Get a better accent in English!

How to improve your English pronunciation 🎙️ [VIDEO]

Let us walk show you the main aspects of English phonetics which will allow you to speak English with a correct accent!

What are the aspects of English pronunciation you need to improve? Can you recognize and pronounce all 39 sounds of General American English? Do you know what word stress and sentence stress are?

👇 Here's our step-by-step guide to improving your English pronunciation:

🌎 Don't forget to choose the language of the subtitles by clicking on the video's settings.

⏱️ Timecodes:

0:00 - Intro
0:35 - How do you find your words in English? (Recap)
1:57 - How do you improve your pronunciation in English?
3:50 - The 39 sounds found in General American English
6:30 - The 24 consonants used in General American English
10:58 - The 10 pure vowel sounds of General American English
12:55 - The 5 vowel clusters of General American English
14:31 - Word Stress in English
20:12 - Sentence Stress in English
29:29 - How to reach fluency in English

📝 Full transcript:

Hello, this is Misha from Click and Speak, and this is part three of our video series to help you better communicate in English. In the first two videos, we saw how to improve your listening comprehension in English and how to better express yourself in English. And in this video, we'll see what you can do in order to improve your pronunciation and your accent in English. Don't forget to activate the subtitles which are available in both English and a bunch of other languages, so you can be sure to understand everything that I'm saying.

Last time, we talked about how to better express yourself in English, how to find your words in English, and build sentences. My top tips were to write more, practicing expressing yourself on a certain topic without worrying about the pronunciation. To always learn in context, to learn entire sentences as opposed to individual words because you rarely use individual isolated words when you speak, so why would you learn them in that way? Think in English, imagine conversations in English, because you can do it as much as you want at any time, anywhere, and it's free. And it gives you hundreds, if not thousands of extra hours of practice. And as you know, the more you practice, the more experience you get, and the more experience you have, the more confident you feel. Instead of focusing on learning to speak English fluently, which is a giant task, it's such a big goal, it's not specific and you don't know what to do in order to achieve it, learn to speak on specific topics fluently in English. And that way, little by little, you will gain overall fluency in English.

Today we'll focus on the second aspect of speaking English. Number one was finding your words and learning to express yourself. And number two is learning to articulate these words correctly with a good accent so you can be understood by the others and so you can better understand others as well. How do you do that? One word, phonetics. Now once again, don't run away. It's not as complicated as it sounds, and if you learn how to use phonetics in your English studies, you will learn how to better articulate in English and speak with a correct accent. What does it mean to learn phonetics? There are three main aspects of English phonetics that we will focus on.

Number one are the sounds of the English language. As we saw in the first video, there are 39 sounds in general American English, and most learners never sit down to learn and work on each sound. That's what we're going to do today. Number two is word stress because in English, each word that has more than one syllable has at least one of them stressed. Okay? We'll see how you can learn to stress words correctly. And number three is sentence stress. English intonation is not flat. We do not pronounce each word the same way. Certain words are pronounced with a higher intonation, we stress on certain words, and we tend to pronounce other words less clearly. If you've noticed, the intonation of native speakers goes like this, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah." Right? We're going to learn how to do that and when to do that.

Now first things first, the sounds of the English language. The sounds in the English language, of course, vary from accent to accent. And since on Click and Speak we teach American English, we're going to focus on the 39 sounds found in standard American English. So, can you recognize all these sounds? And can you pronounce them?

Now in order to teach you all 39 sounds of general American, we're going to be using our interactive infographic, which is available for free at americanipachart.com. So, how do you use this interactive infographic? Well, first you have the sound pronounced in an isolated way, pronounced individually. You can click on it and you will hear an audio recording of a native speaker pronouncing that sound.

Speaker 2: /p/.
Misha: P.
Speaker 2: /p/.
Misha: P. I would like to specify that the audio is better when you use the infographic yourself and this here is a recording. All right? For each sound, you have an example word with the same sound in it.
Speaker 2: Pig.
Misha: Pig. If you click on the word, you will hear it pronounced by a native speaker. And if you click a second time, you will hear the same word pronounced slowly.
Speaker 2: Pig.
Misha: Pig. All right? You also have the word written in English and you have it's phonetic transcription in the international phonetic alphabet. Not only can you learn all 39 sounds in general American with this infographic, but you will also learn the symbols for each sound that are used in phonetic transcriptions resources such as Wiktionary or Click And Speak, for example. So depending on your native language, different sounds will be harder or easier for you. Don't hesitate to pause this video for sounds that you find harder to pronounce and really learn them more.

So these are all the aspects you need in order to really learn how to pronounce each of these words. You have the word written, you have its audio recording, you have a phonetic transcription, and you can play around with it, pronounce it at normal speed, pronounce it slowly, et cetera. Now we're going to go over each of these 39 sounds and pronounce them individually in an isolated way and within a word.

Speaker 2: /p/.
Misha: So let's start with /p/.
Speaker 2: /p/.
Misha: /p/.
Speaker 2: /p/.
Misha: /p/.
Speaker 2: Pig.
Misha: Pig.
Speaker 2: Pig.
Misha: Pig. Don't hesitate to try and pronounce all of these sounds with me at home. Maybe go to another room so your friends and family don't think you're crazy, okay? But we're going to be practicing English phonetics now. Right?
Speaker 2: /b/.
Misha: /b/.
Speaker 2: /b/.
Misha: /b/.
Speaker 2: Bear.
Misha: Bear.
Speaker 2: Bear.
Misha: Bear.
Speaker 2: /t/.
Misha: /t/.
Speaker 2: /t/.
Misha: /t/.
Speaker 2: Turtle.
Misha: Turtle.
Speaker 2: Turtle.
Misha: Turtle.
Speaker 2: /d/.
Misha: /d/.
Speaker 2: /d/.
Misha: /d/.
Speaker 2: Dog.
Misha: Dog.
Speaker 2: Dog.
Misha: Dog.
Speaker 2: /k/.
Misha: /k/.
Speaker 2: /k/.
Misha: /k/.
Speaker 2: Cat.
Misha: Cat.
Speaker 2: Cat.
Misha: Cat.
Speaker 2: /g/.
Misha: /g/.
Speaker 2: /g/.
Misha: /g/.
Speaker 2: Goat.
Misha: Goat.
Speaker 2: Goat.
Misha: Goat.

Now this is a sound that tends to be difficult for foreigners to pronounce because it does not exist in a lot of languages. So pay attention:

Speaker 2: /θ/.
Misha: /θ/.
Speaker 2: /θ/.
Misha: /θ/.
Speaker 2: Panther.
Misha: Panther.
Speaker 2: Panther.
Misha: Panther.
Speaker 2: /ð/.
Misha: /ð/.
Speaker 2: /ð/.
Misha: /ð/.
Speaker 2: Feather.
Misha: Feather.
Speaker 2: Feather.
Misha: Feather.
Speaker 2: /f/.
Misha: /f/.
Speaker 2: /f/.
Misha: /f/.
Speaker 2: Frog.
Misha: Frog.
Speaker 2: Frog.
Misha: Frog.
Speaker 2: /v/.
Misha: /v/.
Speaker 2: /v/.
Misha: /v/.
Speaker 2: Beaver.
Misha: Beaver.
Speaker 2: Beaver.
Misha: Beaver.

Speaker 2: /s/.
Misha: /s/.
Speaker 2: /s/.
Misha: /s/.
Speaker 2: Snake.
Misha: Snake.
Speaker 2: Snake.
Misha: Snake.
Speaker 2: /z/.
Misha: /z/.
Speaker 2: /z/.
Misha: /z/.
Speaker 2: Zebra.
Misha: Zebra.
Speaker 2: Zebra.
Misha: Zebra.
Speaker 2: /ʃ/.
Misha: /ʃ/.
Speaker 2: /ʃ/.
Misha: /ʃ/.
Speaker 2: Sheep.
Misha: Sheep.
Speaker 2: Sheep.
Misha: Sheep.
Speaker 2: /ʒ/.
Misha: /ʒ/.
Speaker 2: /ʒ/.
Misha: /ʒ/.
Speaker 2: Television.
Misha: Television.
Speaker 2: Television.
Misha: Television.
Speaker 2: /tʃ/.
Misha: /tʃ/.
Speaker 2: /tʃ/.
Misha: /tʃ/.
Speaker 2: Chicken.
Misha: Chicken.
Speaker 2: Chicken.
Misha: Chicken.
Speaker 2: /dʒ/.
Misha: /dʒ/.
Speaker 2: /dʒ/.
Misha: /dʒ/.
Speaker 2: Giraffe.
Misha: Giraffe.
Speaker 2: Giraffe.
Misha: Giraffe.

Speaker 2: /w/.
Misha: /w/.
Speaker 2: /w/.
Misha: /w/.
Speaker 2: Wolf.
Misha: Wolf.
Speaker 2: Wolf.
Misha: Wolf.
Speaker 2: /ɫ/.
Misha: /ɫ/.
Speaker 2: /ɫ/.
Misha: /ɫ/.
Speaker 2: Lion.
Misha: Lion.
Speaker 2: Lion.
Misha: Lion.
Speaker 2: /m/.
Misha: /m/.
Speaker 2: /m/.
Misha: /m/.
Speaker 2: Mouse.
Misha: Mouse.
Speaker 2: Mouse.
Misha: Mouse.
Speaker 2: /n/.
Misha: /n/.
Speaker 2: /n/.
Misha: /n/.
Speaker 2: Dinosaur.
Misha: Dinosaur.
Speaker 2: Dinosaur.
Misha: Dinosaur.
Speaker 2: /ŋ/.
Misha: /ŋ/.
Speaker 2: /ŋ/.
Misha: /ŋ/.
Speaker 2: Penguin.
Misha: Penguin.
Speaker 2: Penguin.
Misha: Penguin.
Speaker 2: /ɹ/.
Misha: /ɹ/.
Speaker 2: /ɹ/.
Misha: /ɹ/.
Speaker 2: Rabbit.
Misha: Rabbit.
Speaker 2: Rabbit.
Misha: Rabbit.
Speaker 2: /j/.
Misha: /j/.
Speaker 2: /j/.
Misha: /j/.
Speaker 2: Yak.
Misha: Yak.
Speaker 2: Yak.
Misha: Yak.
Speaker 2: /h/.
Misha: /h/.
Speaker 2: /h/.
Misha: /h/.
Speaker 2: Horse.
Misha: Horse.
Speaker 2: Horse.
Misha: Horse.

Now, those were all 24 consonants in general American English, and now we're going to focus on the 10 pure vowel sounds of standard American:

Speaker 2: /i/.
Misha: /i/.
Speaker 2: /i/.
Misha: /i/.
Speaker 2: Green.
Misha: Green.
Speaker 2: Green.
Misha: Green.
Speaker 2: /u/.
Misha: /u/.
Speaker 2: /u/.
Misha: /u/.
Speaker 2: Blue.
Misha: Blue.
Speaker 2: Blue.
Misha: Blue.

Speaker 2: /ɪ/.
Misha: /ɪ/.
Speaker 2: /ɪ/.
Misha: /ɪ/.
Speaker 2: Pink.
Misha: Pink.
Speaker 2: Pink.
Misha: Pink.
Speaker 2: /ʊ/.
Misha: /ʊ/.
Speaker 2: /ʊ/.
Misha: /ʊ/.
Speaker 2: Wood.
Misha: Wood.
Speaker 2: Wood.
Misha: Wood.
Speaker 2: /ə/.
Misha: /ə/.
Speaker 2: /ə/.
Misha: /ə/.
Speaker 2: Dust.
Misha: Dust.
Speaker 2: Dust.
Misha: Dust.

Speaker 2: /ɛ/.
Misha: /ɛ/.
Speaker 2: /ɛ/.
Misha: /ɛ/.
Speaker 2: Red.
Misha: Red.
Speaker 2: Red.
Misha: Red.
Speaker 2: /ɝ/.
Misha: /ɝ/.
Speaker 2: /ɝ/.
Misha: /ɝ/.
Speaker 2: Purple.
Misha: Purple.
Speaker 2: Purple.
Misha: Purple.
Speaker 2: /ɔ/.
Misha: /ɔ/.
Speaker 2: /ɔ/.
Misha: /ɔ/.
Speaker 2: Mauve.
Misha: Mauve.
Speaker 2: Mauve.
Misha: Mauve.
Speaker 2: /æ/.
Misha: /æ/.
Speaker 2: /æ/.
Misha: /æ/.
Speaker 2: Sand.
Misha: Sand.
Speaker 2: Sand.
Misha: Sand.
Speaker 2: /ɑ/.
Misha: /ɑ/.
Speaker 2: /ɑ/.
Misha: /ɑ/.
Speaker 2: Coffee.
Misha: Coffee.
Speaker 2: Coffee.
Misha: Coffee.

So we just saw the 10 pure vowel sounds of standard American English, but there are also double vowels or vowel clusters in American English. And those rules we'll call diphthongs. Now let's see the five vowel clusters or diphthongs of standard American.
Speaker 2: /eɪ/.
Misha: /eɪ/.
Speaker 2: /eɪ/.
Misha: /eɪ/.
Speaker 2: Jade.
Misha: Jade.
Speaker 2: Jade.
Misha: Jade.
Speaker 2: /oʊ/.
Misha: /oʊ/.
Speaker 2: /oʊ/.
Misha: /oʊ/.
Speaker 2: Gold.
Misha: Gold.
Speaker 2: Gold.
Misha: Gold.
Speaker 2: /ɔɪ/.
Misha: /ɔɪ/.
Speaker 2: /ɔɪ/.
Misha: /ɔɪ/.
Speaker 2: Turquoise.
Misha: Turquoise.
Speaker 2: Turquoise.
Misha: Turquoise.
Speaker 2: /aɪ/.
Misha: /aɪ/.
Speaker 2: /aɪ/.
Misha: /aɪ/.
Speaker 2: Lime.
Misha: Lime.
Speaker 2: Lime.
Misha: Lime.
Speaker 2: /aʊ/.
Misha: /aʊ/.
Speaker 2: /aʊ/.
Misha: /aʊ/.
Speaker 2: Brown.
Misha: Brown.
Speaker 2: Brown.
Misha: Brown.

And those were the five diphthongs or five vowel clusters of standard American English. Now we've gone over all 39 sounds in general American. So you can tap yourself on the back. Once again, this interactive infographic is available for free. You can download it or print it to use it as much as you want even if you're offline. It's available at americanipachart.com.

Number two is word stress. In English, you need to stress at least one syllable in each word that has more than one syllable. Okay? But how do you know? Is it computer? Is it computer? Is it computer? Let's find out. So we always stress at least one syllable in each word that has more than one syllable. How do you know if a word has more than one syllable?

Now, usually people tell us that the number of vowels corresponds to the number of syllables and while that may be true a lot of the times, it's not a perfect rule because for example, the word fix has one vowel, and it has one syllable. Fix. The word under has two vowels, /ə/, /ɝ/, and it has two syllables. Under. The word worked is written with two vowels, O and E, but it's in fact one syllable. Worked. Worked. Meaning that you don't need to worry about the word stress in the word worked because it only has one syllable. So be sure to look up the number of syllables as well, because that's not always clear through the spelling as we saw in the first video and you need to either look at a phonetic transcription or listen to an audio recording or do both.

How do you know which syllable to stress? There's three main things you can do. Number one is to imitate. If you hear me pronounce the word attention, pay attention to the way I pronounce it and to the syllable that I stress. Okay? So it's attention. Attention. It's not attention. It's not attention. It's attention. So the stress falls on the second syllable. Attention. Attention. In order to know, you need to listen to a lot of English and always pay attention to the way words are pronounced and the way words are stressed.

A second example, information. Information. Okay? So which syllable am I stressing? Is it the first one? Information. No. Is is number two? Information. Nope. Is it the third one? Information. Yep. That's the one. And it's not number four, information. So this goes to show that you need to listen to a lot of English in order to develop your listening in order to develop your accent. If you hear the word attention pronounced with the correct word stress enough times, you will learn how to pronounce it yourself, even without realizing.

Of course, this is how native English speakers have learned to put the word stress on the correct syllable, but when you learn English as an adult, it can sometimes be harder to hear which syllable is stressed. So the safest thing you can do is to simply look it up. And you can do that on Wiktionary or any other good dictionary, be that online or offline. The word stress is always indicated in the phonetic transcriptions, and here I've got a screenshot of the phonetic transcription of the word information. All right. How do you know which syllable is stressed? This is indicated by the apostrophe. The apostrophe indicates that the following syllable is stressed, that the next syllable is stressed. Meaning that here, the apostrophe is before the syllable, may, which means that the syllable may is stressed. That means that we say information. Information.

Number three is learning the rules. For example, according to Teaching American Pronunciation, we stress the first syllable in 90% of two syllable nouns. Meaning that if you have a two syllable noun, 90% of the time you will stress the first syllable. Some examples. Brother. Brother. Finger. Finger. Second. Second. Butter. Butter. Now these are good patterns to know when you don't have an idea about where to put the word stress, but obviously they're not perfect rules, which means that the best thing to do is a combination of all three. So I invite you to learn some of the basic rules about word stress, some of the basic patterns like this one to also always look it up in a dictionary and to always observe the way native speakers stress words and to also imitate them.

What about sentence stress? Have you noticed that native English speakers change their intonation a lot? Their intonation is not flat. They do not speak like robots. The words don't have the same length. The words are not pronounced the same way. Rather, they make a lot of pauses, some words are pronounced with longer vowels, whereas others are pronounced less clearly. And this is not random, okay? There's specific rules that you can follow in order to have a better accent in English.

The melody of the English language comes from the fact that we have long and short vowels. English speakers pronounced the most important words in each sentence more clearly, whereas the words that are less important, they pronounce them less clearly. Here's an example, Milk chocolate is made of 30% cocoa. Okay? So in bold I've put the words that are pronounced more clearly, and the other words are pronounced less clearly. Milk chocolate is made of 30% cocoa. Do you notice the difference between how I pronounced milk chocolate and is. Okay? The combination of word stress and sentence stress gives the melody and the intonation of the English language. We already saw what you can do in order to learn the word stress. And now let's see what you can do in order to learn how to stress words in sentences.

Similarly to the word stress, we always stress at least one word in each sentence in English. And these are always the most important words in each sentence. How do you know which words are important and which words are not important? Let's get into some technical terms. You have content words and you have function words. What are those? The rule of thumb is that you do put emphasis on content words and that you usually don't stress on the function words. There are a lot of exceptions unfortunately, but most of the time in a neutral context, you can stick to this rule.

What are the content words? Content words are nouns like computer, bottle, person. You stress on main verbs, the verbs that carry a meaning. For example, I walk, I go, I see, I watch. All right? You do put the stress on adjectives, big, small, tall, short. You do put the stress on adverbs, well, quickly, unfortunately, today. Question words are also content words. Why? Who? When? You do put emphasis on numbers, one, two, three, first, second, third, et cetera. And finally, you usually put emphasis on negations such as not, no, never, et cetera. So usually most of the time in a normal context, you would emphasize on the following words, nouns, main verbs, adjectives, adverbs, question words, numbers, and negations, right? Those are the content words. Those are the important words in a sentence that carry the meaning, that carry the message.

What about the function words? Function words usually only carry a grammatical function. They only give us grammatical information, and that's why we usually do not stress them in a sentence. What are the function words that you should usually not stress? Those are articles like the, a, or an. That's the verb to be. I am, you are, he is. Those are auxiliary verbs or the helper verbs. What's an auxiliary verb and what's a main verb? Now in English, we have a lot of composed tenses where you have two verbs and usually the first verb has grammatical meaning, it shows us the tense. If it's happening right now, if it happened in the past, or if it will happen in the future. And the second verb carries the meaning, the message. For example, I am writing. Here we have two verbs, am and writing, but am has a purely grammatical function to show us that something is happening right now at the moment of speaking, whereas writing is the main verb which gives us the meaning.

So in the sentence, I am writing, you would usually not stress on am, which gives us only grammatical information, but you would stress on the main verb, writing. I am writing. You usually don't stress on propositions like at, in, of. You usually don't stress on pronouns like I, you, him, her. You usually don't put the emphasis on possessive adjectives like my, your, their, our. Most of the times you would not stress on determinatives like this or that. And usually you would not put the stress on conjunctions like and, but. Those are the function words, those are the words that carry a grammatical meaning which are usually not stressed.

Now, this is a lot of information. Let's see some specific examples of how you can apply this rule in real life. Now here are a few examples sentences and I've written the words that carry the sentence stress in bold. Let's analyze them. Tea for two. Tea for two. Okay? Now tea is a noun, so that's why it would usually carry the sentence stress. Two is a number which also is a content word and it would usually carry the emphasis. For is a preposition and in a normal context would not stress on that word. That's why I would pronounce the sentence Tea for two, not tea for two. No. Tea for two. Do you hear the difference?

Two interesting sentences which contrast each other. You can wait for hours, which means wait for a few hours, we stress on the content words, the verb, wait, and the noun, hours, but we don't stress on the preposition, for. Wait for hours. However, if you want to say, wait four hours with the verb, wait, with the number, four, and with the noun, hours, then you would stress on every word in that sentence. Wait four hours. Okay? Meaning that the only difference between these two sentences in the spoken language is the sentence stress. Compare. Wait for hours. Wait four hours.

Next example. He's waiting for his friend. Okay? In he's, we have a contraction of he is. He is a pronoun, is is an auxiliary verb that helps us form the present continuous tense. Waiting is a main verb that gives us the meaning in the sentence. So that's why we would say, he's waiting. For is a preposition. We saw in two other examples that we do not stress on prepositions. His is a possessive pronoun, we do not stress on those. And friend is a noun, so we do stress on that word. He's waiting for his friend.

Final long example. I use my cell phone on the train to read my emails. I'm exaggerating a bit so you can hear the differences between the function words and the content words, or the words that don't carry a sentence stress and the words that do. Once again.I use my cell phone on the train to read my emails. So those were the three main aspects of English phonetics that you need to learn in order to improve your pronunciation in English.

So, now what? So now that you know what you need to do in order to improve your listening comprehension in English and your speaking in English, that means expressing yourself better, and improving your pronunciation, what should you do in order to continue your English studies? The problem is that English is an enormous language. There is so much to learn and if you're not organized, then you will spend much more time than necessary. In order to optimize your time, your effort, and your money, you need to focus on the aspects of English that will serve you immediately. That means learning the 5,000 most commonly used words which will allow you to use and to understand English in 96% of all situations. You need to learn 86 grammatical structures in order to be able to use and understand all of these 5,000 words, and you need to also spend time with the language. Nothing can replace spending time with the language.

Depending on your native language, it will take you between 1,000 and 2,000 hours of practice in order to master the English language. Now this can mean conjugating verbs and practicing grammar, but it can also mean listening to music, watching movies, reading comic books, or even playing video games, anything as long as you're using the language actively. And finally, you need to constantly be exposed to audio in English. The lack of audio is the main reason why you're having trouble understanding spoken English and why you are not used to pronouncing English correctly.

Our solution is a method called Click and Speak, which focuses on helping you better communicate in English. That means helping you improve your listening comprehension in English and also finding your words in English and being able to pronounce them correctly. This is a giant course which contains all 5,000 most commonly used words in the English language in the context of over 7,000 simple sentences called monologues and also in the context of dialogues. And in the next video, I'll give you a demonstration and I'll show you what it looks like. Thank you for watching.

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Last modified: November 2, 2021, 4:51 pm