Learn English: How to pronounce consonants

As a native speaker of the English language, I find it difficult to understand many traps that are set by the language for those that need to learn its twists and turns later in life.

English has become the language of importance and success for many nationalities in the world, and it can be a difficult language to master.

Learning the right way to pronounce words is a useful skill in job interviews, customer service roles as well as in sales and marketing.

English online training

As the head tutor at Enzedspeak, an online training school for the English language,  I have identified some of the most common problems in learning the language, both in general and specifically for New Zealand.

  • Grammar
  • Articles (a, an, the) and Prepositions (in, on, at, etc.)
  • Listening and speaking
  • Consonants

Let’s look at the correct ways of pronouncing consonants in the English language.

Dropped consonants

Now, you know how to pronounce final consonant sounds in English, but sometimes it’s better to skip them, especially in fast speech. Let’s look at when this skipping should be done and with which consonants.

Final consonant is when a word ends with a consonant rather than a vowel.

Grant – pronounced Gran.

When a word ends with a consonant, and is followed by a word beginning with a consonant we drop the final consonant in favour of the beginning consonant e.g. ‘Grant went to the shop’ is pronounced ‘Gran wen to the shop’.

Intonation and stress

Intonation and stress are the key to speaking English fluently with good pronunciation. Intonation and stress are the music of the English language. Words that are stressed are key to understanding, and using the correct intonation brings out the meaning.

Read this: “The beautiful Mountain appeared transfixed in the distance.” (14 syllables) beau/ti/ful Moun/tain a/ppeared trans/fixed dis/tance. (11 clear syllables) Time required? Probably about 5 seconds.

Try another one: “He can come on Sundays as long as he doesn’t have to do any homework in the evening.” (23 syllables) come Sun/day’s does/n’t home/work eve/ning (9 clear syllables) Time required? Probably about 5 seconds.

Though the second sentence is approximately 30% longer than the first, the sentences take the same time to speak. This is because there are five stressed words in each sentence. From this example, you can see that you needn’t worry about pronouncing every word clearly to be understood. Native speakers certainly don’t.

As a former recruitment specialist, I am able to recognise when a CV belongs to someone from India or China simply by the anglicised names chosen, and by the old fashioned but perfect vocabulary and grammar used.

What not to get offended by

In some western cultures, the use of vulgar language is not only common, but readily accepted and can be a little shocking at first. There are few options to prepare students for this, and I  believe that early exposure to this type of language can help greatly.

(Prue Jarvis is the head tutor at Enzedspeak, anonline school that helps immigrants to New Zealand improve their English. Prue also teaches the English language to students and organizations around the world.)


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