Some people say that pronunciation is the most important part of learning a foreign tongue. I’m not sure if I agree with this 100 per cent, but the fact remains that without having knowledge of the way a particular language sounds, it is virtually impossible to master it.
We use language to communicate with others. Of course, you can communicate with people via text messages, emails, letters even; but sooner or later, you will have to – you will want to! – have a real conversation with another human being. What does this mean for you, dear learner? Two things. First, you’ll have to comprehend what you hear. Second, you’ll have to make yourself comprehensible. Otherwise you may end up talking with a shepherd about ships and with a sailor about sheep.
So as you can see, pronunciation is crucial. But what exactly can you do to practice it? Well, if you are learning a well-known language (French, Arabic, Japanese, etc.), you will find plenty of resources – CDs, online exercises and podcasts, movies, songs, books. Make use of them. Listen, pay attention, repeat. If you have a chance, talk to native speakers. Let other people guide you. And do not get discouraged, because beginnings are always the hardest.
Now, if you’re learning a lesser-known tongue (any of the Pacific languages for example), you will have difficulty practicing pronunciation, unless you have a teacher. Unfortunately, there are very few pronunciation aids available, so you will need to get by with what little you’ll manage to find. The internet will probably be your best shot. Search it thoroughly and concentrate on every single piece of information you will be able to unearth. You may also try to get in touch with some native speakers – who knows, maybe they’ll be willing to help you?
Learning pronunciation is not easy. It takes a lot of time and work. But if you want to speak the chosen lingo… Well, I don’t have to end this sentence, do I?