It is frequent for most people, as they learn a language, to assume that to rely on their own accents as they speak a different language will do. Unfortunately this is far from reality and as a matter of fact, not focusing in the correct accent and pronunciation can lead to misunderstandings or simply poor communication.

When it comes to writing, English language uses 26 different letter from the Alphabet, however, when it comes to speaking there are over 44 different sounds that can be made through this language. We call these sounds phonemes.

A phoneme is a sound unit that that is used to create contrast between different sounds.

Identifying these sounds may be difficult in the beginning but with some further knowledge and practice you will be able to master them all. There are, of course, 44 writing characters to represent these phonemes that, all together, make a “phonemic alphabet”.

You can use the “phonemic alphabet” to both, write the pronunciation of words or to get the right pronunciation of a particular word from a dictionary (dictionaries always include the phonemic details). Phonemic transcriptions are written between slashes, / /.

For example, the pronunciation of the word 'pet' is phonemically written: /pet/

Some things you should do as you learn English are:
  • To choose an English type (Australian, American, British, Canadian, etc.)
  • To learn the pronunciation of every word you hear (by paying careful attention to the speaker) and every word you read (the phonemic details can be found in a dictionary).
  • To learn the phonemic symbols.

Some tips:

  • Remember that English vocabulary (as any other language) uses words from other languages (e.g.: French), but the fact that an English word is exactly the same from a word in your language that doesn´t mean that pronunciation is the same.
  • Nowadays there are many tools you can use to improve your pronunciation; they can be interactive software, DVD´s, Interactive dictionaries. Just take a look at the different products you can acquire and get yourself your favorite one.
  • Always read aloud.
  • Immerse yourself in the language, through conversations, movies, music, etc.

More about:
Pronouncing vowels
Pronouncing consonants

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