Pronunciation

 

Introduction.

On the IELTS Speaking test you will be graded on four different things:

  1. Vocabulary (25%)
  2. Grammar (25%)
  3. Fluency and Coherence (25%)
  4. Pronunciation (25%)

Pronunciation also affects our fluency, so you could say that it counts for much more than just 25%.

Pronunciation is often the area that causes the most problems and many people think that it is ‘difficult’ to learn. Like any skill it takes practice, but you also need to know how to practice.

This guide will raise your awareness about pronunciation features and teach you ways to practice pronunciation at home.

Marking Criteria.

To get a Band 8 for pronunciation you must do the following things:

  • be easy to understand
  • use a wide range of pronunciation features

But what are these ‘pronunciation features’ and how can we improve them?

Pronunciation Features.

To get a high score in the IELTS Speaking test you should be able to use the following features:

Individual Sounds

Every sound in the English language is contained in the phonemic chart above. It is separated into vowel sounds at the top and consonant sounds at the bottom. Each word is made up of these sounds.

This chart is very useful for identifying difficult sounds or sounds that you have a problem with. Everyone has a few sounds that they find difficult to pronounce and by fixing them you will really improve your pronunciation.

First, we need to know how the phonemic chart works and the best way to do this is to play around with an interactive one. Here is a link to the British Council’s interactive phonemic chart.

Phonemic Spelling.

You then need to find out where to find the phonemic spellings of each word. Most online dictionaries will be able to tell you, but I find Cambridge Dictionaries Online to be the most reliable.

Making the Correct Sounds.

Do you think that pronunciation mostly comes from your brain (thinking about the sounds) or your body (physically making the sounds)?

It is actually both, but I would argue that it is more to do with your body than your brain. Like a whistle, trumpet or flute, it is the position of your mouth, tongue and jaw that is important.

Practicing at Home.

There are two websites you can use at home to help you improve your pronunciation of individual sounds.

There first one is called http://www.howjsay.com/

This website allows you to input any English word and it will automatically let you listen to how a native speaker says that word.

The next website shows you how to make each sound.

Sound of Speech displays interactive videos that allow you to see where to position your tongue, jaw and lips. You can then practice making these sounds. A good technique is to use a mirror while you are practicing.

Exercise

So the technique you can use at home is as follows:

1. Look at how the word is spelled using the phonemic chart using an online dictionary.

2. Find out how each of these sounds like using the phonemic chart.

3. Listen to how the words sound using howjsay.com

4. Use sounds of speech to find out how to make each sound.

Try it with the following words that many people find difficult to pronounce:

  • manage
  • Wednesday
  • talent
  • weather
  • selfish
  • identical
  • thought
  • colleague