7 techniques to improve pronunciation
Some simple exercises and activities to improve your pronunciation when speaking.
Speech is one of the fundamental abilities of human beings, and a skill that for thousands of years has shaped the way we live and relate to each other. It is the most common and universal mode of language use, and as such, it has allowed us to develop abstract ways of thinking and the ability to establish, in a matter of seconds, complex social interactions in almost any situation involving multiple people.
But as with even the most characteristic physical and psychological traits of our species, there are individual differences to be taken into account. There are those who stand out for their extraordinary fluency in speaking, and there are also those who experience significant difficulties in this regard. But fortunately, there are several ways to improve the use of speech, and in this article we will focus on those that have to do with improving pronunciation..
Useful techniques to improve pronunciation
There are many possible reasons why a person may have difficulties when trying to pronounce well when speaking (and to do it with the right fluency and rhythm). In some cases these are small defects that do not represent symptoms of a disorder, and in other cases this phenomenon can be referred to as clinically relevant alterations; neurodevelopmental disorders, brain injuries and strokes, etc.
In any case, regardless of the causes, in most cases it is possible to achieve significant progress even among those who suffer from severe speech problems, provided that support is available.provided that professional support is available. In fact, both speech therapy and psychotherapy take advantage of the extraordinary flexibility of the human brain (and the rest of the nervous system) when it comes to learning, to train both body and mind in the correct pronunciation of phonemes, the diction of words, the way of stringing the latter into sentences, etc., by means of exercises. These techniques designed to improve pronunciation are a sample of this.
1. Sensory triangulation
Learning to pronounce better is, above all, a process of practice, a training. In other words, it has more to do with perfecting our technique in a sport than with studying a book.. We must immerse ourselves in experiences of practice and fluency, and not so much introspection and understanding of language from a purely theoretical and intellectual level.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to repeat the pronunciation of phonemes and words by attending to not only one, but two channels of information. This double route, which should normally be visual (reading the lips in a series or movie, or in a person in front of us) and auditory, will allow us to reinforce and enrich our way of associating the concept of each of the phonemes with the muscles of our body that we must activate and coordinate to pronounce them. Starting from two points of reference, it is easier to see where they converge, as in geometry.
2. Start with slow pronunciation
Keeping in mind our level of ability and adapting to it is fundamental to learning anything, and this includes the use of techniques for better pronunciation. Therefore, it is important to not to demand impossible things from ourselves (this will discourage us and lead us to throw in the towel) and not to repeat over and over again exercises that we always do without any difficulty (they do not bring us much). (they do not bring us much).
In this line, it is useful to imagine an ascending difficulty curve that is always a little ahead of what we know we can do at any given moment, so that we are always exposing ourselves to tasks that challenge us. And having the speed of pronunciation as a reference is often a good way to keep track of our progress.
Starting slowly, it will be easier to become familiar with the chains of movements necessary to pronounce, as well as their sonority, and to internalize each of the phonemes separately. From then on, it will be easier to make progress in trying to gain fluency in speech.
3. Recordings to detect frequent errors
Each person has unique errors in pronunciation.. To adapt to our case, it is most useful to make recordings that allow us to recognize errors and patterns in our way of speaking. For example, this will make it easier to see to what extent fatigue is a factor in poor pronunciation, if we are not breathing properly, if our jaw is too tense, etc.
4. Take into account the position of the tongue
One of the most useful measures for improving pronunciation, especially at the beginning, is to to take into account the position of the tongue in those phonemes that we find difficult, and to use a visual support of that position while we try to pronounce them (in words and phrases, not only in sentences). (in words and phrases, not just in isolation). This will help us to distinguish it from other similar phonemes and not to end up resorting to the latter.
5. Practice controlled breathing
Although it may not seem to have much to do with it, learning to breathe well is fundamental to correct possible pronunciation problems. The fact is that we often misuse our lungs without even realizing it.. Making proper use of the capacity of these organs will help us not to end up forcing our speech to compensate for the lack of air.
6. Singing practice
Singing is a good way to gain fluency and mastery of the range of motion in all the organs involved in speech.The properties of music (rhythm, melody, nuances and harmony) act as "supports". Thus, much of the progress achieved through singing can be extended to normal speech.
7. Accompanying speech with nonverbal language
Gestures and the expression of ideas and feelings through posture are also elements that act as a "support". are also elements that act as a support to speech. Taking them into account contributes to the mental state necessary to express oneself spontaneously through speech.
- González Lajas, J.J. (2019). Language and communication disorders. In: AEPap (ed.). Pediatrics Update Congress 2019. Madrid: Lúa Ediciones 3.0.
- Nelson, H.D.; Nygren P.; Walker, M.; Panoscha R. (2006). Screening for speech and language delay in preschool children: systematic evidence review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. Pediatrics. 117(2): e298 - 319.
- Richards, E. (2012). Communication and swallowing problems after stroke". Nursing and Residential Care. 14(6): pp. 282 - 286.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)