Pronunciation – The Basics

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August 31, 2019
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Pronunciation – The Basics

Pronunciation - The Basics

The good news for anyone taking the IELTS Speaking Test is that nobody is expecting you to speak the Queens English. However, there are some very easy things to look out for when thinking about your pronunciation level. Here I would like to highlight three common examples that appeared again and again, and again…

Plurals – The clotheses you wear 

This is an easy trap to fall into. It seems like almost a no brainer to say this but as an Examiner I lost count of the times that students didn’t take care to control the delivery of plural words. More importantly this simple mistake can make the difference between a candidate getting a 5 or a 6+


A key factor when evaluating pronunciation is the amount of influence a candidate’s mother tongue has on what they are saying. In China, questions end in ‘ə’ and it is probably the most common phonetic sound of the language, though this can be a common problem for hispanic speakers too.

The definite article and ‘th’

This is one of the most common mistakes that candidates make with their pronunciation skills. The definite article “the” and ‘th’ [ð] is everywhere in the English language and is something that a speaker can easily become lazy with.

Variations of it are: THE [ðiː]  – de, ze,              THEY [ðeɪ]   – day, zey,                                                       THEM [ðɛm] – dem, zem,      THAT [ðæt] – dat, zat

Even a person with a high level of English still makes these mistakes and you will get away with this in the real world, but in the test this is crucial to gaining those higher scores.

Keep it simple

The examples above may seem very basic, and they are, but they are mistakes that candidates make over and over. The reason they can’t break through to a higher score is more often than not because of simple issues like the ones mentioned here.

Get into the habit of recording yourself. If your access to feedback on your pronunciation is limited or non-existent, then you need to be listening out for these types of issues with your speaking.

John Riley
John Riley
John Riley is an Australian native English speaker who has worked in education for the past 8 years. He has recent experience with screenplay writing and script analysis, and has a BA Hons degree, TEFL and CELTA qualifications. John is an expert in linguistics for the British Council in Beijing, where he has tested and marked English written and spoken work for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

1 Comment

  1. oprolevorter says:

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