Getting the muscles of the mouth and tongue placement in sync are critical to an English that sounds better and more like a native speaker’s, however, accomplishing this takes time and practice.
One method I have found to achieve very positive and often quick results is by breaking down a simple sentence – or even a word with four or more syllables – and practicing it over and over again until it is said with the near fluency of a native speaker. Motivation will be the ultimate key but once improvement has been recognized the desire to continue will result.
Take for example the simple sentence, “I went to the movies”, which might be somewhat difficult for lower level students to produce fluidly and correctly. It should therefore be broken down into parts by practicing each individually until it can be repeated as one sentence the way a native speaker would. Moreover, it is important to let the student know that a word in a sentence is not necessarily pronounced as it is when viewed by itself.
When asked the pronunciation of “TO” we would agree that it is the same as we have with the number two, and our word ‘too.’ However, in a sentence, such as the one in the example above, it is pronounced more like “tuh’.
Therefore the sentence would be spoken as “I wentuh the movies” and this should then be practiced several times until it can be said with confidence. The pronoun ‘I’ can then be substituted with another so that “He wentuh the …, She wentuh the … , etc can be practiced. Follow this up by changing “to the movies” with gym, beach, park and others which take ‘the’ unlike ‘to school, work, Miami, Publix which should be practiced together as a separate group.
Next stretch the sentence with “on Sunday” as in “I went to the movies on Sunday” and then substitute that addition with ‘yesterday’, ‘last week’, etc. so that they are now repeating “I wentuh the movies last night or on Sunday” until they do it well. And although the sentence can be expanded utilizing many more words, have them practice by ending the sentence as “… with my wife” to complete the “I went to the movies last night with my wife” exercise example that can be substituted as son, husband, friend, etc.
One very important note is that a native speaker should be consulted for pronunciation or the student runs the risk of repeatedly mispronouncing words and forming habits that might be difficult to break.