How to Learn a Language/Pronunciation

Improving your pronunciation will obviously help you to communicate, as people will understand what you are saying. Less obvious is that improving your pronunciation can help you to understand when someone else speaks the language (as you better understand what the sounds represent). You don't have to be perfect, but if you improve your pronunciation a bit, you might improve your communication a lot. Fluency is more important than the precise enunciation of each separate sound. Practice the rhythms and intonations of whole phrases and sentences rather than individual words. Do as much work as you can in the form of questions and answers, and chain these together. (For example, in English: "Do you speak Spanish?" "Yes, I do" "Does your friend speak Spanish?" "Yes, she does", or: "Do you speak Hungarian?" "No, I don't" "Does your boyfriend speak Hungarian?" "No, he doesn't". The important thing is to sound natural and unforced - then people will feel at ease talking to you and won't get tired or irritated trying to make out what you're trying to say. A good example of natural speech in a foreign language (despite an accent) would be Marlon Brando speaking French in Last Tango in Paris.

  • Try not to simply pronounce the words as if they were written in your native language. Listen to how the locals pronounce it.
  • Especially if you like doing things systematically, learn the pronunciation rules of the language.
  • Work out what is different about the way native speakers speak, compared to your own native language and accent. The "neutral state" of the mouth is different in different languages, and if you learn what it is and imitate it, your pronunciation will automatically improve.
    • Do they keep their tongues further forward in the mouth? (e.g. Indonesian).
    • Do they often curl their tongues back (like the English "r")? (e.g. Mandarin)
    • Do they speak from the back of the throat?
  • Sit down with a native speaker and go through the alphabet. Ask them to help you pronounce the letters like a native speaker. Sometimes it helps to ask where they put their tongue when pronouncing a certain letter.

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