The weekend is here and one thing a lot of Americans enjoy doing on the weekend is watch a movie. This got me thinking about how my clients can improve their pronunciation by watching American movies. Well not just watching movies, but using some of the mimicking skills we work on during our personal speech coaching sessions. Mimicking what a native English speaker sounds like is a great way to build new speaking habits. Because movies are not specifically made for English language learners, the dialogue sounds exactly like you hear it in real life. The script is spoken quickly with native accents and natural pronunciation, which makes a perfect template for improving your listening and speaking skills. Plus as a bonus, you can often pick up new phrases, slang and colloquial expressions.

Now even if you turn on the subtitles you can’t just pick up an American accent by watching a movie. Your eyes do not help with pronunciation, in fact your eyes can often fool you into mispronouncing words. It is your ears and your mouth that guide you towards correct pronunciation. A great way to enjoy watching a movie while improving your accent and pronunciation is to pause the movie, rewind 10 seconds and play it again, but the second time through don’t just watch it, try to mimic what the actor sounds like. Once you have a feel for the rhythm and changes in intonation from a character, you’ll be able to mimic their dialogue nearly as it is happening on scene. Try it a couple times and after a few takes you’ll be able to repeat an entire scene with multiple characters all by yourself.

This pronunciation exercise is especially fun if you are watching the movie with other non-native English speakers and your group takes turns mimicking, or by practicing with a movie that is already one of your favorites and you have scenes committed to memory. You don’t have to practice mimicking the entire movie. Even if you practice your pronunciation for 5-10 minutes you can still gain a lot of benefit while still enjoying the movie. Pronouncing English correctly is extremely difficult and by just reading words it is hard to know how they should sound.

Hearing native English speakers talk to each other, even if it is in a movie, will help you to hear how words are pronounced. But passive immersion through listening is no way to learn any new skill. Learning English pronunciation requires your repeated involvement. So please give it a try this weekend and let me know how it goes and which movies you used for your pronunciation practice. Thank you for your continued interest in improving your English pronunciation. Have a great weekend.