American English Pronunciation: Practice Techniques

One of the most frequent questions that people ask me is how to practice the American English and accent reduction techniques that they learn in their books and classes. Here are seven techniques that you can use practice.

1. Use a checklist

Make a checklist of the pronunciation features that you need to work on. You can use the feedback from your pronunciation teacher to make this list. Each day choose one of the pronunciation features that you need to improve and practice it for 20-30 minutes. You can practice using an audio course, TV, online videos or you can practice with a friend. After a while you can work on 2 or 3 pronunciation features at time.

2. Find an American English speaker to help you practice

Many American English speakers will help you practice your pronunciation if you ask them. People won’t ask you if you need help, that would be considered impolite, but most people would love to work with you. Tell them what pronunciation feature you are working on so that they can give you specific feedback.

3. Rehearse

Before going into a situation where you know you will be conversing in English predict how the conversation might proceed. Depending on the context you should be able to anticipate many of the words and phrases that you will need to say. Review those words and phrases in your head or even write them down. Rehearse the conversation a few times aloud.Use your checklist to remind yourself of the pronunciation features that you are trying to improve.

4. Practice privately

Memorize short quotes, dialogues and poems as well as words with difficult syllable stress patterns. Practice saying these over and over while exercising, bathing, walking or driving. I often do this in the car when I am driving.

5. Mirroring

Watch American television shows to hear authentic examples of American English. Choose a character to imitate and as soon as they start to speak try to say exactly what the he or she is saying. Mirror the character’s spoken English for about 15 seconds at a time. This will really help you feel the way American English speakers use syllable stress, sentence stress and intonation patterns.

6. Record & listen to yourself

Prepare some written text for recording by marking the speech features from your checklist that you are trying to improve on. Then record yourself saying the written text. When you are done recording use your checklist to monitor your accuracy.

7. Practice listening & noticing

Wherever you are, listen carefully to native English speakers. This could be on TV, in stores, at work or with friends. Listen for the pronunciation features that you arelearning in class or with your coach. Noticing these pronunciation features in others will heighten your awareness and help you to remember to self monitor these features in your own speech.

Whatever resources you chose, you must practice consistently. Consistent practice will help your mouth and tongue develop the new “muscle memory” that they need for you to articulate American English sounds correctly.

Click here to read about some excellent American English pronunciation books that I personally recommend.