Rich vocabulary and knowledge of grammar rules is what most people see as essential for being capable of communicating in English. And while there is certainly some truth in these words – after all, there is no doubt that knowledge of language structure and material is crucial in communication – they most definitely cannot be applied to all situations. The video below humorously illustrates this point:
Being able to properly pronounce words and understand other speakers can be of critical importance in certain situations, as we could see in the case of the not-so-talented communication officer in the video. Now, granted, not many life situations are as important as understanding an SOS message, but good pronunciation can contribute a lot to leaving a good first impression.
Native speakers can perceive bad pronunciation as a lack of language competence. Speakers with strong accent can be hard to understand or even unpleasant to listen to. Social interaction can be significantly impeded by this, as such a person is likely to face difficulties in getting through to native speakers.
Correct pronunciation is a basis for efficient communication in English, as in any other language. Being widespread as it is, English has developed a large number of regional dialects but they should not matter too much to a non-native speaker.
What non-native speakers should work on is losing accents of their respective mother tongues and practicing correct and authentic English pronunciation. Learning phonics can be of great help with this – listening to the sounds and practicing through constant repetitions can be immensely beneficial in one’s quest for native-like English pronunciation.
Proper pronunciation can be defined as a reproduction of language sounds in such a way that the intended message is passed easily, and is properly understood by a fluent speaker of the language in question.
It can also be said that good pronunciation is the one that native speakers do not notice.
Bad pronunciation can result in a failure to convey the message and can cause troubles in communication when they are least expected and welcome even among native speakers. Consider the following video:
English has many different dialects, each of them with its own peculiarities regarding pronunciation. For example, you will often hear people from the American Midwest, as well as English speakers from New York Area, pronouncing a number of words with a distinct nasal accent.
Speakers from the south of the United States tend to elongate their vowels a lot (think of their characteristic pronunciation of the word “dog” which sounds more like “dawg” or “doag”) while many African Americans who speak the so called African American Vernacular have a habit of shortening words.
However, these are recognized dialects of English and native English speakers tend to understand them, while they are not always as successful in understanding foreign language speakers whose pronunciation mistakes can sometimes disrupt the grammaticality of their sentences (for example, pronouncing “this” with a long vowel can result in the word being understood as “these”)
It is said you only have one chance to make a first impression, and bad English pronunciation can ruin that chance, since people making pronunciation mistakes and having strong accents are often perceived as less intelligent or illiterate. This can affect their chances of getting a promotion or better job opportunities.
People with strong accents are often discriminated against in the business world; however, there are situations in which foreign accents can be beneficial.
A waiter in a national cuisine restaurant is expected to have an accent of the respective ethnicity. Actors for certain roles might be required to speak with foreign accent (although their phonetic skills have to be on a very high level so that they might be able to emulate different accents and dialects for different acting roles).
Good pronunciation requires articulating the words properly and this is the main topic of interest in phonics classes. The other important things to consider are volume and pitch of your pronunciation, since the message, in order to be properly conveyed, needs to be loud enough and properly intoned.
Most of the language skills necessary for proper language acquisition are best learned through practical use, not through classroom activities. Listening to native-speakers is by far the most efficient method of learning to speak a language. Conversation with native speakers can be embarrassing and frustrating for adult learners, which is why children, who are less prone to embarrassment of this kind, are quicker learners and tend to acquire pronunciation in a much better way.