To score well on TOEFL iBT speaking, you should have good pronunciation. Especially, you should make sure that your pronunciation does not prevent meaning. Typically, students struggle with pronunciation of multi-syllabic words such as individual, university, electricity, and autobiographical to name a few. But, even when these words are mispronounced, the meaning is often not obscured. The listener can still understand which words the speaker is referring to. For example, if a student pronounces “individual” with an initial [i], a high, front, unrounded, tense vowel, instead of the [I], a high, front, unrounded, lax vowel, the meaning is not obscured.
Similarly, students also struggle with mono-syllabic words, but, when these words are mispronounced, the meaning is always obscured. In some cases, a mispronunciation results in an entirely different word altogether. For example, consider the following two words: bit and beat. The [I] sound in the first word cannot be interchanged with the [i] sound in the second word.
So, what does this mean to you? Though you may have difficulty pronouncing words with three, four, five, and six syllables, these words may not be causing you the most problems in terms of your intelligibility. The one syllable words might be the culprits! Therefore, you should practice pronouncing these simple words focusing on the vowel sounds.
You ask, “How can I practice this?’ It is easy. Find a short academic article of about 100 words.
1. Read it out loud while digitally recording your voice.
2. Save the file.
3. Underline all the one syllable words in the passage and identify the vowel sound.
4. Consult a dictionary if you are unsure of the pronunciation.
5. Then play back the audio file to make sure you have pronounced the one syllable words correctly.
If you have difficulties, repeat steps 1-5 until you have pronounced these words correctly.
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