Practice Your American English Pronunciation With ELSA Speak
Finding the right way to improve and practice your American English pronunciation can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve been learning on your own.
When it comes to learning English, pronunciation and speaking are the most difficult skills to master. That’s because you have to consider many different aspects when you want to improve your pronunciation, and not just how the words sound. Things like sentence stress and intonation can also have a huge effect on the clarity of your pronunciation. And what makes things more complicated is that many English words look nothing like how they’re pronounced.
This is why we’ve dedicated these past two weeks to provide you with the tips, strategies and resources you need to improve your pronunciation, communicate without misunderstandings, and boost your overall confidence in English.
Last week, we looked at 7 easy steps to help you improve your pronunciation, and we also covered important pronunciation rules in English. In this article, I’m going to show you how you can practice your American English pronunciation using an app called ELSA Speak. The app is a great way to improve your pronunciation for a few reasons:
It will simplify your pronunciation practice sessions, and you’ll save time and by having a personalised and organized program ready for you to use.
The app is a great supplement for those who can’t afford to take multiple lessons every week with a private teacher.
Unlike a teacher, you can access the app at any time, which makes committing to regular practice much easier for you.
The app helps you with word and sentence stress, intonation, fluency, vocabulary development as well as pronunciation. You’ll get immediate feedback and you’ll know exactly what your problems are, and where you need to improve.
We’ve tested the app for a few weeks, and we’ve also recommended it to some of our own students, and received amazing feedback from them. We only recommend products that we personally test and add value to our students and readers.
ELSA Speak is by far the best app we’ve come across for learning American English pronunciation, and improving your speaking skills in general. Keep reading to find out why!
How to Use ELSA Speak for Better English Pronunciation
First, here’s how you can get started on the app:
Step 1: Download ELSA Speak
You can download the app for free but keep in mind that with the free version, you won’t have access to all the features I describe here (more on this a little later). I recommend testing the free version for a bit, and if you decide that you’d like to purchase it, make sure you take advantage of the exclusive discount ELSA is currently offering to our readers and students, and save up to 80% on your membership.
Step 2: Choose Your Settings
ELSA Speak will ask you to confirm a bunch of settings before you begin. These include your native language, the topic of conversation you want to begin with, and how much time you can dedicate to your daily lessons. You can even set up daily reminders through the app to help you stay committed and motivated.
Step 3: Take the Assessment Test
You’ll complete an assessment test to determine your English fluency and proficiency. They recommend you wear headphones and that you’re in a quiet place with a good internet connection before you begin the assessment.
Step 4: Select Your Lesson Plan
As lesson plans are customizable in ELSA Speak, you have the freedom to take your lessons in a variety of different and exciting directions, while improving your pronunciation at the same time.
Step 5: Practice Makes progress
Remember to use ELSA Speak every day for the recommended lesson time to keep your English pronunciation sharp.
Why Should You Use ELSA Speak for Your English Pronunciation?
Here are some of the benefits of the app that I think are the most useful through my experience with it, and the feedback I got from my private students:
Boost Your Confidence
There are probably times when you’re saying a word but you’re not sure if you’re pronouncing it correctly. Some of my readers complained to me that people don’t always understand them when they speak in English. Naturally, this can have a negative effect on confidence when speaking.
Although you can learn a lot about English pronunciation by having conversations with friends or colleagues whose first language is English, these people probably won’t correct every mistake you make. They don’t want to hurt your feelings or break the flow of the conversation, so they let some things slide. This can make you think you’re doing everything correctly when you’re not.
ELSA Speak addresses your mistakes, not in an offensive way, but to help you improve your language abilities. From individual words you’re mispronouncing to whole sentences where the intonation is incorrect, the app will help you speak more naturally in English.
How are your mistakes displayed? When reviewing how you say a word, ELSA Speak will highlight a letter you’re mispronouncing or even a part of a word you’re incorrectly stressing. You can also get a detailed report with a sentence-by-sentence analysis. The words or sentences in red need to be corrected, and the ones in green are the words you pronounce well.
I think the analysis is by far one of the best parts of the ELSA Speak app!
When you learn pronunciation within the app, you’ll make fewer mistakes when speaking with real people. That not only goes for conversations with friends, but important situations in which you need to communicate clearly like presentations or job interviews. What makes the app even more valuable is that there's a section dedicated to job interviews specifically, and also other useful topics such as small talk and travel.
Improve Clarity of Pronunciation and Intonation
Pronouncing a word is not only about how well you speak, but your clarity as well. ELSA Speak listens to all parts of how you pronounce English words, including your intonation and stress. With time and regular practice, this will help make your speaking sound more natural.
For example, if you go to the “Game Type” section in the app, and choose “Word Stress” you can practice stressing the right syllable in many problematic words. So, let’s say, you’re presented with the word “favorite” and you stress the wrong syllable, as you can see in the image below, the app will indicate the mistake with the color red, and also record your voice pronouncing the word. This way, you have the option of comparing the way you pronounce the word to the correct pronunciation. Keep repeating the word until you get the pronunciation right.
You can also practice other specific skills such as, linking sounds, ending sounds, “r” sounds, the difference between the “s” sound and the “z” sound, etc.
Practice conversation skills on different topics
As part of your daily practice, ELSA lets you answer questions that the app asks, sort of like having a virtual conversation. This is a great way to practice a skill that you don’t always get to utilize when learning English pronunciation: your conversation skills. The conversations cover relevant topics that could come in handy in your day-to-day life as well. Here are some examples of the topics provided:
Small talk at work
Breakfast around the world
Common travel situations
Check out this sample conversation so you can get an idea on how you’ll see your corrections:
And when you click on the sentence, you’ll get more detailed feedback on your pronunciation, intonation and fluency.
I can’t attest to the quality of ELSA Speak’s artificial intelligence enough. You can just use the mic already built into your smartphone or headphones, and the AI listens and assesses your pronunciation instantly, no downtime. You don’t even necessarily get that when learning with an instructor.
Lots of Speaking Options
Some language apps encourage repetition to help you learn, but that can make you feel like you’re back in the classroom. In other words, it’s boring. ELSA Speak’s variety of lesson options will always keep things interesting. You can select your level from easy to very difficult, and choose from a wide variety of topics. Here are a few examples:
Working at a restaurant
Contextual vocabulary and pronunciation
The words you’ll practice in any given lesson are contextually based on the topic of interest you selected when you were setting up the app. For example, I chose culture and entertainment and my first lesson was about restaurants. That wouldn’t be the case if you picked another topic.
The words you learn are later inserted into full sentences that you’re then asked to repeat. This is a useful way to practice pronouncing words as part of a sentence, and it’s always great for vocabulary development.
Improve your listening
ELSA Speak makes you a better listener. You will listen to the AI repeat words and sentences before you speak them, but that’s not all. You can also watch a collection of authentic real-world videos with English speakers of all kinds saying the same sentences.
Other features of ELSA Speak
Now let’s dive deeper into the many features you can use when you practice your pronunciation and speaking skills with the app:
Above all, ELSA Speak will make pronouncing English words in the North American accent an easier and even enjoyable experience. If you can’t necessarily pronounce an English word just by looking at it, that’s okay. ELSA Speak first says the word out loud, then asks you to press your smartphone’s microphone button to speak the word back. It’s that easy to begin speaking English words out loud every day. You receive feedback from the app immediately, and it will rank your pronunciation, intonation and fluency from 0 to 100 percent.
If you have a word in mind that you can’t pronounce, or would like to get more comfortable with saying it, you can look up the word in the dictionary within the app, listen to how it’s pronounced, then practice the pronunciation yourself and get instant feedback.
The moment you download the ELSA Speak app and open it on your phone, you’ll be asked why you want to learn English pronunciation. Perhaps you’re looking for more or better job opportunities, you wish to further your education, travel across North America, live or work abroad, or enjoy more culture and entertainment. Choose one of those options and ELSA Speak will tailor its lessons to the topic(s) of interest.
ELSA Speak also asks what your native language is so it can identify your mother tongue and offer appropriate pronunciation feedback. Here are the available native languages currently supported:
Portuguese (Portugal or Brazil)
ELSA will also give you the option to customize when you’ll receive reminders from the app. If you prefer to take your lessons in the morning or at night, you’ll get a notification that works for your schedule.
Different difficulty levels
Are you just getting started learning English and you aren’t yet confident in your pronunciation? Maybe you have some grasp on the language, but there’s still much you need to learn. You can choose from three difficulty levels: beginner for those brand-new to English, intermediate for more experienced speakers, and advanced for those of you who have more experience with the language.
Life is all about setting and achieving goals, and ELSA Speak is no different. Depending on your goals, ELSA Speak will recommend you practice your pronunciation for 10 minutes (casual learning), 15 minutes, or 20 minutes (serious learning) every day.
Whatever choice you make, you’re free to go back later and change it in the settings.
Savable study sets
This is one of my favorite features: when you find a lesson that you like in ELSA Speak, you can save it and then come back to it later or repeat it another time. This lets you create customized study sets that you’ll enjoy spending time on. It will also help you with retention and remembering all the new information you’re learning.
As you get started using ELSA Speak, at first, you’re repeating single words back to the app. Once the lessons begin progressing, you can test your English fluency in different ways. For instance, you might have to read an entire sentence aloud, answer a question asked by the app, or even have a virtual conversation.
For those more advanced activities, ELSA Speak scores you as usual and then gives you a detailed assessment of that score. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to see how you did in areas like fluency, intonation, and pronunciation. If there’s a phrase where you made mistakes, you can repeat it again until you learn the correct pronunciation.
Hear yourself speak
You can even replay recorded conversations so you can hear yourself speak. I recommended this in my article on how to improve your English pronunciation, as being able to hear yourself speaking is a powerful and quick way to improve.
Yes, it’s true that no one likes hearing their own voice recorded, at least not at first. Once you get past that, you can learn so much about what you’re doing right and wrong by listening to yourself speak English. ELSA Speak gives you that option!
Are there any disadvantages?
There are a few downsides of ELSA Speak that I want to bring to your attention:
The app only teaches English in a North American accent. If you plan on moving to an English-speaking country that doesn’t use the same accent such as Scotland or England, you will not get as much out of ELSA Speak.
You’ll be locked out of some of the features I’ve described in the free version, and the membership can be expensive. But the good news is that ELSA is offering an exclusive discount to my students and readers, so you can use all the features in the app and save on your membership.
More about ELSA Speak
ELSA Speak is an app produced by a San Francisco, California-based company called ELSA Corp. Today, ELSA Corp’s engineering office is in Lisbon, Portugal. According to their website, their vision “is to enable everyone to speak foreign languages with full confidence.”
At its most basic, ELSA Speak is a pronunciation app that’s designed to teach you the correct way to speak English via dialogues that the makers describe as “short” and “fun.” When you talk along with the app, the artificial intelligence-driven technology gives you feedback right away.
You have more than 1,200 lessons to choose from, with more being added all the time. You can even master how to pronounce idioms so your English speaking sounds more natural and fluent.
According to ELSA Speak, through their lessons, 68 percent of those who download the app learn to speak English more easily and 90 percent more clearly. That’s probably because, in addition to the instant pronunciation feedback you receive, you can also use an interactive pronunciation dictionary at no extra charge.
ELSA Speak has more than 13 million users scattered across 100+ countries. Their AI has received the distinction of being named one of the Top 5 Best Artificial Intelligence Apps.
ELSA Speak is a language pronunciation app that lets you speak English aloud and hear how words should be said with the help of a virtual coach. The artificial intelligence in this app is top-notch, and besides learning how to speak the language, you’ll also improve your English listening and vocabulary.
Make sure you use my exclusive discount code to save money on your subscription to ELSA Speak!
About the writer
Sama is the founder of In English With Love and an online English educator from Canada. Her mission is to make quality English learning materials accessible to English learners and teachers everywhere.