If you’re wondering (and have been looking online) to answer questions like: “How do I sound natural,” “How do I sound more native,” “How do I have natural intonation,” “How to make my voice stronger,” “How to make my voice sound natural,” or even “I don’t like my voice what do I do?” then you’re in the right place.
This is an interesting, and my favorite, topic as I’ve seen lots of people struggle with this area (so did I).
This problem is universal and relevant to all levels from beginning to advanced.
Even when you’ve had lots of knowledge and vocabulary and you’re able to explain your ideas well, you still struggle with this ‘sounding native’ thing. Because this is quite a separate area, less depending on your knowledge or your content (how many words you have).
We call it by different names, but in a nutshell, it’s about the Musicality (simply called music) & the Quality of your voice when you speak the language, in this case English.
You may ask: “How about what I say? Would it make a difference to me sounding natural?”
Yes, and No. It does make a difference, but when you’re at an intermediate level (or higher), the impact what you say has is diminished compared to how you sound when it comes to sounding natural. Because essentially it’s about the Sound.
Think about it, when you were younger, before you had enough vocabulary to make out what the speakers were saying or singing on the radio, you knew that they are speaking naturally, because they sound natural to your ear!
‘The sound’ is an abandoned area that people usually forget about when learning to speak a language.
Good news though, that it’s in a way less effort to sound natural or native, because you don’t have to learn tons of words or do anything complicated for the brain. This actually involves de-emphasizing the brain and focus on your speaking muscles.
The goal is to make it become your Second Nature so you don’t have to think about having to sound native whenever you speak English. Think of when you speak your mother tongue, do you tell yourself to ‘sound native’ whenever you open your mouth!? No, it just comes out naturally, because the language has been embedded in you as your instinct, your second nature.
And we want the same for whenever you speak English!
So, how do you achieve that?
This is an extensive topic. There’s both art & science in it.
Here’s a game plan comprised of the Essentials Points in the road map to sounding native and natural. These techniques & strategies apply to all languages including your own native tongue, and we’ll talk specifically about English here. Here we go!
To sound natural in English we need to master (take control of) two factors:
- The Sound of English – The particular way English is spoken
- Your Voice – The instrument you use to speak the language
Let’s clarify them:
The first factor – the Sound of English – refers to certain sets of rules that define how English is spoken.
Certainly, even native English speakers from different parts of the world wouldn’t share exactly the same guideline in how they speak ‘their’ English, but overall we’re talking about the most common rules that English speakers share. These rules fall into categories as follows:
– The foundational sound system it uses (upon which everything spoken is built): This refers to the basic sounds, or the phonemes of English. You might have seen them: /a:/, /p/, /tʃ/, etc.
– How to speak when these sounds are put together: think of when you speak a word or a sentence, how you’d connect the sounds together.
– The musicality of the language: things that create the ‘music’ quality in how the language is spoken. Compare Korean, or Japanese, to English, for example, even when you ignore what’s being said, you still can hear the difference in how the language sounds – the intonation, rhythm, and so on. Of course, each speaker has their own way of creating the rhythm, but how the speaking muscles are used to speak the language largely affects its musicality.
The components listed above are pretty much set in stone, so you just need to learn of the rules and follow them.
The second factor – Your Voice – is the instrument you use to speak English. It’s the Sound of You.
Think of when you play a piece of music, you need to know the symbols and signs to be able to read the score, and then you also need to know how to play your instrument to play the piece. Similarly, here the symbols and signs (rules in music) translate to the rules of sounding and pronunciation in English, and your instrument is your voice. Mastering both is non-negotiable if you want to take control of how you sound in English.
While the Sound of English is pretty much already set and you just have to follow it, your voice is what you can take control of and modulate to reflect your style, personality, and uniqueness.
These are the two main components that together will help you sound natural.
Alright, that’s it for part 1. In part 2, coming up in the next few days, I will share with you exactly the road map, steps and their order, mistakes learners usually make and my advice on mastering the first factor – the Sound of English.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
What have you tried in order to sound natural or native in English?
What do you struggle with in your pronunciation?
What have worked for you?
Share with us in the comment section!