ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION COURSE - 5 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU BUY
English Pronunciation Course – 5 Questions To Ask Before You Buy
I meet many people who have spent A LOT of money on English courses. I mean a LOT of money. Sometimes I am shocked by the poor content in courses and how little difference it made to the student.
This post is to help you chose the English Pronunciation Course that best suits your needs. It will help you ask the right questions to make a good choice!
So, how to choose the best English Pronunciation Course for you? Your training should be tailored for speakers of your first language. It should include video and audio practise that you can access on a daily basis because how often you practise determines how much you’ll improve. Check it’s for the professional level and your teacher is experienced and reputable.
In the article below I explain why each of the 5 questions I’ve described is so important. Please read the article as it gives important background as to why these things are so important for your learning.
5 Questions to ask when choosing an English Pronunciation Course:
- Is this course tailored for speakers of my first language?
- What practice resources are provided so I can practise daily and at times that suit me?
- Is the content relevant to my career and at the right level for me?
- What methods do you use to help me master new pronunciation skills and help me transfer these to my everyday speaking?
- What experience do you have working with speakers of my first language?
These questions will help you find out more about how experienced your teacher is, the quality and quantity of your pronunciation practice resources and information about how tailored and flexible the English Pronunciation Course is. And also, how relevant it is to your life and your career. Does your English Pronunciation Course utilise systematic teaching methods from a reputable, experience and trustworthy service provider.
Read on! : )
1. Is The Course Tailored?
Is this course tailored for speakers of my first language?
A one-size-fits all course is not a good choice when it comes to English pronunciation. Why? Because an English Pronunciation course for a Vietnamese speaker has different training needs to a Spanish speaker or a Russian speaker for example. Speakers of different languages need different training content that addresses their specific problem areas.
A general English Pronunciation Course often works through every sound in English – rather than focusing specifically on the sounds and stress patterns that you need to change.
It’s important to remember that you already make many vowels and consonants and stress patterns correctly in English. Why waste time working on these areas when you don’t need to change them?
Your precious time and effort should be channelled into focusing on areas that you DO need to improve. For example, vowel sounds you are mispronouncing, consonant sounds you are not pronouncing correctly and the stress patterns you need to improve.
So, the first question you need to ask of your English Pronunciation Course is: Is this course tailored for speakers of my first language?
2. What Practice Recordings Are Provided?
What practice resources in audio and video are provided so I can practise daily and at times that suit me?
Are you busy? Do you sometimes have difficulty balancing life, work and the things you want to do? For most of us, this is true.
To change your speech and pronunciation we are changing habits you’ve had for many years. To successfully change habits you need regular practise. Practising once a week won’t get great results. Ideally you need to practise every day, at least every 2 days.
The English Pronunciation course that you choose should provide you with resources that you can access easily when it suits you. You need to be able to access practise materials in audio and video as often as possible.
The amount of practise you do directly affects how much you will improve. With regular practice you will achieve improvement. Think about your schedule. When are you most likely to fit in 15 minutes practise a day?
Every good English pronunciation course should include audio and video to support their learners with quality listen and repeat exercises. Otherwise, how are you going to get the practise you need in between your lessons?
Great practice resources in audio and video means that you have flexibility and that’s essential for every busy professional.
So, the question you need to ask of your English Pronunciation Course is: What practice resources are provided so I can practise daily and at times that suit me?
3. Are the Practice Resources Career Relevant?
Is the practice content relevant to my life and my career?
I often see courses that are based on tongue twisters and silly rhymes. Practising these will not help you develop the pronunciation skills you need for the meeting you have with your boss next Thursday!
You need practice words, phrases and sentences that are relevant to your everyday life – both the casual conversations you have with colleagues and friends and the professional conversations you have at work.
There is a big difference between LEARNING new skills and actually USING new skills in your everyday life.
- In other words, your aim with an English Pronunciation Course is not just to LEARN clear pronunciation, the aim is to USE clear pronunciation.
- Your English Pronunciation Course needs to include lots of guided practise in real life conversations. The sentences and resources provided for practise should be relevant to real life to improve your skills in both casual conversations and the English speaking workplace.
- In English we use quite a small number of words often. The best quality English Pronunciation Courses cover the words that are most likely to be used in your workplace by you and your colleagues. These words are called ‘high frequency vocabulary’ and your course should include them.
- Some courses offer extra resources for specific industries. For example, many courses will have special resources created specifically for medical professionals. For example, English Pronunciation resources for nurses, doctors, International medical graduates (IMGs), physiotherapists and so on.
- Many courses have special resources to cover vocabulary related to engineering. We work with many Engineers that have come from overseas and want to improve their English pronunciation with an English pronunciation course. Flexibility is a high priority for many of the engineers we work with as they tend to be based in regional or rural areas and travel a lot for work.
Practice material targeting vocabulary for accounting, finance and business are all things that good English Pronunciation Courses should provide professionals who work in these industries with.
The best English Pronunciation Courses will also provide resources on commonly mispronounced words. These words are like traps for non-native English speakers : ) Many people benefit greatly from targeting these words.
So, the next question to ask of your English Pronunciation Course is: What sort of English language do we use to practice? (It should be relevant to you and your career and cover ‘high frequency’ vocabulary.)
4. What Methods Do You Use?
Is it systematic? What methods do you use to help me master new pronunciation skills and help me transfer these to my everyday speaking?
A quality English Pronunciation Course will guide you through specific learning steps that are required for changing your pronunciation. The method takes you from ‘easy’ and moves up to more challenging stages. It builds on your skills in an organised way.
It’s nice to think that someone can learn a new sound in 10 minutes and then automatically use it correctly when giving a presentation at work. Unfortunately this isn’t the way it happens. That’s like expecting someone who knows one cord on the piano to be able to play it a whole song like a pro.
Like learning any new skill there are stages to follow and the best English Pronunciation Course will guide you through these steps or have a similar way to build your skills.
The most important stages are:
Let me explain those in more detail and WHY they are so important.
You cannot change something if you aren’t aware of it. The first step involves being able to hear and feel what it is that you need to change. A good course should include some auditory training to help you learn to hear the problem and learn to hear what it is that you are aiming for.
A good course will help you build the skills to identify pronunciation errors in your own speech and other people’s speech. You need to become an expert at noticing the problem! Without this skill – you will make an error without noticing. You will be blissfully unaware : )
Ideally your course will show you visually using video and also include some auditory training too. Many people rely on the visual to learn – it’s important to build your auditory and listening skills too. So a good course will usually have video and audio to help you learn and practise.
The best English Pronunciation Courses will provide you will some way of recording and checking your own speech. This helps build your self-monitoring skills and helps you make improvements.
The next step is learning to make the desired sound or stress patterns.
For some people mastering a new sound is easy and for some it can be very difficult. It varies a lot from sound to sound and person to person.
For example, correcting /v/ for many Mandarin Chinese speakers is often quite easy. Once they understand exactly what to do and what not to do they just need practise to retrain their brain and muscles. Making the mouth position for the sound /v/is not very challenging and often they are already using it correctly in some words. They just need to make it more consistently correct.
An example of when it can be difficult, is making 2 and 3 consonant sounds in a row for Vietnamese speakers. For example, making the sounds /kst/ in the word ‘sixty’. This is physically challenging for many Vietnamese speakers because they have nothing like this in Vietnamese. They need to break it down into steps and then systematically build it up. At first, sound by sound, then practise it in words and then phrases and then sentences and then in conversations.
Getting control – control of your muscles and how they move to make sounds – is the key.
As I mentioned earlier, your aim is not to just LEARN clear pronunciation it’s to USE clear pronunciation. The ‘learning’ part is easy, the next part, which is ‘using’ your new sounds correctly when speaking, is more challenging.
There is a big difference between making a sound correctly when you are practising and actually using it correctly during a presentation at work.
You need to practise a new speech pattern until it’s easy for you and it starts to happen automatically. This takes time and repetition.
To get to the mastery stage, you will need lots of great resources. Resources that give you practise in words, phrases, sentences and conversations. Resources that help you track your progress like recording tools, audio files and videos.
Your English Pronunciation course should include practice that builds to the advanced level. Without this, you may not get the practice you need to successfully transfer your skills to your everyday discussions with colleagues and friends.
If you skip any of the step above – especially the first one, you will continue to make errors and not even notice. This is the biggest problem that I see with many English Pronunciation Courses.
They simply don’t give the student the skills needed to monitor their own errors, so they continue making mistakes without noticing. See more on this towards the end of this post.
We are changing the way your brain and muscles move to make speech sounds and stress patterns. This can feel very effortful at first. The more you practise, the easier and more automatic it will become.
As you practise you will get better control. Control is what you need to successfully transfer your new skills into your everyday conversations.
So, the next question to ask of your English Pronunciation Course is:
What methods do you use to help me master new pronunciation skills and help me transfer these to my everyday speaking?
5. Review The Cost & Teacher’s Experience.
What experience do you have working with speakers of my first language?
It’s very easy for anyone to offer courses online these days. To make sure you are dealing with a reputable and trustworthy English pronunciation course provider check out their youtube videos, check their facebook page and followers, check reviews, have a look at their website and read their testimonials.
And of course, speak to them. Give them a call or email them to find out more.
A low cost English Pronunciation Course (so this is anything under $150) are likely to be general and miss most of the priority areas listed above. A course that provides only 30 minutes on each problem area is not providing enough targeted practise that you need to make lasting changes.
At the other end of the scale, there are many high cost English Pronunciation Courses advertised at over $1000. Research these properly and check they will provide you with the support you need.
1:1 specialised training with someone who is trained in this area is a good choice. If you are looking into engaging with a 1:1 make sure you check their experience. A Speech Therapist or Speech Pathologist is a great choice if they have previous experience working with people in the area of English pronunciation training, which some people also call: accent training, accent reduction or accent modification. This is important as Accent Training is not included in most Speech Therapy University courses. Be aware that it is a special area that they gain experience and knowledge in after they graduate.
The great advantage of Speech Therapist for English Pronunciation courses is that they have a good knowledge of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and also proven methods for acquiring and changing speech sounds and extensive knowledge of mouth positioning for articulation.
I have seen many English Pronunciation courses run by ESL tutors with very little training who do not know the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and give students the wrong areas to work on. Absolutely there are many highly experienced and qualified ESL tutors and teachers out there providing awesome courses but some don’t and you need to be careful. You need to check that your tutor / teacher has the experience and knowledge needed, otherwise it can result in a waste of time and money.
So, do some easy research to find out if you are dealing with a reputable and trustworthy English pronunciation course provider. Contact them to discuss what you hope to achieve with an English Pronunciation Course.
You will be able to get a feel fairly quickly how experienced they are with helping people from your language background on improving their English accent. You can ask questions like: ‘What are the typical areas that speakers of my first language have difficulty with and what methods do you use to address them?’
So, the next question to definitely ask to get a feel for how experienced your English pronunciation teacher / tutor is: What experience do you have working with speakers of my first language?
Check out the summary of the questions to ask in the image on the left.
They are my top 5 questions to ask before choosing an English Pronunciation Course.
This will help you choose a quality course and ask the right information to ensure you get good results.
Here are some thoughts on why I think you should contact the provider before you enrol.
It’s ok to try and find out all the information you need about your English Pronunciation Course from a website but I encourage you to pick up the phone and give them a call.
If you don’t want to call them on the phone, send them an SMS, email them, message them on facebook or chat with them on their website if they have a chat feature available.
This course is an important investment for you.
It’s a money investment and a time investment.
And we all know, time and money are precious!
So, I recommend you contact the English Pronunciation Course teacher or tutor or provider of the courses you are looking at.
Some won’t even reply. And from the ones you do get onto, you will get a feel pretty quickly if they are a good fit for you or not.
They should be able to give you some helpful feedback on the phone and explain a little bit about how their teaching helps students improve.
You’ll also be able to get a feel for whether or not you like and trust them before you enrol in their English Pronunciation Course.
It’s a great opportunity to ask the questions you have and get a feel for how helpful and how experienced they are too.
A Final Tip From Georgie
Once you have chosen your English Pronunciation Course and made the investment, make it a priority! You need to embrace it and be pro-active. Try and fully immerse yourself in English for the duration of the course. The more you do this, the more you will improve.
Don’t procrastinate! If you ‘procrastinate’ it means you put off what you should be doing until later….. which for many people “then” turns into “never”!
Your English Pronunciation Course should have a clear practise schedule. Mark times in your diary to make it happen. Think of 3 times during your day when you can schedule practice. It might be while you’re walking to the train, at the gym, while you are making dinner or in the shower
This is my favourite quote from Yoda – the small but wise and powerful Jedi master.
Try Not! Do or do not. There is no TRY!
This has never been more relevant than it is for your new English Pronunciation Course.
You need to DO. Actively DO the practise.
Actively listen and speak.
Thanks for reading.
I hope this article has helped you find the best English Pronunciation Course for your needs. Hopefully these questions will mean they choose a course that is a good fit for them and will help them achieve their goals in the most effective way possible.
Speech Active Founder
Georgie has spent over 15 years providing English pronunciation training to people from all over this beautiful planet.
She understands the effort people have put in to mastering English and the challenges and frustrations that they face on a daily basis.
If you would like to speak to Georgie about her award winning English Pronunciation Courses and how they can help you achieve your English speaking goals you can call her on 0411 295 828.
Other English Pronunciation posts that might interest you:
Do I need an English Pronunciation Online Course?
6 Essential Steps – How To Improve English Pronunciation
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