‘A garden’ is the bit of land outside your house, where you might grow flowers or vegetables. And ‘gardening’ comes from the verb ‘to garden’ - which means to look after a garden – so gardening is a noun. It’s the activity of making a garden. ‘I’m afraid’ - it’s just a polite, British English thing that we say. It’s a phrase which means ‘I’m about to disappoint you! You have expectations that I’m not going to meet’. And when he says ‘Not an option’, it means it’s not a choice.
So ‘Gardening, I’m afraid is not an option’. He says ‘I sometimes go to my local garden centre’ - well that’s the shop where you buy plants. And local, just means it’s nearby. ‘A plastic pot full of mud with a twig sticking out of it’ is his description of the plants that you can buy there. What plants grow in, in plastic pots is usually called ‘compost’ – but he uses the word ‘mud’ here, to emphasis that he doesn’t understand gardening. ‘Mud’, M-U-D is what you find in a field full of cows, or it’s stuck to your boots when you’ve been for a walk. And the plant is ‘a twig’. ‘A twig’ is a little branch, a dead-looking thing, which of course is how many plants look in the winter, when they have no leaves. If you’re a gardener, you know that that little, dead-looking twig can become something quite beautiful, with leaves and flowers on it in the spring or summer and that the label, written in Latin tells you what it will look like.
So Jeremy Clarkson goes on to say ‘I have occasionally bought one of these twigs and taken it home and a year later, when it’s still a twig, I put it in the bin’. So presumably, what’s actually happened at some point the plant has died, but Jeremy Clarkson here is saying that he’d have been more surprised if something else had happened – he thought it was dead from the start! So he just throws it away. He writes as though it was a con, a trick – he was sold a twig in a pot. And then he writes ironically, that it’s sometimes been a ‘working class person’ who explains to him what the plant needed, why it died, how it needed more sunshine or more water. ‘Ironically’, just means that this is opposite to your expectation – given that the research that he’s writing about, which suggests that only middle class people understand gardening.
So now you’ve more understanding of that short piece of writing, let’s use some of Jeremy Clarkson’s sentences for ‘How to improve English pronunciation?’. So I’ll say the sentence three times, to give you practice – and I’ll leave a space in between for you to repeat it.
Gardening, I’m afraid is not an option, because I don’t understand it.
I go sometimes to my local garden centre, and all you can buy is a plastic pot full of mud with a dead twig sticking out of it.
And when you look at the label, it’s always in Latin.
I have occasionally bought one of these twigs and taken it home, and a year later, when it’s still a twig, I’ve put it in the bin.
Someone will come round and explain that it needed more sunshine or less, or that I’ve given it too much water, or not enough.
OK, so there’s a little bit of practice on ‘How to improve English pronunciation?’ - and a little demonstration of how part of our Course One works. So my suggestion is that you repeat your listening to this podcast, so that you can understand the written piece by Jeremy Clarkson, without needing to think about it. So use my ‘vocabulary section’ to help you with that. And then practise repeating the phrases after me, to help with your English pronunciation. You could even record yourself doing it, so that you can compare what you sound like with what I sound like.
OK, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Improving your English pronunciation will take time
Listening will improve your English pronunciation quickly. Lots and lots of listening to English being spoken slowly by native English speakers. You need to hear the correct version of a word being spoken so you have a comparison to your own pronunciation.
Many English words are easy to pronounce. Hearing most English words 2-3 times and you will have no problems mimicking (copying) the pronunciation. Knowing which English words will be a problem for you is difficult to predict. You need to listen to a lot of English and practice saying the words, in your mind first, then out loud.
Our experience is, that after enough listening to English being spoken, you will say something and either as you say it or just after you know the pronunciation was incorrect and know to correct it or learn from the mistake. The repeat listening makes this automatic, it's almost a feeling you get that the word is just not “right”.
As always, if you don‘t like this article or you already know about wonder and wander there are many more articles on common English phrases to listen to here.
You can always find more interesting learn English articles here.