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4 Tips for Mastering Pronunciation (in any language!)


Hej! Hur står det till? And welcome back, language learners!

Mastering pronunciation in a new language can be REALLY challenging. In our last article, we covered why pronunciation can be tough. In this article, we’re sharing 4 simple and actionable tips that YOU can use to improve your pronunciation —  in any language!  Well, sin más preámbulos (‘without further ado’ in Spanish), let’s get to it!

How To Master Pronunciation

Here are your 4 easy tips for improving your pronunciation!

1. Listen to authentic input

2. Record yourself

3. Do some “mouth-watching”

4. Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet

Now, let’s break those down…

#1 Listen to authentic input

Here’s the deal – in order to do the thing, you need exposure to the thing. In language learning, that means listen, listen, listen! There’s a bunch of research into listening as an effective method for helping you master pronunciation. It has to do with something called implicit, (or incidental) learning. But more on that in another article! There are a whole host of ways to get exposure to auditory input in the language: movies, TV, music, podcasts…etc. But what’s most important is that you’re actually invested in what you’re listening to. Otherwise, you’ll end up tuning it out or losing interest. One great way to ensure you stay the course is to integrate your listening practice with a hobby you already know you enjoy. For example, if you love cooking and you’re learning French, try your hand at cooking a new dish by following along with a French-speaking cooking YouTube tutorial! You get to have fun and cook, while also getting all that great authentic language input. If you’re into fitness, try some at home workout videos in the target language. BONUS: when you incorporate your language listening practice into your hobbies, you also end up learning a bunch of vocabulary for things that genuinely interest you and are relevant to your day-to-day life. Score!

#2 Record yourself

Listening is only half the battle. You need to speak the language yourself if you want to truly master pronunciation. One highly effective way of doing this is to record yourself when you speak – and then play it back. Now – get ready, because here’s a really crazy cool fact that not a lot of people know about. We often don’t hear certain features of our own vocal productions because our auditory and cortical systems filter them out when it’s our own speech. Side-note: those filtering mechanisms are also what are largely responsible for the “why does my voice sound so different on a recording?” phenomenon. This happens for physiological reasons that go beyond the scope of this article – but if you’d like us to write an article to explain it, let us know! Main point: recording yourself and then playing it back is one of the BEST ways to identify and improve your pronunciation. And it’s even better when you can directly compare your voice recording with that of a native speaker’s. For those of you in the Mango fam who use the Mango Languages app, this is why we offer the voice comparison feature! For those of you who may not know, our Voice Comparison technology helps you hone your pronunciation alongside native-speaker audio. You can even align a visual representation of your recording with the native speaker’s version for comparison, practicing repeatedly until it lines up smoothly. This ability to repeat the Voice Comparison recording/listening loop until satisfied not only trains your ear and tongue but also allows you to gain confidence in your pronunciation!

#3 Do some “mouth-watching”

It sounds weird – but it works! To understand why this works, we need to take a step back and think about what it is that we do when we produce speech. Your speech stream is composed of the sound waves that result from flapping your lips, moving your tongue, and vibrating your vocal cords. And from that movement of your articulators (that’s what we call all the parts of your face that move to make speech), the sound stream “streams on” as sound waves pass from my mouth to your ears. The point with “mouth-watching” is to get concrete about what your articulators need to do. Mouth-watching can be a really effective pronunciation strategy for visual and kinesthetic learners. Of course, seeing what the lips need to do is easy to observe with mouth-watching. But all the stuff your other articulators (i.e. your tongue and vocal cords ) do inside the mouth aren’t as readily visible. For those, “mouth watching” won’t cut it. That’s where Tip #4 comes in…

#4 Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet

Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet and you can in theory pronounce any sound in any human language. It’s one sheet of paper with a bunch of symbols – and you can use it to help understand objectively what your articulators need to do in order to make any target sound. If you like tables, labels and order, then the IPA will be a huge comfort and your new favorite tool when it comes to mastering pronunciation in your language! You’ve probably seen the IPA before — most likely in dictionary entries. As the International Phonetic Association puts it, the IPA is the global “notational standard for the phonetic representation of all languages.” In other words, the IPA gives us a common set of symbols (an alphabet, if you will) for representing all the possible sounds that could exist across all human languages. This can be SUPER helpful in helping you understand what the sound inventory is for your target language. We’re currently working on a blog and video tutorial to walk you through the IPA, which we’ll link here for you when it’s ready.

Well, there you have it - 4 easy tips for improving your pronunciation!

To recap, they were:

1. Listen to authentic input

2. Record yourself

3. Do some “mouth-watching”

4. Learn the International Phonetic Alphabet

Last thing! (don’t skip)

When you’re faced with the difficult task of pronunciation mastery, it can be really helpful to reflect on your personal language learning goals. How do you want to sound in the language? What level of proficiency are you aiming for? If you’d like a fun and easy worksheet to help you reflect on your goals, check out our FREE Setting Good Goals worksheet (free sign-up link here!)

Thanks for reading!

We hope you leave this article feeling inspired, motivated and re-energized to use these tips to reach your language learning goals. Well, hejdå for now – and happy language learning!

Wondering what languages were used in this article?

  • English | (recording language)
  • Swedish| Hej. Hur står det till? means ‘Hello, how are you?’ (lit. Hello. How stands it to?) Hejdå means ‘Bye.’
  • Spanish Sin más preámbulos means ‘Without further ado’ (lit. ‘Without more preambles’)
  • Interested in learning English, Swedish, Spanish, or one of the other 70+ languages that the Mango app offers? Click here to learn more!
Meet The Author:
Author - Emily Rae Sabo
Emily Rae Sabo
Linguist at Mango Languages
Emily Sabo (Ph.D., University of Michigan): A travel-hungry content creator with a Linguistics Ph.D. in bilingual language processing, Emily has studied 7 languages and loves getting to use them to connect with people around the world. When she’s not creating content for the Mango community, you can find her dancing, yoga-ing, or performing some good ole’ fashioned standup comedy.

To embark on your next language adventure, join the Mango fam!

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