As an English language learner, do you find yourself struggling to be understood by others when speaking English? Is it frustrating or embarrassing to have your endless hours of studying result in a blank, confused look by the person you're trying to communicate with?
Over the years I've spent helping language learners, both with English and with other languages, the one thing everyone has in common is a fear of sounding “dumb” or “weird” or having people laugh and point as you try to make yourself understood.
This sort of thing almost never happens in real life, but despite that, it can still seem like English is nearly impossible to master. But I'm here to tell you that, actually, English is easy!
And I'm not just saying that because it is my mother tongue. It's true! I'll show you how. I've taken a few hacks from my guide Why English is Easy to share with you below. You can use these tricks right away to start speaking English more confidently.
Hacking Your Language Study
My favourite tricks focus on the aspects of English that are very easy to master, and I develop ways around the parts of English that are “hard” to understand. Usually, it's not the language itself that's “hard”, but your method for studying might be causing the language to seem more challenging. If you look at those challenges in a new light then they can become much easier!
Once you're able to identify these small language learning tricks (or, as I like to call them, “hacks”) you'll find that you can get over these hurdles and start to really build your fluency.
And this is definitely true with pronunciation and sounding more like a native speaker.
Sure, you could get bogged down with a lot of different ways to practice and develop a proper accent in English, but I'd like to share with you one simple trick I've learned that will give you a big boost with your pronunciation.
You can use this hack right away. And because so many English learners get this pronunciation point wrong, by mastering it now, you'll sound way more fluent, and people will understand you better.
Simple Rules for Pronouncing ~ed
One of my favourite pronunciation hacks for English learners is how to properly pronounce ~ed.
In my experience this is one of the most obvious parts of a foreign accent. Luckily, it's also one of the easiest to fix. Learning the right way to say ~ed can have a huge impact on your accent. But best of all it is very easy to learn.
There are only three possible ways to pronounce this, and (unlike much of the English language) the rules are consistent:
Rule #1: After a d or t, pronounce it as [ɪd].
In English, it's not possible to say a t and d sound immediately after each other, so we add in the vowel sound. Do this in words like wanted, painted, ended, admitted, suggested, started, etc.
Rule #2: After the sounds p, f, s, ch, sh and k, pronounce it as [t].
These sounds cannot be followed by a d in English, so the sound changes to a [t]. Do this in words like stopped, laughed (f sound), finished, and walked.
Rule #3: In all other cases, pronounce it as [d].
Take care not to pronounce the e sound in ~ed here: just pronounce the [d]. Try it in the words imagined, cleaned, enjoyed, cried, and allowed.
Do you hear the difference?
The Position of Your Mouth
Another way to remember this is to think of the position of your mouth in the part of the word before the ~ed.
For the first rule, notice that d and t are both sounds created by putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Because they're in nearly the same spot, it's hard to move between them without adding in a vowel! Try it out.
For the second rule, all but one of the sounds (k) is made by putting your lips or teeth together.
For the third rule, most of the sounds have either a hummed sound (like n or m) or an open, vowel position (like a or o) prior to the ~ed.
Just remember that certain mouth positions lend themselves to being compensated for with different ways of saying ~ed, and you're good to go!
And if that is still too confusing?
Then just remember this one rule: for the majority of cases, when you see ~ed, you should pronounce it like [d] (rather than [ɪd], which is only relevant after d or t). If you use this pronunciation by default when you're not sure, you're most likely to get it right.
Making English Easy
Even if you only follow this one, easy rule, it will help you with your English pronunciation, and soon enough the looks of confusion on the faces of your English-speaking friends will turn to smiles and nods of understanding.
Seeking out these “hacks” for language learning can dramatically speed up your study of the English language, so I encourage you to always be on the lookout for ways to simplify the language learning process.
This applies to all languages you may be learning, not just English. If you're also learning Spanish, French, German, Italian, or Chinese along with English, you'll find more hacks you can use right away in the FI3M language guides.
When you get a few of these hacks under your belt, you'll make even faster progress with your language studies, and you'll soon see exactly why English is easy!
Benny Lewis is the international best selling author, who blogs at fluentin3months.com. He uses italki to practise multiple languages while travelling the world and has won the title "National Geographic's Traveler of the year". This weekend he is launching a series of language guides for beginners in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Chinese. Check them out to find out why that language is easier than you think!