What is the best tool for improving your pronunciation?
One of the most effective tools a student can use to correct pronunciation issues is … a mirror.
There are sounds that often cause difficulty for our students. Many of these sounds, when properly made, produce distinctive mouth movements. Likewise, many of these sounds, when pronounced in common, incorrect ways also produce distinctive mouth movements.
For instance, many native Chinese speakers have difficulty with /m/ at the end of a word. It’s hard for them to produce a voiced sound that ends shortly after the lips come together. Some time in front of a mirror is all they need to train their mouths to close properly, or hear that they’ve prematurely stopped the air flow with a glottal or velar stop (blocking the air in the throat or with the back of the tongue) as I frequently see with the word, “from” (often pronounced like /frəŋ/ rather than /frʌm/).
舉例來說，許多華語人士在發字尾音 /m/ 時會有障礙。對他們來說，在閉上嘴唇之後還要發出有聲短音 /m/ 是困難的。華語人士必須花點時間照鏡子訓練自己 的嘴巴要正確 闔上，或是聽聽自己是否以聲門閉塞音或舌後塞音 (用喉嚨或舌根阻斷氣流) 過早阻斷氣流，以至於在嘴巴閉上前就已發出類似注音「ㄥ」的音，比如我發現 “from” 一字 就經常出現此情形 (較常被發音成 /frəŋ/，而不是/frʌm/)。
Likewise, understanding the subtle difference between /w/ and ˹ㄨ˼ (pinyin: /w/) is often much easier with the eyes than the ears.
同理，欲分辨 /w/ 音和 ˹ㄨ˼ 之間些微的不同，用眼睛觀察嘴型會比耳朵聆聽來的容易。
Or, for those students who have difficulty making the common approximation of /ʒ/, a mirror can help them see whether the front of their tongue is up to make the sound in the standard English way or down behind the lower teeth in the Chinese-like approximation.
另外，學生在試圖正確發出 /ʒ/ 這個音時常會出現的問題，鏡子能幫助他們看到自己在發此音時，舌頭前方是否如正確英語發音時上揚，還是在用不正確的華語發音模擬此音，而將舌頭放在下排牙齒後面。
It’s also useful for vowel sounds, particularly when the shape or movement of the tongue or mouth is the key to pronouncing, or mispronouncing, a sound. For instance, the difference between /ɔ/ and /ɑu/ is easy to see, but perhaps not so easy to hear.
鏡子在母音發音上也很有幫助，尤其是當某個音發音正確與否的關鍵取決於舌頭或嘴巴的形狀或動作時。例如 / ɔ / 音和 /ɑu/ 之間的不同，用眼睛觀察嘴型就很容易得知，但或許不是那麼容易聽得出來。
Whatever your difficulty, if you want to improve your pronunciation, your first tool should be a mirror.