Things you need to know when learning English pronunciation

Things you need to know when learning English pronunciation

Things you need to know when learning English pronunciation

It is important to understand that it is the limitations of your speech muscles that restrict your ability to pronounce English words correctly when learning English as a second language. When English is not your native language, your speech muscles aren’t trained to articulate English words and therefore you will struggle with English pronunciation. This is why at Speech Etiquette, we perceive learning to speak English with the correct pronunciation as a brain training.

Guidance of English pronunciation

It is the pronunciation techniques that you need to acquire in order to build a strong foundation, start with each letter of the English alphabet. This allows you to unlearn and relearn about the speaking aspect of the English language. Without the foundation, tongue twisters can only help you to a certain degree and it’s likely that you might not be doing it correctly. Please also bear in mind that the standard articulation lessons designed for native speakers aren’t designed for non native speakers, this is why if you have attended some articulation lessons previously, you might see some improvement but not a great deal.

Consistency builds muscle memory

When learning English as a second language: Consistency is key. No matter how many tongue twisters or phonetic exercises you do, leaving gaps in between will set you back to square one. You need to develop muscle memory and gain muscle control to master your English pronunciation and build a good foundation. With adequate trainings anyone can overcome their struggle of English pronunciation. Speech Etiquette’s courses are tailored to the needs for non native English speakers.

Self-awareness, Self-motivation, Discipline and Consistency (SSDC)

Self-awareness helps you understand what you need to work on:

  • What sounds do you find difficult to pronounce?
  • Do you have self-motivation and discipline?
  • Will you practise daily?


Motivation and discipline as always is the biggest challenge we face when learning something new or trying to achieve goals. As a result, learning from an app or watching YouTube videos can drag on your learning progress, and this is just the disciplinary aspect!

1: Understanding pronunciation techniques:

Speaking involves air, vibration and muscle. When we speak, we use the muscles in our pharynx, jaw, lips and tongue to make the vocal cord vibrations into words. All the sounds we make when we speak are the result of muscles contracting:

  • Tongue placement – Determines the quality and clarity of vowel and consonant sounds
  • Mouth shape – Mouth and lip exercises to improve muscle control
  • Vocal cords training – Strengthen the pharynx muscle to produce clear and loud sounds
  • Breathing exercises – Learn to take in long breath as part of speech exercise
  • Phonetic exercises – Work on individual sounds & focus on the sounds you find difficult

By developing new vocal behaviours, it will allow you to articulate with clearer diction and speak with confidence.

Vowel sounds: Pay attention to how the shape of your lips and the amount of space inside your mouth changes. The airflow from the lungs are uninterrupted.


                                                                              a          e          i          o          u

                                                                           “ah”     “ey”    “ee”    “oh”   “ooh”


Consonant: it’s any sound that isn’t a vowel and it involves stopping the flow of air.


                                                            b      c      d      f      g      h      i      j      k      l      m      n                                                                                                             o      p      q      r     s       t      u     v     w     x      y       z


Consonants are categorised by their place and manner of articulation:

Stop – completely obstruct the flow of air before releasing it again.

Fricatives – create a narrow space for air to pass through, giving them a hissing sound.

Affricates – roughly between a stop and a fricative.

Approximants – involve articulators coming close enough together to qualify as a consonant rather than a vowel, but no friction is created.

Stop (Nasal sounds) – airflow is blocked in the mouth, but the air is allowed to flow out through the nasal cavity as the velum (soft palate) is lowered.

Stop                                         p          b          t          d          k          hard g

Fricatives                               s           f

Affricates                              ch          j

Approximants                      r            l          w         y

Stop (Nasal sounds)          n          m        ng




                                      Use your lips to pronounce “p” and “b”

                                      Use forced air to pronounce “f” and “s” and “v”

                                      Use the front of your tongue to pronounce “t” and “d”

                                      Use the back of your tongue to pronounce “k” and “g”

                                      Use your throat to pronounce “h”

                                      Use your nasal cavity to pronounce “m” and “n”


2: Some of our favourite Tongue Twisters


                                                          Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

                                      Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

                                                 She sells seashells by the seashore

                                                              Which witch is which?

                                                         Eleven benevolent elephants

                                                                  Rolling red wagons

                                 A proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot

                                                          Rubber baby buggy bumpers

                                                             He threw three free throws

                                                      I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch


**Repeat each 3 times

See More Tongue Twisters


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