Sometimes, people that are learning English have more difficulty with English pronunciation than the rules of its grammar. There are a number of reasons for that. Chief among them is the fact that there are actually three different versions of this language: General American, British, and General Australian. To make matters even more confusing, a particular pronunciation that might be unacceptable in one of these forms of English could be quite common (and proper) in another. Plus, with so many different accents in the world of even native English speakers, the same word can sound drastically different when pronounced in different cultures.
One helpful method of learning English pronunciation is identifying the different sounds that exist within the language. For instance, the language really boils down to twenty-four to twenty-five consonant sounds and somewhere between eighteen and twenty-three vowel sounds, depending on who you ask. This is helpful to keep in mind, but you should also keep in mind that in English, words are very often pronounced in a way that is different from how they’re spelled. For example, you would think that the words “cough” and “dough” would be pronounced the same way, but they aren’t. One of the reasons for this type of phenomenon is the fact that English borrows a great number of words from other languages.
One key component of English pronunciation is stress. What we mean by that is that in every multi-syllable English word, there is one syllable that receives more vocal emphasis than all the others when the word is being pronounced. In reality, this fact is one of the reasons speakers of English are able to understand each other despite their different accents and other idiosyncrasies. The same syllable receives the emphasis regardless of the form of English being spoken. Another fact to keep in mind here is that the change in which syllable is emphasized can change the meaning of a word. For example, in the word, “desert,” if the emphasis is on the first syllable, then the word refers to a dry, arid land. If the emphasis is on the second syllable, then the word refers to a sweet finish to a meal.
As is the case with the development of so many other skills, one of the best ways to master English pronunciation is practice. You can do this by mimicking native speakers as often as possible. By doing this, you’ll be better able to recognize the sounds of the language the next time you hear them, too.