Weird sounds in English (and how to make them)

18 April 2016

As you will know by now, when you’re trying to improve your English, you’ll need to learn how to recognise and say new sounds.

For example, if your native language doesn’t have two separate vowels for a long “E” or a long “A”, you may pronounce these two English vowels in the same way. This can easily confuse and embarrass you – particularly if one word with a slightly different pronunciation is rather rude!

Here’s 5 simple ways to sort this out:

Step 1: Be aware

Knowing that there are differences between your native language and the language you’re learning is the first step on your journey to learning a new sound.

Step 2: Take note of the difference

Google “novel features in English” for a starter list of sounds that may be different from your language and English. Practice listening to them and try and note the difference. When you have achieved this, you’re halfway there!

Step 3: Try it out slowly

When you’re ready to attempt to produce the new sound, start small. Try producing one word with a lot of focus and concentration. Try producing minimal pairs (words that are only different in one sound that you’re trying to learn). For example, ten (the number) and tan (the colour) are only different in the vowel: [ɛ] and [æ]. Help yourself by subscribing to our free resource, Real English, 60 seconds of English pronunciation presented by Darcy from FluentIQ.

Step 4: Practice on your own

The next step is speaking for longer periods of time using those new sounds as often as you can. Try reciting a poem or playing with a tongue twister. You’ll find a great free resource with our Daily Practice tongue twisters.

Step 5: The big reveal

Once you’ve mastered those tongue twisters, there’s nothing stopping you!  You’ll be ready to use those same sounds in everyday speech.  Every time you do, you will have more confidence and the correct pronunciation of this sound will become increasingly automatic.

Finally, have you checked your English yet at FluentIQ? If not, go get yourself a free FluentIQ account.   Do the 15-minute assessment and review your report carefully. Then, all you need to do is focus and practice for at least 15 minutes a day.  After one week of hard out practicing, go back to FluentIQ and check-in.  You’ll see improvement and a new set of instructions for the week ahead. That should keep you motivated for a while at least!

Don’t forget to do a good turn for your friends and share this with them if you think they’ll like it. Have a great week!

Posted by: Ksenia

Ksenia is our linguist, specializing in accentedness. She is interested in how accents change and how people can hear accents differently.