Vocabulary is much tougher and time-consuming to master.
Let’s explore why.
Reading in the head doesn’t exercise your vocal organs (lips, tongue, and throat). Reading out loud does. It exercises the same vocal organs that you exercise when speaking to someone. Fundamentally, that’s the main reason reading out loud improves your fluency.
As a child, you may have read out loud in your English classes, but this exercise works for adults as well. It works for any level of fluency, but will benefit the most who are at average to above average level.
Jared Spool, an expert on the subjects of usability, software, design, and research, once said on the subject of usability in software design:
Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.
Pronunciation mistakes, like poor design, stand out sorely. Just 1-2 slipups in a 10-minute conversation are enough. They’ll show your communication skills in poor light, especially when those listening to you are good at it.
I started the journey to improve my pronunciation nearly five years back, motivation being that communication skill, unlike other skills with short shelf lives, is going to be useful for the rest of my life. And if it’s going to matter for so long, then why not be good at it. I’ve articulated this reasoning in detail in the first point in the post on why strong communication skills in English are important for your career and otherwise.
When I started, I had no target in mind. I had no process to follow, but I developed one in due course. Fast forward few years, I’ve corrected my pronunciation of more than 3,400 words and proper nouns (basically, names) in a way that is not academic, not decorative. These pronunciations have become second nature to my speech.
This post contains mispronunciations by articulate guests and anchors on prime-time television mainly on NDTV, a popular English news channel. To a lesser degree, the post also covers instances of mispronunciations on platforms outside NDTV.
(Note that I’ve treated a word as mispronounced only if its pronunciation didn’t match either British or American pronunciation.)
These are some of the mispronunciations I’ve have picked while watching these programs. Note that I don’t watch to pick mispronunciations. I, like anyone else, watch for content and my ears subconsciously pick words that are pronounced different from the norm. This, however, wasn’t always the case. I used to be a serial mis-pronouncer, but then I improved it to the extent that I’m writing this post.
Many watch English movies, listen to radio and songs, and read books and newspapers to improve their English. But they make little progress even after several months of watching, listening, and reading.