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3 Things you must do NOW to improve your English pronunciation

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3 Things you must do NOW to improve your English pronunciation

Here are 3 things that you MUST start doing right now to dramatically improve your English pronunciation. These 3 items are so common, and what so many English learners are not doing. 

So, let’s change that!

Let’s get started!

1. Pronounce the past ending “ed” of regular verbs correctly

Whenever you speak English, it’s guaranteed that you will talk about things that happened in the past, so you must pronounce the pasts of verbs correctly. That is, ensure that you pronounce the “ed” ending correctly. Because all regular verbs end in “ed” in the past, you must learn this rule and make sure you pronounce the “ed” ending the correct way. 

Let’s take a look at this first point more closely.

Did you know there are 3 ways to pronounce the “ed” ending, which is the past ending of regular verbs? 

For example, the infinitives: talk, need and listen all have different past ending sounds for their past ending “ed”.

For example,

  • Talked = /tɔːkt/, needed = /ˈniːdɪd/, listened = /ˈlɪsənd/

In this lesson, we will learn the rules regarding the three different sounds for the “ed” suffix or ending so you’ll know which ending you need to use. 

By the way, these symbols that you see are what we call IPA symbols or the International Phonetic Alphabet. You don’t need to memorise these symbols, it is just a way for us to represent the letters with a visual symbol. That way, you can see what the sound actually looks like.  

As you can see, in all three pasts (talked, needed and listened), the ending “ed” has a different sound. So, let’s learn the rules and by just doing this one thing you’re going to sound so much more fluent!

Let’s dive a little deeper into these three sounds /t/, /ɪd/, and /d/, so you can learn the rule.  

Infinitives that end in these sounds: /p/, /k/, /f/, /s/, /tʃ/, /ʃ/,  =  /t/ sound in the past

We know it’s a bit of a long rule, but you’ll learn it fast! For instance, 

  • Hope /həʊp/ – hoped /həʊpt/ (Also, remember, we have to focus on the sound and not the letter, so, “hope” ends in the letter “e”, but the sound with which it finishes is a /p/) 
  • Like /laɪk/ – liked /laɪkt/ 
  • Laugh /lɑːf/ – laughed /lɑːft/
  • Promise /ˈprɒmɪs/ – promised /ˈprɒmɪst/
  • Watch /wɒtʃ/ – watched /wɒtʃt/
  • Wash /wɒʃ/ – washed /wɒʃt/

Infinitives that end in these sounds: /t/, /d/ =  /ɪd/ sound in the past

  • Start – /stɑːt/ – started – /ˈstɑːtɪd/
  • Translate – /trænsˈleɪt/ – Tanslated – /trænsˈleɪtɪd/
  • End – /ɛnd/ – Ended – /ˈɛndɪd/
  • Intend – /ɪnˈtɛnd/ – Intended – /ɪnˈtɛndɪd/ 

All other infinitives just take the sound /d/ in the past

For example, 

  • Allow – /əˈlaʊ/ – allowed /əˈlaʊd/
  • Cry – /kraɪ/ – cried – /kraɪd/

You can learn this rule gradually by reading and simply observing different past forms of verbs, and focusing first on the infinitive ending sound.

For instance, if we take the infinitive “hope”, we can see that “hope” ends in the sound /p/ (/həʊp/) and then, come back to the rule. And according to the rule, /p/ = /t/. Do this, and after a couple of weeks you will memorise this rule and sound loads better!

2. You need to start using aspiration

Aspiration = a stronger expulsion of air when producing the sounds /t/, /p/ and /k/. 

These are the sounds you need to aspirate or make a stronger expulsion of air in English: 

  • /t/
  • /p/
  • /k/

For example, 

  • Ten – /tɛn/
  • Pee – /piː/
  • Kill – /kɪl/

Aspiration is denoted with an h symbol, however, dictionaries do not normally display it. So, why is it important to aspirate or make a stronger expulsion of air when pronouncing the sounds: /t/, /p/ and /k/? Because if you fail to do the necessary aspiration it’s possible the person you’re speaking to will confuse your intended word for another word.

For example, 

  • If you say “ten” – /tɛn/ without aspiration, the listener will hear “den” – /dɛn/. 
  • If you say “pee” – /piː/ without aspiration, the listener will hear “bee”- /biː/. 
  • If you say “kill” – /kɪl/ without aspiration, the listener will hear “gill”- /dʒɪl/. 

Do you see our point?

So, from now on, start making a stronger expulsion of air with these sounds  /t/, /p/ and /k/.

3. Pronounce the letter pairs ng and nk correctly

Are you saying “having” /ˈhævɪn/, or “having” /ˈhævɪŋ/?

Guess which one is correct? Only the second one /ˈhævɪŋ/ is correct. This is because, in English, the letter pairs or pairs of letters ng and nk are pronounced as /ŋ/. So, ng and nk do NOT equal the sound /n/. Remember, all gerunds contain the letter pair ng. So, given how extensive this is – you MUST do this.

Let’s practise now. 

  • Say knowing – /ˈnəʊɪŋ/ and not knowing – /ˈnəʊɪn/. 
  • Say showing – /ˈʃəʊɪŋ/ and not showing – /ˈʃəʊɪn/. 
  • Say think – /θɪŋk/ and not think – /θɪnk/. 
  • Say sink – /sɪŋk/ and not sink – /sɪnk/. 

Remember, when you see the pairs of letters ng or nk, pronounce them as /ŋ/. In essence, all gerunds (verb + –ing) end in the letter pair ng, so, consequently, gerunds take this sound /ŋ/ on the ng at the end. And gerunds (verb + –ing) are extremely common! So make sure you do this! 

So, if you start doing this, that’s already a HUGE improvement! 

3 Things for Your English Pronunciation — A Summary

In summary, the 3 things we learned in this lesson that you must do to see huge improvements in your pronunciation are

  1. Pronounce the “ed” ending correctly.
  2. Aspiration of /p/, /t/ and /k/, and,
  3. The correct sound /ŋ/ for the “ng” and “nk” letter pairs.

These are all easy-to-learn rules with none to very few exceptions. If you start applying these 3 things now, your English pronunciation will improve drastically.

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