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How To Improve Your Articulation When Speaking English

Articulation is the combination of pronunciation and talking. When you articulate, you are physically moving your lips, teeth, tongue, throat, and jaw, making a series of sounds which are then put together to become words and sentences.


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  Teri Lapping  —  Grammar Tips
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What types of sounds can you articulate?

The English language is composed of consonants and vowels.

Consonants are the sounds that are made when you close your lips, touch your tongue to your teeth, or touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth, effectively controlling the air that is flowing through your mouth. 

Vowels are the sounds that are made when you do not close your lips or teeth, effectively letting the air flow unobstructed through the mouth.
Do you sometimes get stuck when you articulate certain words in English? Continue reading to practice articulating some common sounds. 

How To Improve Your Articulation When Speaking English

The /P/ and /B/ sounds:

Both the /p/ and the /b/ sounds are made by popping the sound out through the lips. Notice that the articulation of these two sounds is similar. 

Say the words “pop” and “baby” and feel how your mouth moves. When you make the /p/ sound, you close your lips and pucker slightly as you push the air out. When you make the /b/ sound, you also close your lips as the air pushes and pops out.

Let’s practice the /p/ and the /b/ sounds:


The /P/ sound: 

Slowly say the following poem to practice /p/, paying attention to the way your mouth and lips use your breath to make the sound.

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?”

The /B/ sound: 

Slowly say the following poem to practice /b/, paying attention to the way your mouth and lips use your breath to pop the sound.

“Betty Botter bought some butter. ‘But,’ she said, ‘the butter’s bitter.
If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter, better than the bitter butter, will make my batter better.’
So, she bought a bit of butter, better than the bitter butter, 
And she put it in her batter, and it made the batter better.
So, it was better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.”

The /M/ and /N/ sounds:

Both the /m/ and the /n/ sounds are called “nasal consonants” because you can feel the vibration of the sounds inside your nose and lips. Notice that the articulation of these two sounds is similar. 

Say the words “mother” and “nothing” and feel the vibration.  When you articulate “mother”, you can feel your tongue lift, your teeth open, and your lips lightly close. The vibration is focused on the place where your lips meet. 

When you articulate “nothing”, your lips and teeth are open, the tip of your tongue touches the roof of your mouth behind your top teeth. Unlike the /m/ sound, here the vibration is focused on the place where your tongue is touching.

Let’s practice the /m/ and the /n/ sounds:
 
The /M/ sound: 

Slowly say the following poem to practice /m/, paying attention to where your mouth vibrates. 

“My mother’s making me marry Mary Mac. 
Mary Mac’s mother’s making Mary Mac marry me. 
Will I always be so merry when I marry Mary Mac?”
Will Mary Mac be merry when her mother makes her marry me?

The /N/ sound: 

Slowly say the following sentence to practice /n/, paying attention to where your mouth vibrates.

“You know New York, you need New York,
You know you need unique New York.
You know New Hampshire, you need New Hampshire, 
You know you need unique New Hampshire.

The /L/ and /R/ sounds: 

Both the /l/ and the /r/ sounds are made by lifting your tongue. Say the words “letter” and “rabbit” and feel how your tongue moves. 

When you make the /l/ sound, you lift the tip of your tongue to touch the roof of your mouth. 

When you make the /r/ sound, you lift the tip of your tongue into the air, and it does not touch anything.  The back of your tongue makes a small hump inside the mouth, the lips make a small circle, and everything constricts. 

Let’s practice the /l/ and the /r/ sounds:


The /L/ Sound:

Slowly say the following poem to practice the /l/ sound, paying attention to the lift of your tongue.

“Little Luke likes lakes and Little Luke’s lion likes lakes. 
Little Luke does laps in lakes. 
Little Luke’s lion does laps in lakes where Little Luke lives. 
Little Luke likes to do laps in lakes with his lion.”

The /R/ Sound:

Slowly say the following sentence five times in a row to practice /r/, paying attention to the lift of your tongue.

“Round and round the rugged rocks
the ragged rascal ran.
The ragged rascal ran around the rugged rocks again.”


The /Th/ sound:

The /th/ sound is made by manipulating the position of your tongue and teeth. Say the word “thought”. To make the /th/ sound, you put the tip of your tongue between your open teeth and push the air through your open lips. 

Slowly say the following poem to practice /th/, paying attention to the way your mouth, teeth, and lips change when you say the /th/ sound as opposed to the /fr/ and /fl/ sounds.

“Through three trees flew three free fleas.
A frozen breeze made these three fleas freeze.
The frozen trees froze these three tree’s leaves.
Which made the three free fleas sneeze.”

How You Can Improve Your Articulation

• Read out loud

Choose an article or a blog and read it slowly out loud. Don’t worry about mistakes. Just listen to yourself while you are reading. Do this often. 
 
• Record yourself reading out loud

After you have read your article or blog out loud, record yourself. Then listen to the recording. Don’t be too critical: try to pay attention to where your articulation seems hesitant, unclear, or incorrect. Try again. Do this process with interested family or friends. 

• Watch movies and TV shows

While you are watching your favorite movie or TV series, repeat out loud what the actors say. Just a line, here and there. Pay attention to their articulation of the words and notice whether your imitation sounds similar.
 
• Sing songs

Choose your favorite song and find the lyrics. First, read the lyrics slowly out loud before you try singing them with the song, paying attention to the way you articulate the words. After you feel comfortable saying the lyrics, sing along with the song and have fun. 


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