July 11th, 2007
I’ve met many people who want to learn English and they tell me that they are afraid to speak. I ask them, “what exactly are you afraid of?”. They tell me that they are afraid to make a mistake or afraid that their pronunciation isn’t standard. I’ve been learning Chinese for a few years and I remember that I had some of the same fears when I started. These fears are clearly natural but also clearly need to be resolved.
I want to share some ideas with you that I think will help you to overcome these fears. One thing you need to remember is that English is the world’s language. People from all over the world learn English and speak it with us. Because of this, native English speakers are very used to the accents, grammar mistakes, and unusual pronunciation from people from all over the world. We often don’t even notice if you are making any mistakes because we hear the same mistakes all the time. The mistakes almost sound natural. It’s the same story with pronunciation. This is just called an accent. We hear them all the time and it’s very easy for us to understand. If we don’t pay attention to these things you shouldn’t either. Sometimes we even find that the accents sound exotic or sexy. Don’t think of it as a bad thing.
If you want to improve your pronunciation its important to spend a lot of time listening. Think of how babies learn. They listen all the time and develop a native accent in any language. Reading isn’t necessary for pronunciation. Listen and try your best to sound the same. Over time you will improve. It’s harder for adults than children, but still possible to keep improving with practice.
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