Pronouncing English clearly
Pronouncing English clearly
This website takes a practical approach to English pronunciation. It acknowledges that speakers have sounds in their native tongue that are perfectly functional in international communication in English, and that are in fact most natural to both speaker and listener. With the information and instructions on this website, learners can revaluate and perfect their own pronunciation, and appreciate the pronunciation habits and skills of those they are communicating with.
Enjoy your tour of English pronunciations!
Dick Smakman is a lecturer and researcher at Leiden University, specialising in Sociolinguistics and in English as an L2. He has taught L2 Dutch in such unlikely places as Durham (UK), Nijmegen (Netherlands), and Lublin (Poland). He is interested in globalising and democratising first and second language use. Lorna Wijma teaches Dutch and English as an L2 to students from different linguistic backgrounds. She completed a BA in English Language and Culture and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University. She is passionate about languages, and is currently deepening her knowledge of the Arabic language.
They both feel that there is something unrealistic about narrowly defined English pronunciation norms. Such norms tend to lead to feelings of failure, hesitation to speak, and unnatural language use. These norms can in fact be socially divisive.
Rather than focussing on 'accent reduction' in an effort to imitate prototypical speakers, learners could embrace their natural accent, discover their pronunciation problems, and pay attention only to those.
Pictures by Jurjen Donkers
Read about accent variation and accent functionality, and listen to people discussing these topics. Maybe you will decide that your pronunciation only needs some minor tweaking here and there. Besides reading materials, the steps below contain pronunciation instructions. Recordings are used of successful and less successful speakers, and practical tips are given to solve their pronunciation issues.
Researchers/teachers with an approach similar to ours
Discover this World of Englishes. This will raise your awareness of the pronunciation variation around you. There are even some quiz questions in this World.
Take our pronunciation course, which comes with a book, called Clear English Pronunciation. A Practical Guide (Routledge, 2020). Recordings are available of a wide range of speakers. Their pronunciation problems are demonstrated and explained, and solutions to avoid them are offered. Repetition exercises focussing on specific problems, and using various model speakers, can be found in this book. All the recordings are free and available online.
We recorded these clips to help you avoid misunderstandings when pronouncing English:
- Native' versus 'non-native'
- Vowels and consonants
- Post-vocalic R
- Pronouncing the th sound clearly
- Distinguishing between 'fortis' and 'lenis' syllable endings
- Distinguishing between living and leaving
- Distinguishing between sing and sink
- Distinguishing between merry, marry, and Mary
- Distinguishing between dock and duck
These are some useful clips by others. Some are based on native-accent pronunciation models, while others are more general:
Follow this link and find a range of speakers with different types of accents; non-native, near-native and native. We have written out the speech for each speaker and highlighted sounds that may be difficult to understand for some, and we have added tips to pronounce these sounds more clearly. Maybe an accent close to yours is amongst them. Discover how very hands-on solutions are within your reach.