3 English Pronunciation Hacks

What’s the easiest, quickest way to improve your English pronunciation?

If you’re short of time and want to see immediate results, focus on quick “hacks” (= easy shortcuts). These will help you improve your English pronunciation quickly and effectively.

Here are three pronunciation hacks for you to try. They’re based on some of the sounds which cause the most problems for English learners. (One is more of a trick than a hack!)

The “Th” Sound

The “th” sound is one of the most difficult sounds to get right in English. You probably know how to make the sound by putting your tongue between your teeth and pushing air through.

When you master the “th” in simple words like “the” or “think”, you can go on to practise it inside phrases like “Fine, thank you”.

Then you get to the third level of difficulty: the “th” sound combined with other consonants. Here are some examples of more difficult words with “th” combinations:

fifth
sixth
three
through

The problem here is that the tongue has to move (from a /f/ to a /th”; from a /ks/ to a /th/; and from a /th/ to a /r/). So my hack (or trick) for these, is to not try a “th” sound at all. Instead, say:

fifth = fif
sixth = six
three = free
through = fru

Before I get complaints that I’m teaching bad English, remember two things.

1. It’s a temporary fix. In time, and with repeated exercises, you CAN make the “th” sound correctly. But if you’re working on a lot of other things to improve, you can make life easier by ignoring the “th” sound for now.

2. We don’t normally say these words in isolation. In speech, you’re likely to say these words in the context of other words. Your speech is likely to be faster and connected. In fact, when you say them in context, the “th” sound may also disappear anyway. Here are some examples for you:

“The fifth book in the series is the best…”
“The sixth reason we have is …”
“There are three ways we can get there…”
“I looked through his report.”

Listen to the audio of these sentences here:

“Th” sound

The “R” Sound

One of the biggest problems I hear with the “r” sound is that it’s stressed too much. For example, I’ve heard “verrry” instead of “very” and “rrreal” instead of “real”. When you make the “r” sound too strong, it can stop you from linking between words easily. You’ll know what I mean if you say “It’s a rrreally big problem” instead of “It’s a really big problem”. Notice how you stop on the “rr” rather than going automatically to the “eally” part of the word?

So here’s my hack for British English pronunciation of “r”:

1. Only pronounce the “r” sound before vowel sounds. For example:

“right”
“trend”
“far away”

2. Don’t pronounce it before consonants. In the following words, the “r” is silent:

“work”
“hear”
“car”

Listen to the audio here:

“R” sound

Compound Nouns

Compound nouns are words made of two or more words together. They can be written as two separate words, two hyphenated words, or as one word. For example:

seat belt (noun + noun)
dry-clean (noun + verb)
whiteboard (adjective + noun)

But which of the two words do you stress?

The general rule with stress is that information words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc) are stressed in a sentence, while grammatical words (articles, prepositions, auxiliaries, etc) are unstressed.

With compound nouns, you need to stress both of the words, though the stress is slightly stronger on the first word.

Listen to the audio here:

Compound nouns

3 English Pronunciation Hacks

Hi! I’m Clare – the founder of this site and the author of several English learning books.

My fluency program “Real English Conversations” helps you speak native English without studying grammar or memorising vocabulary lists.

Get the essential phrases to speak fluently – no more hesitating, translating or guessing the “right” word.

Click the button below to start speaking English fluently today!