English Pronunciation for Japanese Speakers

Japanese Accent Reduction

Common English Pronunciation Problems You Might Face as a Japanese Speaker

 

When working to improve your English as a native Japanese speaker, one of the most challenging aspects is becoming comfortable using English pronunciation.

Japan has a rich cultural history that brings to mind traditional kimonos, tea ceremonies, beautiful calligraphy, emperors and samurai. In modern times, Japan has brought sushi to the western world and is known as a technology powerhouse. While being from Japan has many advantages, it can pose some challenges for those who want to communicate clearly in English.

Words and sentences in Japanese are approached differently than in English, requiring speakers to learn a new set of pronunciation rules in order to properly communicate using connecting sounds, intonation, and stress. Even if you have spoken English for decades, pronunciation can still be difficult, and you will likely benefit from trying to improve your American English accent.

When working to improve your English accent, it’s important to focus on using correct English pronunciation in order to avoid forming a habit of pronouncing words and sentences incorrectly. By overviewing the top three pronunciation problems native Japanese speakers face when learning English, you can evaluate your own English pronunciation and see how well you speak with an American accent.

Japanese Accent Reduction

To improve your American English accent, learn about linking!

Japanese speakers who have learned English often fail to link words, especially when two consonants are pronounced one after the other. In Japanese, a vowel sound is most commonly inserted between consonant sounds, so this habit often carries through to English speech. Japanese speakers tend to add extra vowel sounds, or they may try to take extra pauses to separate their words.

To see if you’re linking correctly: Read the following two sentences aloud, and record them.

            All of her barns fell down.

            Oliver Barnes fell down.

Now listen to the sentences you just recorded. They should sound exactly the same! We reduce and link the words “All of her” to sound like one word, just like the name “Oliver”.

To improve your american English accent linking skills, you have to be aware of the main ways in which English speakers link words together. The three main categories of linking are “Consonant to Consonant”(C->C) “Consonant to Vowel”(C->V) and “Vowel to Vowel”(V->V). The most difficult linking category for Japanese speakers tends to be “Consonant to Consonant” linking.

Try printing off a paragraph and circling all of the (C->C) links between words, underlining all of the (C->V) links, and highlighting all of the (V->V) links. Then read the paragraph and focus on the links you’ve just identified. Remember, not all words are linked together! Natural pauses occur between phrases, and are often (but not always!) marked by periods, commas, semicolons, or other punctuation.

Improve your American English accent by learning about syllable stress

English is a stress-timed language, while Japanese is a mora-timed language. That means that Japanese speakers tend to stress sounds and syllables equally, while English speakers vary their stress widely.

In order to improve your English pronunciation, it’s very important to learn about syllable stress and vowel reduction. In English, this means that some of our syllables are pronounced longer and louder than others.

Try saying the following sentence:

The analyst will use analytics to analyze your analysis.

Think about how you stressed each of the bold words. Each of these words should have a syllable that is longer and louder than the other syllables in that word. Can you identify which syllable is stressed in each of these words? Let’s try again.

The analyst will use analytics to analyze your analysis.

The bold syllables are the stressed syllables in these words. If you stressed these words differently than the pattern above, especially if you stressed each word the same way, you may want to improve your syllable stress skills.

Pronounce /r/, /w/, and /l/ clearly and distinctly to improve your American English accent

If you want to improve your American English accent, it’s important to differentiate between these sounds. Japanese speakers often confuse word-initial /r/, /w/ and /l/. This can lead to confusion between words like “right” “light” and “white.” Japanese speakers may also substitute /l/ for /r/, particularly in consonant clusters.

To see if you’re pronouncing /r/, /w/, and /l/ clearly and distinctly, record yourself pronouncing these sets of words:

1 Lane Rain Wayne
2 Led Red Wed
3 Leader Reader Weeder

 

Listen to the recording you just made. Did each word sound distinct, or did two or more words sound the same?

In order to pronounce /r/, the tongue must be raised very high in the back of the mouth, almost like swallowing. The tip of the tongue is relaxed and not working or touching anything to produce the /r/ sound.

In pronouncing the /l/ sound, the tip of the tongue must touch the tooth ridge.

In pronouncing the /w/ sound, the lips do all of the work by tightly rounding before the next sound.

If you work on these three aspects of English pronunciation daily for 2-3 weeks, you should notice a significant improvement in your American English accent.

improve your american english accent

Each Japanese speaker may experience different issues learning English. Because of this, and because English involves very precise pronunciation skills,

 working with an online Accent coach is one of the easiest ways to ensure you learn English pronunciation correctly. Participating in an online educational setting, native Japanese speakers can work one-on-one with a certified instructor to receive a personalized accent assessment and pinpoint specific pronunciation areas that need improvement.

You can improve your American English accent and fluency between 50-80% in just 12-weeks! Sign up today for a free evaluation to see how Confidence Accent Reduction can work for you. 

Improving your Indian Accent

Indian Accent

Improving your Indian accent can be key to your success here in the U.S.

Many accent reduction clients of Indian origin have a unique perspective on English pronunciation. Most have spoken English from a young age, or are native English speakers. Not only that, but many people who are seeking to reduce their Indian accent have a very high level of education, with advanced degrees in medicine, science, IT or engineering.

Being able to communicate that knowledge clearly is not only valuable for the speakers, but also the community that can benefit from that knowledge.

Spoken American English

Clients who were educated in English, like many Indian English speakers, have a high level of success when it comes to reading, writing and vocabulary.

But their spoken English is not always easily comprehensible to American English speakers. In fact, the Indian accent is generally recognized as one of the most difficult for American English speakers to understand.

Three common problems for Indian speakers using American English

Here are 3 common American English pronunciation problems made by English speakers from India:

Indian English

1. Indian English Pronunciation – Strong /d/ sound instead of a /th/ sound

You probably tend to use a heavy /d/ sound instead of the voiced th sound in words including; the, there, mother & brother.

2. Indian English Pronunciation – /v/ & /w/ sounds

If you do not differentiate between the /v/ sound &  the /w/ sound in words like we, will, went & where, your English will be very difficult for Americans to understand.

3. Indian English Pronunciation – Syllable stress and vowel length

One very important area of concern is the way you use syllable stress when pronouncing American English words.

Non standard use of syllable stress is a primary cause of confusion and misunderstanding.

In my years of accent reduction coaching, I’ve noticed that the root cause of many communication problems for Indian English speakers is due to incorrect syllable stress and vowel length.

Indian English speakers frequently stress the wrong syllables in words.

When this happens, it makes it very, very difficult for American English speakers to understand what you are saying.

Examples

These are common words that Indian English speakers usually stress incorrectly. Click the word to hear the standard stress and pronunciation.

What can you do to learn the correct sounds & patterns?

If you are an Indian English speaker who feels like you are not communicating clearly, and you want to communicate in a manner that will enhance your career success, you’ll probably want to make some changes in your pronunciation.

American English Pronunciation and Accent Reduction

An excellent way to start improving is to sign up for a personal evaluation of your English Pronunciation, and then enroll in an American English Pronunciation course. If you choose to take this course with Confidence Learning Services, your evaluation is absolutely free, and you can access live, one-on-one instruction with a highly-qualified instructor anywhere via Skype. You’ll learn proven methods for communicating more clearly in American English, and most speakers see a 50-80% improvement in just 12 weeks.

Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your pronunciation evaluation.

 

New English Pronunciation Course Options from Confidence Learning Services

Knoxville Accent Reduction

English Pronunciation Courses to better fit your lifestyle

Here at Confidence Learning Services, we enjoy being the premier provider of language and accent reduction services in the Knoxville area, and part of what makes us stand out is our flexibility. If you are interested in a course that lasts 6 weeks or 6 months, we can arrange that for you. However, we also have some pre-planned courses that we recommend to our clients. We’ve recently developed some new course options that we think will better serve our clients. Take a look at our new options:

Accent reduction Knoxville

 

Comprehensive Accent Reduction

Some clients will need to invest a little more time in their pronunciation practice in order to communicate as clearly as they would like. If you regularly have to repeat yourself to make yourself understood, feel that your career has been impacted or limited by your pronunciation, or avoid certain situations because of your struggles with pronunciation, this course is likely for you. Also, if you have previously tried other accent reduction programs without success, this may be the best course option for you.

Confidence Accent Reduction

Most of our clients can demonstrate 50-80% improvement in their accent in just 12 weeks, which is precisely what this course offers. If you occasionally have to repeat yourself to make yourself understood, or notice that people focus primarily on your accent instead of what you have to say, this is a good course to consider.

English Pronunciation Mini Course

Maybe you aren’t ready to commit to one of the longer courses just yet, and just want to try out a few courses, or perhaps you have an important speech or presentation to deliver. We’re happy to help you achieve a very targeted goal in just 3-weeks with this mini-course. This is a good option for someone who just wants to brush up, or is interested in sampling the lessons before committing to a longer course.

And of course, don’t forget about our free, sixty-minute evaluation. 

We’ll conduct an in-depth evaluation of all of the sounds in the English language, as well as a few key skills in this evaluation. We’ll also discuss your personal goals, and you get undivided one-on-one attention from a highly qualified instructor – for free! There’s no obligation to continue if you decide the course isn’t right for you.

Don’t wait any longer to take advantage of these new course offerings. Contact Confidence Learning Services at 1-865-226-9477 to sign up today.

 

 

3 Major Korean Pronunciation Errors in English

Korean English Pronunciation

If you wish to be understood clearly in English, then avoiding these typical Korean pronunciation errors when speaking in English is a must.

At Confidence Learning Services, we work with clients from many countries, including Korea, to help them improve their communication skills in English. Korea is a beautiful country, and Korean is one of few east Asian languages to have a simple, phonetic alphabet and lack the tonality that make Mandarin or Vietnamese so different from English. However, there are still some typical errors that Korean speakers make when learning English, and making sure that you avoid these mispronunciations is important.

Korean Pronunciation Error #3

Korean English Pronunciation

Some English sounds simply do not exist in Korean, which include many friction sounds such as /f/, /v/, /z/, and /ð/.  Because of this, it can be difficult for Korean speakers to differentiate between these three words. “Live from the newsroom” and “Lies from the newsroom” have two drastically different meanings, so it’s important to avoid this typical Korean pronunciation error.

Korean Pronunciation Error #2

Korean Pronunciation Errors

Korean words never have more than 2 consonants pronounced in one syllable. In this word, there are 3 consonants in a row, followed by a vowel and then two more consonants together. Thus we encounter the resulting Korean pronunciation error. In English, the word ‘Sprint’ is just one syllable, while in Korean it would have three or possibly 4.

Korean Pronunciation Error #1

Korean Accent Reduction

In Korean, consonants are not released unless they are followed by a vowel in the same syllable (eg 맛이 – mashi ), and word final consonants are never released (eg 맛 – mat). Because of this, Koreans learning English often add an extra ‘u’, or ‘i’ vowel to the end of each English word that ends with a consonant.Thus “Fish” may become “Fishy”, a word with a totally different meaning.

Most of our Korean clients enjoy great success in improving their pronunciation and accent, and are able to communicate more clearly and confidently after just one 12 week session.

If you would like to learn more about improving your communication skills in English, contact Confidence Learning Services at 1-865-226-9477 for a free English Pronunciation evaluation. We will assess your pronunciation of every sound in the English language, at no cost or obligation to you, in the convenience of your own home or office via Skype.

Become fluent fast – 10 tips to help you become fluent

accent reduction in knoxville

How can you achieve fluency as quickly as possible?

At Confidence Learning Services, we often meet people who want to become fluent in the language they are learning. Here are 10 tips to help you in that process, no matter what language you are studying!

1. Fluent fast – Immerse yourself

It’s almost impossible to learn a new language, or at least to learn it rapidly, unless you begin thinking in that language. But how do you think in a new language you can’t yet speak?

Ingratiate yourself with the community and you’re halfway there!

The answer is to simply immerse yourself in it. Traveling in a foreign country allows you to continuously hear the sounds, rhythms, and inflections of a new language–spoken on the streets, in buses, on television, etc. Your brain will already start to process and interpret a new language.

Even better than simply traveling is being forced to “operate” in a new language by participating in a volunteer program, or working abroad. Best of all is being completely immersed with locals (such as living with a host family) and completely isolated from other native speakers of your language.

Immerse yourself with the locals, their music, culture, media, politics, sports, family, etc. Ingratiate yourself with the community and you’re halfway there!

2. Fluent fast – Forget translating: think like a baby!

How do babies learn language? Through imitation, repetition of sounds, and above all, by not being shy or self-conscious.

So what if your pronunciation is a little off, or you can’t remember the proper conjugation? Just start talking, even if it seems like babbling. Resisting the urge to translate everything into your native language can be the single fastest shortcut to fluency.

Rather than walking up to the restaurant or giving your host family a pre-memorized phrase for what you’re going to order, simply listen to how the locals order their food, and then imitate them as best you can. The same goes for greetings, small talk, etc. Watch their facial expressions as they say the words; study how they move their mouths.

Copy these expressions and sounds just like a baby would. Whether you understand what they mean exactly or not, eventually you will begin simply calling upon these sounds / phrases / words in appropriate situations. They’ll appear, as if by magic. This is the gateway to thinking in a new language.

3. How do you say?

Besides common greetings, the one phrase you should memorize and always have at the ready is the phrase is “How do you say that / what is that called?”

By being an inquisitive traveler, one who is always asking questions, you befriend the local people. You’ll find that over time they’ll open up to you, making it easier to initiate conversations. These daily interactions with the locals are your best teachers: set a daily goal for yourself of having X number of conversations each day–asking people about things you’re interested in, but don’t know the words for. Even if you can’t finish the conversation, you’re on the way.

4. Fluent fast – Write it down

After having conversations, jot down the things you remembered hearing but didn’t quite understand.

Then go back and use an online dictionary so that you can learn the meaning and the pronunciation. Look up the words, piece the conversation back together in your mind. Then, next time you have a conversation, use what you learned.

5. Fluent fast – Use cognates and draw links

Have you noticed that some words appear exactly the same across various languages? These are called “cognates.” Unlocking the usage of cognates instantly gives you several hundred more words to your vocabulary. For example, most words ending in “ion” in the Latin languages are the same in English.

For example: information / información, donation / donación

Similarly, words across different languages often share the same root word, so drawing on what you already know will make it easier (e.g.: cheese is fromage in French and fromaggio in Italian). Studies have also shown that when you have mastered a second language, your brain becomes becomes better wired to learn subsequent new languages.

Next Five Tips >>

Why is English so hard to pronounce? English Phonology

English so hard to pronounce

At Confidence Learning Services, we readily admit that English is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. While there are many rules in the English language about how words are pronounced, there are also quite a few exceptions and areas where particular rules do not apply. Understanding these tricky areas will help you to be more successful in communicating in English. For native speakers, understanding these areas will help you to be more sensitive to the plight of those who speak English as a second langauge.

Five Aspects that make English so hard to pronounce

English is a difficult language to pronounce. Depending on your language background, you will likely find various parts of the “phonology” or sounds of English complicated or extremely difficult to master.

Areas that are considered to be the most complex or confusing include:

  • Stress on words
  • Vowel and consonant sounds
  • Combined sounds
  • Physical attributes
  • Translation between languages

Stress on Words

In English, words that are spelled identically are stressed differently depending on their meaning. For example, with the word “record,” there is a different stress based on whether we wish to refer to the noun of a piece of music media or to the verb for the actual act of registering or putting in writing a piece of information or saving a piece of music.

This might seem overwhelming at first, although understanding that nouns tend to be stressed on the first syllable, and verbs tend to be stressed on the last syllable does help with the learning process.

Therefore, English language learners cannot simply base the pronunciation of a word on what they see. They also need to learn to look for contextual clues around that word, in order to determine the correct way to pronounce it.

Vowel and Consonant Sounds

English language learners need to distinguish between vowels and consonants, a fairly easy task. However, students must then begin studying the different English vowel sounds. Although there are about 12 vowel sounds and various diphthongs, there are only 5 “written” vowels, meaning the spelling of words is rarely phonetic, and one written vowel can represent several different sounds. For example:

  • The vowel “a” makes a very different sound in the words “bake”, “small” and “apple.”
  • Consonants can change a bit as well. A “t” in the word “tackle” is very different in sound from a “t” in the word “water” and “s” in “docks” sounds different from “s” in “dogs.”

The pronunciation of vowel and consonant sounds vary with the word in which they are used.

Combined “Digraph” Sounds

Sometimes when consonants come together, the pronunciation gets confusing. A non-native speaker would see “t” and “h” and want to pronounce those sounds separately. However, they come together to create a blended digraph sound. Another example of this is when the letters “c” and “k” come together in words as a back, rack, pack, tackle, and so forth.

The person learning English might initially see these two letters as distinct, when they really represent a single sound.

Physical Attributes of English sounds

The way in which people speak is, of course, related to physical properties of the mouth region. For example, there are some words which absolutely require speakers to put both of their lips together in order to produce the sound, (like “b” or “p”) while other sounds require sticking the tongue through the teeth (like “th”). While it seems natural to a native speaker, to learners many of these sounds require awkward mouth positions and tongue movements, a sort of yoga for the mouth.

Translation Between Languages

Often when you try to learn a sound in a new language, you look for a sound in your native language to compare it to. However, there is rarely a one-to-one correspondence between English and a learner’s background language. For example, the sounds of “th” and “v” do not exist in many languages. Therefore, learners cannot pronounce these sounds by comparing them to their native language. Often, they find a similar – but not identical – sound in their language, so that “th” becomes “f” and “v” becomes “w.”

Practice and Repetition

The only way that English pronunciation can improve is with practice and repetition. Changing pronunciation habits is very different from learning new vocabulary. Knowing “how” to pronounce a word is very different from actually pronouncing it clearly every time.

Learn more – sign up for your free English Pronunciation Assessment from Confidence Learning Services today, and you’ll get an in-depth evaluation of your pronunciation of every sound in the English language. Contact us at 1-865-226-9477 to sign up.

6 English Words that Chinese Speakers mispronounce

Knoxville Chinese English

Which English words are most difficult for Chinese Speakers to pronounce?

Recently, Confidence Learning Services featured some of the most commonly mispronounced English words, when spoken by Spanish-speakers. Of course, Spanish-speakers are not the only ones learning English, so we decided to do another round of mispronounced words, this time focusing on words that Chinese-Speakers mispronounce.

Since there are millions of Chinese-speakers who have studied English, this topic is important for many people. English is a very difficult language to pronounce, and perhaps one of the most difficult languages for Chinese-speakers to learn (but also one of the most popular). Through our advanced English Pronunciation courses, tips and videos on Accent Reduction, we have helped many Chinese-speakers communicate more clearly in English. Our courses are personalized for each client (meaning we plan our lessons based on an in-depth, one-on-one evaluation with you), but there are some aspects of English pronunciation that are difficult for almost all Chinese-speakers.

“Standard Chinese” has around 6 vowels, while English has around 12. This difference makes differentiating between English vowels very difficult for Chinese-speakers. Also, common English sounds, like voiced fricatives and affricates (“v” “th” “z” “j”) do not exist in Chinese.  These result in some common pronunciation difficulties, so let’s take a closer look at the Top 11 English words that Chinese-speakers mispronounce when trying to learn English.

6. Very/Wary

The problem here is the /v/ sound, which is a voiced fricative. Most Chinese speakers struggle to get the correct position (top teeth touching bottom lip) and maintaining friction and voicing long enough to make a true /v/ sound, which makes “very” sound like “wary.” But the words have two very different meanings.

5. Seen/Sing

knoxville chinese english

Word-final nasal sounds (like /n/ and /ŋ/) are much shorter in Chinese than in English. As a result, English-speakers may not be able to identify which sound is being produced, if any at all, at the end of the word.

4. Ship/Sheep

We mentioned this pair previously as difficult for Spanish-speakers, but it is also difficult for Chinese-speakers for the same reason, because of the differences between Chinese vowels and English vowels. Chinese-speakers tend to replace the relaxed “i” /I/ with a tense “e” /i/, making it “sheep”. Chinese-speakers often make vowel sounds tense, or “long,” and confuse pairs of “short” and “long” English vowel sounds like “ship” and “sheep” both in comprehension and speaking.

knoxville spanish accent

Just imagine how this works for “sheet” and …

3. Usually

Perhaps because this word features several difficult sounds – the “L” /l/ sound, which is sometimes pronounced by Chinese-speakers to sound more like an “R,” the voiced fricative /ʒ/ sound represented by the “s” in this word, and the various vowel sounds in the word.

2. Sink/Think

In English, our letters “th” represent a sound made with the tongue between the teeth. However, this sound is very difficult for Chinese-speakers to pronounce, so it is often replaced with an “s” sound. But if you say “I sink” instead of “I think” your listeners will definitely have a different picture in their minds!

1. Dark/Dock

This is a common mispronunciation for many Chinese-speakers learning English.That’s because r-vowels (ar, er, ir, or, ur) are typically pronounced without the strong “r” sound that Americans use. This pronunciation can be even more difficult for Chinese-speakers who have studied British pronunciation, in which these sounds are not produced.

Knoxville Chinese English

Are you guilty of any of these? Have you heard any of these before? Chinese-speakers can learn to speak English fluently, and master the American Accent, by starting with a free consultation or assessment! Contact us at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free session with a language instructor today.

11 English Words that Spanish-speakers Mispronounce

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

Which words are most difficult for Spanish Speakers to pronounce?

At Confidence Learning Services, we freely admit that English is a difficult language to pronounce. That’s why we offer advanced English Pronunciation courses and offer tips and videos on Accent Reduction. While our English Pronunciation courses are personalized (meaning we plan our lessons based on an in-depth, one-on-one evaluation with you), there are some aspects of English pronunciation that are difficult for almost all Spanish language speakers.

Spanish has 5 pure vowels and 5 diphthongs. Vowel length is not significant in distinguishing between words. However, English,  has 12 pure vowel sounds and 8 diphthongs. The length of the vowel sound plays an important role. It is not surprising, therefore, that Spanish background learners may have great difficulty in producing or even perceiving the various English vowel sounds.

Let’s take a closer look at the Top 11 English words that Spanish-speakers mispronounce when trying to learn English.

11. Breakfast/Brefas

A simple word (for native English speakers) like ‘breakfast’ is tough for Spanish-speakers, who struggle with consonant clusters. Spanish-speakers will often pronounce it ‘brefas’ and omit the ‘k’ and the final ‘t’ because they are attached to another consonant.

10. Teeth/Teet

Some people have trouble mastering the “th” sound on words like “teeth.” (For fun, try speaking “teeth” without  the “th” sound. Oops, You might not want to try that out loud!)

Knoxville English Spanish Accent Reduction

9. Ship/Sheep

Another one of these English words where the relaxed “i” /I/ tends to get replaced with a tense “e” /i/, making it “sheep”. Spanish-speakers often make vowel sounds tense, or “long,” and confuse pairs of “short” and “long” English vowel sounds like “ship” and “sheep” both in comprehension and speaking.

knoxville spanish accent

Just imagine how this works for “sheet” and …

8. Joke/Yolk or Jess/Yes

In most Spanish dialects, the sounds for English letter “J” /dʒ/ and English letter “Y” /j/ are allophones, meaning that they can subsitute for one another. So the Spanish word “ella” can be pronounced with either sound. Thus, it can be difficult for Spanish-speakers to learn to differentiate between the two sounds. Many people who speak Spanish pronounce the letter J like the letter Y, or pronounce the letter Y like the letter J.

So, if you tell someone: “That is a funny joke”,  and if you mispronounce the “J”, “joke” will sound like “yolk” (meaning the yellow part of an egg), which is difficult to understand. Likewise, if you pronounce the “Y” as “J” and say “Yes I do”, then “Yes” sounds like “Jess” and someone may think you are speaking to someone named Jess.

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

7. Focus/F***us

In English, our letter “O” is actually a diphthong, /oʊ/. The key to saying this correctly is remembering to make the “o” a long one, with the lips closing down throughout the sound. Many however replace the long “o” with “uh”, making it “fuhcus”. Look at that word again. “Ladies and gentlemen, if there’s one thing I want you to do today, it’s “f***us!” You may get in trouble for that one!

6. Kitchen/Chicken

This is a common mispronunciation for many English learners and not just Spanish-speakers. While learning English, some speakers say “chicken” instead of “kitchen”. To make it clear, we usually prepare chicken in a kitchen.

5. Ask/Aks/Axe

Spanish-speakers while learning English often mispronounce “ask” as “axe.” So, if you say : ‘You don’t have to axe me why’, it certainly doesn’t mean what you want to say!

Spanish Speakers Can't Pronounce

What were you thinking of?

 

4. Fifth/Fiss

Particularly when it comes to final consonant clusters in English, Spanish-speakers can suffer both from adding extra syllables (e.g. three syllables for “advanced” with the final “e” pronounced) and swallowing sounds to make it match the desired number of syllables (e.g. “fifths” sounding like “fiss”). With words that are similar in Spanish and English, they can also often try to make the English word match the Spanish number of syllables.

3. Comma/Coma

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

Perhaps more importantly, they can also have problems with the two closest sounds to an “o” sound in “not” , making “comma” and “coma” difficult to distinguish.

2. Pull/Pool

Most Spanish-speakers have difficulty distinguishing between /uː/ and /ʊ/. While /uː/ is very similar to the Spanish letter “u“, it is actually long, or “tense”. /ʊ/ is considered “short” or “lax,” without the tightly-rounded lips.  It’s important to note that pull and pool are not homophones.

1. Stop/Estop

Spanish Speakers Mispronounce

Yes, there are accent differences, but there are also a few common pronunciation mistakes Spanish learners of English can make. Some tend to want to add an “e” to the beginning of words that start with ‘s’ followed by a consonant, making the word stop sound like “estop”.

So, have you heard any of these before? Are you guilty of any of these? Spanish-speakers can learn to speak English fluently, and master the American Accent, by starting with a free consultation or assessment! Contact us at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free session with a language instructor today.

Who learns languages best?

learn portuguese

What type of person makes the best language learner?

Recently, one of my clients in Knoxville, Tennessee asked me what traits our most successful clients at Confidence Learning Services had in common. I thought this was a fantastic question, so I figured I would share my observations. I’m not here to tell you whether men or women, Americans or Chinese, or doctors or engineers make the best students, but I hope the following observations will help you

5. People who learn languages best communicate with native speakers regularly.

This might be great news for you if you want to improve your accent, and you are the only one at work who is not a native English speaker. However, it might be difficult news for you if you are practicing English in a town in which not even the teachers are native speakers, or if you are in Knoxville, Tennessee trying to learn a language like Romanian. This principle holds true even if you are living in an English speaking country, but most of your interactions (with coworkers, family and friends) are with non-native English speakers, even if you usually communicate in English. The good news is, native speakers are just a computer screen away with many websites devoted to finding language partners. Additionally, if you really make an effort, you may be surprised at what you find in your own town. For example, even in Knoxville, Tennessee, there is a Romanian church that would probably provide great opportunities for language practice if you decided to get involved. But speaking with native speakers usually requires you to be…

4. People who learn languages best are outgoing.

That may seem harsh, if you are an introvert, and it’s actually a bit deceiving. You see, people who are outgoing will produce more language output. That means they will produce more correct output, and more errors, than introverts. However, errors are some of our best learning opportunities, and if you refuse to take a chance on what you think might be the word you need to use, you will never know if you were right or wrong. If you are outgoing, you will make a mistake and learn right away. So force yourself to come out of your shell a little bit, (yes, research shows a little alcohol helps). Say hi to people in the community. After all, you are learning a language so that you can communicate with others, right?

spanish class in knoxville tn

3. People who learn languages best take advantage of every opportunity.

That means they go above and beyond their assigned practice. Sure, these students complete their pronunciation practice to learn the difficult English “th” sounds, but then they listen for that sound when they are speaking with friends. They watch for that sound while watching TV at night, and they repeat words with that sound when they hear them on the radio. If you are studying Spanish, you might start reading the Spanish list of ingredients on your food packages, or paying closer attention to signs that you see on the street in Spanish, or turn on the Spanish radio (yes, there are Spanish radio stations in most US cities, even one in Knoxville). Everything is a lesson to be learned.

2. People who learn languages best practice – a lot.

Yes, it sounds obvious, and while the majority of students do practice, you might be surprised at how many clients I have had who sign up for an Accent Reduction, English, or Spanish course but then do not complete the assigned practice. Some clients truly did not have the time in their schedule to make the commitment when taking into account work and other demands in their lives. Others simply chose not to practice, or to practice something else that they deemed more beneficial or interesting, rather than follow the prescribed practice. I usually recommend an hour of practice each day. Without fail, my clients who have demonstrated the most improvement have practiced more than an hour a day.

bilingual kid

And you’re never too young to get those practice hours in.

 

1. People who learn languages best know that attitude is everything.

The common attitudes I see among successful language learners are, “If others can learn this language, so can I.” and “What’s left to learn?” It’s important to remember that it is possible to learn English, Spanish, improve your Accent, or whatever your goal may be. After all, thousands of people have already done so, why can’t you?

It’s also important to remember that there is always more to learn, even in our native languages. We can always improve and grow, and as long as you keep this in mind, you aren’t likely to hit a road-block in your language learning experience.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful language learner? Contact Confidence Learning Services today to try out a free, one-on-one consultation in English, Spanish or Accent Reduction.

American English Pronunciation of the Letter “T” – 4 Ways

knoxville english spanish accent reduction

Four different ways to pronounce the letter “Tt”

Like most native English speakers, I used to think that the letter “T” was one of our easier letters to pronounce. We don’t teach children in elementary school to change the pronunciation much, except for when “t” occurs together with “h”. The American English pronunciation of this letter seems to be easy – no “i before e” or “silent letter” phenomenon here, I thought. In fact, if you ask most American English speakers what the 4 different pronunciations of the letter “T” are, they probably won’t be able to tell you! But they will notice when you don’t pronounce those different versions – or “allophones” – of the letter “T.”

In this video, I highlight the 4 different, most common pronunciations of the letter “T.” They are:

1. American English Pronuciation – Normal “T” sound /t/

2. American English Pronuciation – Quick “D” sound /t̬/

3. American English Pronuciation – Glottal stop /ʔ/

4. American English Pronuciation – Omitted/Deleted sound

Choosing which sound to produce depends entirely upon the surrounding context of the letter “T”, either within the word or in connecting words. Which sound comes before and which sound comes after the letter “T” determines which sound should be produced.

Of course, there are even more possible pronunciations of letter “T.”  There are specific letter combinations, like the “th” /θ/ I mentioned previously, as well as the /ʃ/ in the “tion” words like “motion.” And there are the exceptions of borrowed words like “buffet” as well. But the four sounds we focus on in this video are general rules, not just specific letter combinations or exceptions.

Because the sounds are allophones, meaning they are all acceptable variations of a single sound, you probably won’t confuse anyone by using the wrong one. However, you will sound less fluent and less like a native speaker if you use the wrong pronunciation. So if you want to sound more natural, study and practice these sounds!

Native English speakers might not be able to name all of the allophones of “T”, but they will recognize if they are being pronounced correctly or incorrectly.
If you want to communicate clearly, confidently, and professionally with native English speakers, consider an advanced English Pronunciation course from Confidence Learning Services. We’ll give you a free assessment to start out with, and then tailor our instruction to your personal needs and learning style. Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 for more info.