Ever say something in your L2 that you’re sure is grammatically correct, only to be returned with blank stares? Of course you have, I’m pretty sure anybody who is seriously learning a new language has experienced this. And if you say you’ve never experienced this, then I’m going to call you a liar.
Insults aside, sometimes though, even when you are certain that the words that came out of your mouth are grammatically correct and should make sense, all you get is confused looks. The reason for this communication barrier is of course pronunciation. The key to better pronunciation is actually ridiculously simple.
Stop pronouncing words like they are spelt!
No really, the spelling of a word (especially in English) is like a wolf disguised as a sheep! You may think he’s your buddy who is looking out for you, but in secret he’s trying to lead you astray! When you speak, instead of thinking about the next word as a … umm word … try thinking of it as a sound. For example if you were to spell this sentence phonetically, like a child might, you would probably get something like this:
” Firexample if you werda spell this sentence fonedickly lyka child mite, you wood probbly get somethin like this”
Although this may be as brutal to read as an unedited master thesis written by a dyslexic 9 year old , thinking about a word or set a of word in terms of how it actually sounds vs how it is written can go a long way to help your pronunciation.
So the next time you are trying to memorize a phrase or an expression, ask native speakers to say it out loud and spell whatever comes out exactly as it sounds. Better yet, learn directly from proper native audio WITHOUT looking at the proper spelling. Write out what you hear phonetically and use that as a guide. Just keep in mind that it’s ok to think of how things could be spelt phonetically as long as this phonetic spelling doesn’t creep into your written language.