IELTS candidates often worry about speaking like a native speaker. The thing that you should realize is that this is not the way you need to speak. It's more important to be able to speak in a way that you can be understood without difficulty rather than sounding like a British Gentleman or and American lady.
In fact, pronunciation is NOT THE SAME as accent.
Pronunciation is made up of the following 5 parts:
- Clarity: This refers to how clearly you say each word in a sentence. For example If said quickly, "Good Morning" might sound like G' Mo'ning. The former has better clarity than the latter. The first step to increasing pronunciation is saying each syllable in a word as clearly and completely as possible. This will instantly make you more understandably by others.
- Speed: Depending on your own native language you might be a natural fast speaker or slow speaker. It is important that when you speak English you vary your speaking speed so that you are neither too fast not too slow. About 150 words per minutes is the best speed for your listeners to understand you.
- Word stress: If you look at any English dictionary you will find that next to the spelling on the word, it shows you which syllables to stress on when pronouncing the word.For example take the following word creative [kree-ey-tiv]. Listen carefully to the pronunciation of the word. It is not [Kree-tiv] or [Kra-tive] ... there is a stress on the "ey" sound in the middle of the word. If you don't have that when you pronounce creative you will have a hard time being understood. When you come across a new word make sure you understand which syllables to stress on and repeat the word and really try to exaggerate the stress.
- Sentence stress: Sentence stress is important because it can change the meaning of what you say. It refers to the stress that you put on a word to highlight it's meaning.For example. notice how the meaning of the sentence can change with stress on different words: I took my dog for a walk to the park today. (you may have a cat or some other animal but you took your dog) I took my dog for a walk to the park today. (you usually take your dog for some other activity but you took it along for a walk) I took my dog for a walk to the park today. (you usually take your dog for a walk to the beach or some other place but you took it to the park)Make sure to use the correct sentence stress to convey the meaning accurately otherwise you may end up confusing your listener.
- Intonation: Intonation is what makes you interesting to your listener. Intonation refers to the rise and fall in your voice. Depending on how you use intonation in your sentence it can convey your mood and can in turn change the meaning of the sentence. Usually a wide range of intonation is used to convey happy or cheerful moods and a narrow range of intonation us used for sad or negative moods. Since different languages have different intonations you might have to exaggerate or suppress your intonation while speaking English. For example speakers from Russia or Germany might sound flat when speaking English while speakers from Italy might sound too exaggerated with their intonations.
The key to improving pronunciation is to practice few words at a time but practice them often.
Don't spend the entire day learning new word pronunciations rather learn a few new words and try to use them as often as you can in your sentences. Another technique that works well is to record yourself speaking and playing it back.Sometimes just hearing yourself speak can help you spot problems in your pronunciation. If not don't be shy to ask someone with good English skills for advice.
Give the above techniques a go for a couple of days and you will be amazed with how quickly your English speaking has improved.
Here are some more tips on how to improve your pronunciation for IELTS Speaking:
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As always, if you have any questions about this topic feel free to ask in the comments below or email us on [email protected]
Best of luck.