A great way to practice your pronunciation is by reading aloud. But what should you read? Will anything do?
To an extent, any English book will help you wrap your tongue around the language. But by picking a book with sounds that are particularly difficult for non-native speakers, you’ll get right down to fixing those common pronunciation problems.
I’d like to introduce you to a book called “Fox in Socks” by an author called Dr. Seuss. You may know him as the creative mind behind “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, and his books are often used in English speaking schools and homes to improve reading skills in children.
“Fox in Socks” is the story of a sock-wearing fox who guides a creature called Knox through a variety of different tongue twisters. Although it starts out easy enough, Knox finds himself faced with increasingly difficult ones as the story continues.
The book also contains funny illustrations of the absurd situations that the fox’s tongue twisters describe. Have you ever seen a goo-eating goose, for example? Every student who I’ve read the book with has absolutely loved it, and I work mostly with adults.
What makes this book great for anyone learning English is that the tongue twisters contain many sounds difficult for non-natives to pronounce, and these sounds occur over and over again in the book.
Let’s look at five of the things you can practice with this book, as well as some pronunciation tips.
Imagine that your tongue is all bunched up. Visualize it, and try to make the most extreme version of this sound that you can. Pretend that you’re a pirate going “Arrrrrrh, matey”. You can make it softer once you feel confident that you’ve got it.
Luckily “Fox in Socks” contains a lot of “r”s, especially “r”s which follow other consonants, in words like “broom” and “trick” and “through”. So you’ll get a lot of practice.
If you’re having the same issue, practice the difference between “cheap” and “chip” versus “sheep” and “ship”, making sure that the words beginning with “ch” sound different from the words beginning with “sh”.
Then to practice some more, read through the fox’s tongue twister about “chicks with bricks and blocks and clocks”.
The ever famous “th” sound. This book is absolutely full of “th”s, and even combines them with other tricky English sounds like “r” for a real tongue workout.
Unless you speak one of the few languages that also use this sound, it has probably given you some trouble in the past.
As a kid, I had difficulty pronouncing it, too – until one teacher took me aside and gave me the following tip:
Put your tongue through your teeth. Stick your tongue out as you say this sound.
Exaggerate the motion at first, and once you feel confident you can make it less extreme.
This is a word that many of my students have trouble with. The most important part of pronouncing this word is that it should only have one, not two, syllables.
If you’ve been torturing yourself with the “th” sound in the word “clothes”, you can stop. Many native speakers pronounce “clothes” the same way that they pronounce “close”.
… is another commonly mispronounced word. Make sure that it rhymes with “hose” and nose” just like in the book.
Have you read “Fox in Socks?” What books have helped you with your English pronunciation? Let me know in the comments.