Goals are important in pronunciation training because there will be ups and downs as you progress. Many people feel very excited at first and then feel frustrated as the process takes longer expected, then feel excited again after getting some compliments from people they know, and so on. During my twenty years in English language teaching, at least half of my students have discussed these ups and downs with me looking for ways to avoid the down moments.
This is why it is important to set clear goals. Here are several methods. Choose the one that makes the most sense to you or create your own.
Method 1: Sounds
Measure progress by the number of sounds or sets of sounds that you have studied. This is the method that I use with my students. Give yourself a realistic goal like this: during the next 6 weeks, I will learn and practice T sounds, O sounds and A sounds until I understand them pretty well and speak with some of these sounds. (keep in mind that any letter which has more than one sound, as all of these do, may require about 2 weeks of practice). Then move on! During the next six weeks, I will perfect my R and L sounds and study the schwa vowel, or Lessons 7-10 in the course. And so on.
Method 2: Words
Choose the words that are most important to you in the course, and aim to add these words, correctly pronounced, into your daily speech or your presentations. You might say to yourself, I will study T sounds, O sounds and A sounds, and I will choose 15 words from each lesson and really start to speak these words with correct pronunciation. By the end of 6 weeks, I will be speaking 45 words with the American dialect. Keep in mind that consistently speaking a word with sounds that you are not accustomed to is not so easy, so I recommend using realistic goals. About 15 words really expressed regularly in your speech during a two-week period should be feasible. And please note that even if you are measuring success with a word count, I highly recommend you study the sound rules because these will give your mind a structure for your pronunciation understanding.
Method 3: Create a Fun Measure of Real-Life Feedback
Where do you think I am from?
One of my students told me a great story. When she started training, everyone knew she was from Africa. After a couple months, people started guessing she was from Jamaica. A few months after that, people guessed she was from Canada. You are making progress if people guess that you are from countries closer and closer to this one. Many of my Russian students have had similar experiences. First Russia, then probably Eastern European, then somewhere in Europe, then Canada, then a US state with a dialect that few people know like Maine or Wisconsin. If your new American friends start trying to guess if you are from Iowa, Utah, or California, you are amazing!
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