The matter of proper pronunciation of words can present problems for both students learning English as a second language and native speakers working on learning new vocabulary. Unlike some languages – such as Japanese, with its set of syllable sounds that are always pronounced the same way – English is notorious for having a variety of ways each individual letter, or set of letters, can be pronounced. This presents a problem in learning both how to spell a word and how to pronounce the word.
Unfortunately, the few common rules that have often been used by English teachers, such as “I before E except after C,” end up having so many exceptions that they’re more confusing than otherwise. The best way to learn how to correctly spell and pronounce a word is to practice writing out the word and saying it out loud. With on-line and downloadable systems such as Ultimate Vocabulary, audio links are an integral part of the program, so that the student can hear each word spoken by a native English speaker. Here are some ideas that you can use to get help and practice with pronunciation:
- Many on-line dictionaries have audio links with each word. When you’re looking up a word, always click the link. Practice saying the word out loud while you’re studying the definition of the word and reading the sample sentences provided. Remember to increase the range of your studying by looking at information on synonym, antonyms, and word origins while you’re on the dictionary site!
- Television broadcasts usually have closed captioning available, and you can turn that feature on while watching and listening to the news or any other informational program. While this is not a perfect tool (sometimes the words are incorrectly spelled, and not all words are transcribed verbatim) it will give you a good idea both of how words are pronounced and how they’re used in sentences.
- Libraries often have both print and audio versions of books available. You can read the book while listening to the audiotape, and get immediate help in pronunciation, as well as an excellent example of how to use vocabulary effectively in context.
- Study and conversation groups for various languages, including English, are common at community centers, colleges, and universities. Check the campus boards or the facility’s website to find the English conversation study groups, and make time to join them a few times each month. You’ll get help with your own English study, and also have the opportunity to help others – and the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else!