Many of our business students struggle with how to improve their English pronunciation.
Even with a high level of the language, you can still be misunderstood if you pronounce words totally wrong. This can be in a big problem during business English dialogues and conversations.
These are our 9 favourite tips to improve your English pronunciation.
Cause they get RESULTS:
1. Pick which English accent you want
Which English accent are you trying to learn? How would you like to sound?
Do you prefer a posh Netflix Bridgerton intonation, like british royalty?
Or a stereotypical New Yorker accent, which is perhaps the most recognizable regional dialect in the states?
Even if you learned British English in school, you can still choose how you pronounce words. You might find that for work reasons you’re in conference calls with Americans, or simply find the North American accent easier.
Whatever the reason, decide which you like or need the most. Then focus on speaking and practising that accent only, until you notice a difference in your skills.
While it might feel tempting to mix or not to pay too much attention to accents, we don’t recommend this.
In our experience as English teachers, this slows down your speaking improvements.
2. Mimic facial movements
You might feel like a fool at times when practising English.
Believing in yourself is a big part of speaking English with authority and sounding credible. Act the part!
Or perhaps, fake it till you make it?
Start imitating your favourite actor, colleague, or whoever it may be. Watch their face as they speak. How does their jaw move as they pronounce each word? Their mouth?
Carefully repeat their words and movements, and say the phrases again and again.
Next, grab a mirror and check your own facial expressions and jaw moments as you speak. What happens when you position your tongue or lips in a different way?
Put your hand under your chin to further feel your muscles and jaws changing as you practice.
What sounds change as you move your mouth differently? Listen to yourself carefully. How do you sound? Learning is all about testing new things.
Repeat the words until you feel you’re improving the way you pronounce the English words. The mirror is your friend!
Repeat the phrases
We’re presuming you’re already watching series and TV in English.
So go on, spoil yourself with another Netflix episode and practice your pronunciation.
Repeat the same phrases, or return to practice difficult words.
Remember to move your mouth to form different sounds while speaking, don’t be afraid to exaggerate during the pronunciation exercises.
3. Schedule when and WHERE to practice (speaking)
Sounds boring? Perhaps.
But setting up a routine means you’re more likely to stick with your training and achieve that accent and pronunciation you so badly want.
It’s like going to the gym. If you never go, you won’t lose that weight or flash new muscles.
The ideal setup is of course to do English classes or set a fixed amount of time where you speak a few words and listen – every day.
Yet if that’s not possible we recommend incorporating micro habits in your day-to-day.
Some ideas to get you started:
- Mumble English phrases to yourself as you walk to the bus
- Talk to yourself in the shower
- Listen to yourself talking as you read a book
- Pronounce new words as you’re driving to work
- Record yourself saying a few words while having breakfast and then listen to it
- Put post-it notes on everything in one room at the time (fridge! kitchen! chocolate!), and pronounce it out loud after work
- Take an English test to check your level
Find out what works best for you.
Even if you practice your English accent for 3 minutes today, that is better than 0 minutes.
And you can always do better tomorrow, right?
- Recommended reading: 10 fun ways to practice English in Barcelona
4. Use English pronunciation apps
There are plenty of cool apps to improve your English pronunciation.
Some are free, others, well, aren’t.
It’s handy to have one installed on your phone, and you can instantly check and listen to how a word should sound, how to move your mouth as you talk, listen to yourself to understand how you sound, etc.
Record yourself, and start improving your speaking.
What is the best English pronunciation app? Well, that depends on your needs.
7 apps we like, including Artificial Intelligence
We picked 7 apps we like, that have effective exercises:
- ELSA app (this is perhaps our favourite)
- Sounds Pronunciation App from Macmillan Education.
- Say it
- LearnEnglish Sounds Right from the British Council
- Pronunroid – IPA pronunciation
- Forvo Pronunciation Guide
- Howjsay audio dictionary
Some pronunciation apps have fun quizzes and games.
Others like ELSA use artificial intelligence to give immediate feedback on your accent and how you sound. This makes learning easier.
Make sure you get a learning app that fits your chosen accent. There are apps with both British and American pronunciations.
- Recommended reading: What’s a ‘typical’ English class like with us?
5. Read words out loud
Reading is such a powerful way to learn English.
And the best part is that you can refine your pronunciation by reading any book at all. Word by word. Let’s practice some sounds!
If you’re interested in improving your business English, you might want to pick a related topic. Find a book with a business or leadership theme or productivity hacks like in the best-selling “Getting things done”. If you’ve signed up for a business English course, talk about these books in class too.
Underline words that you don’t know, or don’t know how they sound.
As you read, make sure to actually TASTE the words you’re reading.
How do they feel in your mouth? Try repeating and pronouncing the English words using your most confident voice.
Train your mouth and force those new sounds!
Find the rhythm of the language.
Afraid someone will hear you?
Find a bench in the park, or hit the woods (=go to a forest).
6. Podcasts & Music
How can you improve your English pronunciation with podcasts?
By listening, and repeating words and phrases. Over, and over.
We call this technique “shadowing”. Think of yourself as a living echo when you’re shadowing an American accent for example.
Write down the words you don’t know on post-it notes, and put them on the fridge where they are visible in the day-to-day.
Make sure you pick a podcast with a topic that you’re actually interested in.
- Are you in sales? Check out techniques to sell better and learn new words while at it.
- Do you work with marketing? Search for a podcast related to international SEO to listen to.
- Our teachers listed their English podcast recommendations.
The same goes for music.
Use a service like findmusicbylyrics.com or lyrics.com to find the lyrics for your latest favourite song.
Then have a good laugh as you read each word and realise that a lot of what they sing was actually only in your head 🙂 .
Singing along is an added strategy that will help your English pronunciation.
7. Find a native buddy to practice with, and to correct you
Sometimes it’s the tiniest of mistakes that reveal that you’re not a native English speaker.
You might not even hear it yourself, or realise it. A native speaker would though.
Have a look at Facebook groups, MeetUp or Reddit to find a language partner in your area. You could teach them your native language for 45 minutes, and then you swap to English.
Got some budget?
Look for a course and get an online teacher that specialises in how to improve English pronunciation.
If you’re working, it might be that your business qualifies for governmental subsidies, depending on where your company is based.
Or ask for language classes as part of your compensation package to increase your language skills.
8. Online games
If you’re a Fortnite fan or enjoy online games, this is a good moment to practice your English pronunciation and fluency.
You’ll have less time to worry about the perfect accent as you’ll be busy playing.
This is a great way to learn how to speak English under stress, and when your attention is divided.
Better make mistakes with your friendly online clan, than in front of your boss at work! Improve both skills, at the same time.
Careful so you don’t learn from other non-native English speakers who might not always get the language right.
9. Learn the phonetic alphabet
This sounds, and looks, super boring!
But hey, once you’ve learned the phonetic alphabet, you have an automatic shortcut to quickly learn how to pronounce new words in English.
Most dictionaries use the phonetic alphabet. And while many also let you listen to how an English word is pronounced, the visual speeds up your learning curve.
- Some people learn faster if they write down new words, and many feel they get an extra boost by using the phonetic alphabet to improve their English pronunciation.
- Many of our students boost their English speaking once they start applying this technique of decoding words.
At least that’s our experience as teachers. And remember, silent letters aren’t shown when you read the phonetic version, an added bonus!
- Related article: Do you know these business English expressions?
What's your learning style?
As we mentioned above, some people learn by silently repeating words, others need a teacher in front of them to improve.
- What works best for you?
- What method will you actually stick with?
There’s no magic formula to suddenly pronounce everything in perfect English.
And also, should a perfect accent really be your goal? Perhaps it’s more realistic to aim to be close enough?
Alas, the goal is for colleagues and people you meet to comfortably understand you as you speak.
How to improve your English pronunciation when your motivation is low
Remember, when communicating sometimes it’s not you, it’s more about the person in front of you.
Some people aren’t used to even hearing an accent from another region of their own country!
Others might not be accustomed to listening to foreign accents.
This means they freeze as they keep telling themselves that they don’t understand what the other person is saying.
Similar to what can happen when you try to speak English… Wanting to communicate, goes a long way. Particularly in business settings.
Our sincere tip is just do your best and keep practicing.
And remember to celebrate the small wins as you’re learning. Congratulate yourself for EVERY word you improve your pronunciation for.
- Related: Online (intensive) Business English