1. Practise listening to and recognising sounds
This point can’t be stressed enough (pardon the pun.) Learning a foreign language is not only a matter of grammar and vocabulary. Reading a new word does not give the key to its use, and the best way to learn a new word or phrase is when you can both hear and read it simultaneously. You need constant exposure to the language, so get this in any way you can: Radio, videos, music… The more you hear, the better you can replicate the sounds.
2. Read words aloud
A frequently encountered problem by foreign language tutors is the tendency of the student to “read” a foreign word using phonetic charts. We must accept that the word is not pronounced as it is written; hence the importance of learning the correct pronunciation at the same time as the word itself.
3. Vary your sources
Learning a language is so much more than just another chore. Although many feel pressured to learn, varying the input you get will help you maintain your motivation to learn. If the BBC is not for you, watching your favourite show in English, French, Spanish or German (with or without subtitles) is just as effective; in fact even more so because you’re more invested in understanding exactly what is being said.
4. Pay attention to regional accents
Depending on the source you use, the words are spoken with a more or less English accent. In oral exams a BBC pronunciation is generally appreciated but other accents are equally valid. When selecting sources, it is a good idea to check the country of origin, and to vary this as much as possible to not get stuck in one particular accent; this can have the effect of sounding a bit like a caricature. Saying “gonna” for “going to” is fine in casual conversation but is absolutely not acceptable in an examination room.
5. Don't worry about judgment
The final challenge is to practice – all the time. Don’t worry about others judging you, in reality people are fascinated by accents. Some enjoy trying to guess at your history just from your pronunciation. English is a worldwide lingua franca and spoken in myriads of different ways across the globe, and is a very tolerant and inclusive language. Your efforts to improve will be appreciated and rewarded. Finally, do remember that having an accent is not necessarily a bad thing, and many find it very endearing: It only becomes problematic when people fail to understand you.