This is a guest post blog written by BridgeEnglish teacher, Mike Burke and was originally published on October 16, 2013.
How can you improve your English pronunciation, spelling, speaking fluency, and vocabulary all at the same time? Record yourself! Students do not use this technique enough and it can do wonders for your English. If you have a smart phone, you can do this very easily.
When I was studying French, I was having a lot of difficulties remembering the spelling of words. I was also struggling with the pronunciation. So I began to find texts that I found really interesting. I would read them silently, and look up any words I didn’t know. I would then read the same text aloud, while I recorded myself. When I finished, I would re-write my recording onto my computer. After I finished, I would check to see if the spelling was correct. This exercise takes a while, but it helped me so much to improve my French. Other students of mine who have used this technique have reported that it is extremely helpful to them too.
English spelling is, along with Chinese, one of the most difficult systems to learn in the world. Children spend years learning this system, and it is extremely common to find educated native English speaking adults who occasionally make spelling mistakes when they write. Even I do this in my classrooms sometimes! So if you have difficulties spelling English words, believe me you are not alone. Everyone suffers with this aspect of the language. But the key to improving is not to simply memorize the word, or stare at it on a piece of paper. You have to write. You have to produce it. Remember that there are many instances in life when you will not have access to a spell check, such as when you take the IELTS or TOEFL test.
Another difficult aspect of English spelling is that, although there are thousands of words which have crazy spelling patterns, there are also thousands more which do follow a phonetic rule. The problem in English is not so much that there are no rules, but rather, that there are too many rules. We could make a book with all of the phonetic patterns of English spelling. The key to improving is to pay attention to English words and how they are pronounced, and then look for patterns of spelling. Soon you will find that there is logic to the system.
As you record yourself, you will force yourself to have a correct pronunciation. You are always your worst critic. Most people hate hearing their own voices, because they would like it to sound differently. The same applies to bad pronunciation. For that reason, if you record yourself, you will try your best not to sound bad.
Sometime people ask: “What if I don’t know the pronunciation of many words that I am reading in my texts?” Well a solution to this is to find videos that come with transcripts. TED.com always has transcripts, sometimes, in multiple languages, so you can understand the meaning in your own language. Furthermore, the videos they post are always varied and entertaining.
If you do this twice a week for a few weeks, for no longer than an hour each time, I guarantee you will begin to see improvements in your spelling, vocabulary, speaking and most importantly, pronunciation!
Looking for more great English tips? Learn how to use a Word Web!