Pronunciation is a marvelously defining thing. According to Henry Higgins in the iconic My Fair Lady, changing one’s accent; essentially the way that they pronounce words, transport one from being a common flower-seller to a princess!
How we pronounce words can define not only where we were born and brought up and what our native tongue is, but also reveals our level of education, our command of the language, the sort of people we spend time with and a lot else besides.
Mispronouncing words can make it difficult for the speaker to be understood clearly. This can be awkward and embarrassing for the speaker and the listener. Bad pronunciation can even change the meaning or sense of a word; so, it can further hinder good communication.
Taking the trouble to find out the correct pronunciation of a word can also improve your vocabulary and language skills. For instance you may know what the word “soigné” means but you’ve never used it in speech because you’re not sure how to use it. So pays to make the effort to pronounce words properly; and here are some tips to help you at that.
1. Refer to Dictionary Phonetics
It used to be that you referred to a dictionary and then referred to the phonetic chart to understand how to pronounce a word. It’s much simpler now with online and other dictionaries that actually say a word aloud to remove all doubt.
By clicking on the sound icon on any of the pages that define a word on sites like dictionary.com you can hear what the word is supposed to sound like and if you have been pronouncing it incorrectly.
2. Practice Saying Words Correctly
If you have recently learned to speak a word correctly, repeat the word correctly a few times to yourself so that you get the hang of it. Then try and use the word in everyday speech. So once you find out soigné is pronounced “swa-nyeh” you can tell a friend that she is looking “rather soigné” today instead of merely smart.
3. Listen to People
Be attentive and really listen to people; especially those who themselves have good diction and pronunciation. You can learn a lot from them.
4. Watch TV News and Documentaries
Rather than soaps and sitcoms, watch the news on TV. Not only will it increase the sum of your knowledge and keep you abreast with current affairs, you are most likely to hear correct usage and pronunciation on the news or in documentaries.
5. Read Aloud
Take out time to read loudly newspaper and other books of interest. You can read them out to yourself or to your friends. This will go a long way in improving your pronunciation. However, do not try to read aloud everything that comes your way; else it may turn into a habit that you may find difficult to give up.