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. 

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.

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

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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.

Concerns about Accent Reduction and English Pronunciation Training

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Despite the fact that personalized Accent Reduction training is the best way to improve your English pronunciation, many people still have concerns about signing up, and most of those concerns are very valid. Let’s take a look at the top 5 concerns about enrolling in an Accent Reduction / English Pronunciation Training course.

I’m concerned that Accent Reduction won’t help me improve my English Pronunciation at all.

This is an incredibly important question to ask and consider, before you dedicate a lot of time and resources to a program. Will it work?

Perhaps you’ve already completed a DVD or CD course with little success. Maybe you know a friend who has spoken English twice as long as you, and still speaks with an accent. Or perhaps you think the claims just sound too good to be true. No matter what your reasons are, it’s important to choose a course that is research based and has a proven track record of success.

Fortunately, at Confidence Learning Services, we take your concerns about our Accent Reduction program seriously. We can tell you that most of our clients actually improve 50 to 80 percent after completing a 12 week course. Not only that, but we will give you a detailed analysis of your speech before and after the course, and a before and after recording as well. If you’re still concerned, we’ll be happy to provide you with a list of references to contact.

I’m concerned that Accent Reduction will help me improve my English Pronunciation – too much!

Perhaps you’re not concerned about being successful in an Accent Reduction course, but being too successful.

Many people tie their accents to their personal and cultural identity, and they don’t want to surrender that. It’s understandable. You may be concerned about what would happen if you opened your mouth and instead of your voice, you heard a voice that sounded like Matt Lauer or Gayle King.

Fortunately, there are many qualities that make up your voice besides your accent. Your tone of voice, and your rate of speech are just two factors that aren’t necessarily accent related. The specific words you use regularly also contribute to your individual speech style. Even if you change your accent completely, your voice will still be your own.

Let’s consider an example. Say you know someone who regularly mispronounces one word – they may say, “Leave” instead of “live”, as in, “I leave in Knoxville.” If they corrected that one mispronunciation, they wouldn’t be losing their identity, and you would still recognize their voice. This is what we are doing in Accent Reduction, but on a grander scale.

 I’m concerned that a personalized Accent Reduction course will take too much time

Accent Reduction Knoxville

These days, everyone’s calendar is filled and time is at a premium. Will you really have time to be successful at Accent Reduction?

At Confidence Learning Services, we recommend you plan to practice about 60 minutes a day during the 3 months that the course takes place. This, combined with your 60-90 minute weekly session, should be enough for you to see drastic improvement. If you skimp on practice, expect to see less impressive results. However, if you dedicate extra time to practice, you can hope for better progress.

After your 12 weeks, we recommend continued practice, but at a less intensive pace.

While 60 minutes a day is a serious commitment, you will be able to see results in as little as 12 weeks. The time commitment for improved English pronunciation is intensive, but short-term. We strongly recommend you take that into consideration before you sign up. However, if you’re serious about improving your accent, we hope you’ll find the time in your schedule.

I’m concerned that improving my English Pronunciation will cost too much.

Again, another valid concern. Some Accent Reduction courses run over $2000 for a 12-week course, and you may not even get one-on-one attention from an instructor.

Fortunately, there’s some good news. Confidence Learning Services’ Accent Reduction courses are more affordable than the industry average, and we offer convenient payment plans.

Although Accent Reduction is a short term expense, it’s important to weigh that against the longer term benefits. Improving your English Pronunciation may result in clearer communication with your co-workers, boss, clients, or potential employers. Investing in an Accent Reduction course now may pay off with promotions, new accounts, or new job opportunities in the future.

Additionally, many employers subsidize or pay entirely for their employees’ Accent Reduction training. You may wind up owing nothing for your course!

Free Seminar

You can get an in-depth evaluation for free.

 

Did we address your concerns? Or do you still have reservations about signing up for an Accent Reduction course? Give us a try by requesting your free, face-to-face pronunciation evaluation. There’s no obligation, we won’t ask you for any payment information, and you’ll get personalized attention from an accent coach. Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to learn more.

Chinese Speakers – Improve Your American English Accent

improve your american english accent

Is Chinese Your First Language? Common Pronunciation Problems You Might Face

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

Words and sentences in most spoken Chinese dialects 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 Chinese speakers face when learning English, you can evaluate your own English pronunciation and see how well you speak with an American accent.

To improve your American English accent, learn about linking!

Chinese speakers who have learned English often fail to link words. They tend to separate words through the use of pauses or the insertion of additional sounds at the ends of words. This makes their speech sound very “disconnected” or “choppy.”

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).

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 pronouncing the “th” sounds /ð/ /θ/

The fact that the English letter combination can be pronounced two ways, voiced (with vibration in the throat and vocal chords) and unvoiced (with no vocal chord vibration) doesn’t help that it is an already difficult sound.

Both of these sounds involve the tongue coming out between the teeth and making a continuous sound that can be held out for several seconds if necessary. The air should not be completely stopped, but there should be constant friction between the tongue and the teeth. Chinese speakers often substitute /t/, /d/, or /f/ for these sounds.

To see if you’re pronouncing the English “th” sound correctly, it’s best to look at yourself in the mirror as you pronounce words like “that” “other” “three” and “thing”. If you can see the tongue coming out between the teeth, you know you are probably pronouncing those sounds correctly. Additionally, you should feel some friction, vibration, or tingling in the tongue as you say these sounds.

It’s not enough to say these sounds correctly in front of a mirror by yourself. If you really want to improve your American English accent, correct pronunciation must be used in your regular speech. Try saying the sentence, “Get those other three things, please.” Focus on using correct pronunciation as you pronounce this sentence. Then, you can focus on pronouncing this sound clearly in your regular speech.

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. Chinese speakers often pronounce word-initial /r/ and /w/. This can lead to confusion between words like “right” and “white.” Chinese 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

Due to the varying pronunciation problems that exist when learning English as a Chinese speaker, and the small differences that differentiate letters, 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 Chinese 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. 

6 Steps to Better English Pronunciation

improve your american english accent

Is learning pronunciation just like learning new vocabulary?

A lot of people want to improve their English pronunciation, but they don’t understand that improving their pronunciation is very different from learning new vocabulary. When you learn a new vocabulary word, you just memorize it and you’re done. You learn that “table” is the furniture that you serve dinner on. That’s it. Just remember it and you’re done.

But even if you memorize exactly where to place your tongue to pronounce “th” or “r” correctly, you won’t necessarily walk away pronouncing that sound correctly 100% of the time.

Why? Because pronunciation is a result of muscle memory. It’s much more like learning how to play a sport, or learning a new musical instrument, than learning a new word. How do you learn to play the piano? Or become a start soccer place?  Practice, practice, and practice some more.

Great! But perhaps you’ve been listening to the same pronunciation CD for the past 5 years, and people still ask you to repeat yourself. You might not be practicing correctly. At Confidence Learning Services, we go through certain steps in order to help you improve your pronunciation. In order to learn any new pronunciation sound, you have to complete the following process:

Step 1 to better English Pronunciation: Listen.

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Can you tell the difference between “leave” and “live”? “Bit” and “bet”? Which word has the “short i” sound? If you cannot identify the sound when you hear it, you will struggle to pronounce it.

Step 2 to better English Pronunciation: Make the sound.

You must be able to pronounce a difficult sound by itself, before you pronounce it within a word. You will find some sounds easy to pronounce, as soon you realize what you’re doing incorrectly. It can be helpful to get an in-depth Pronunciation Evaluation, in order to identify those problem sounds. Other sounds might be more difficult, even when you know what you’re doing wrong. This is where a trained Accent and Pronunciation professional can be helpful in guiding you to correct pronunciation.

Step 3 to better English Pronunciation: Single Words.

If you can say the sound correctly, now try it in different words and contexts. Pronounce, “little” “love” and “life” if you’re working on /l/, for example.

Step 4 to better English Pronunciation: Sentences and Paragraphs

Now let’s put those tricky words into sentences, and then move to paragraphs. You can look for specific paragraphs written to pronounce a single sound, or you can even practice with paragraphs from news articles that will probably contain the sounds that you’re practicing.

Step 5 to better English Pronunciation: Regular Conversation

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Great! You can read sentences and paragraphs that contain your problem sound, pronouncing it correctly most of the time. Now you need to use these new skills in conversation, which can be difficult, since you are typically focused on what you are saying when you are having a conversation, rather than pronunciation.

Putting these skills into practice is like playing your first soccer game. You’ve practice running, and kicking, and can shoot penalty kicks, but putting all these together in the chaos of a game is difficult.

Managing all of your new pronunciation skills takes a lot of focus. Don’t be dismayed if you make mistakes at first.  The more you practice, the more automatic your skills become.

Step 6 to better English Pronunciation: Repeat

You likely won’t master a new sound in the first day of practice, or on your first try. Even if you can say the sound correctly during your practice, chances are the next day you will revert to your old habits without practice. This is because changing your pronunciation is a habit that takes time. So each day, repeat these same steps. It will take a week or two to master each new sound.

If you are serious about improving your communication and English Pronunciation, contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free Skype or in-person English Pronunciation Evaluation. We’ll complete an in-depth analysis of your pronunciation of all sounds of the English language, identify which sounds you need to improve, and use that information to design a personalized, 12-week course just for you.

Improving your English as a Native Spanish Speaker

Is Spanish Your First Language? Common Pronunciation Problems You Might Face

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

accent reduction in knoxville

Words and sentences in Spanish 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.

When learning English, 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 Spanish speakers face when learning English, you can evaluate your own English pronunciation and see how well you speak with an American accent.

Pronouncing the “th” sounds /ð/ /θ/

The fact that the English letter combination can be pronounced two ways, voiced (with vibration in the throat and vocal chords) and unvoiced (with no vocal chord vibration) doesn’t help that it is an already difficult sound.

Both of these sounds involve the tongue coming out between the teeth and making a continuous sound that can be held out for several seconds if necessary. The air should not be completely stopped, but there should be constant friction between the tongue and the teeth.

Because this is an awkward sound to make (sticking the tongue out of the mouth feels a little weird!), Spanish speakers often substitute /t/ for the unvoiced “th” /θ/ sound and a /d/ for the voiced “th” /ð/ sound. Thus, the English words “that” and “other” are often pronounced as “dat” and “oder” and the English words “three” and “thing” are pronounced as “tree” and “ting.

To see if you’re pronouncing the English “th” sound correctly, it’s best to look at yourself in the mirror as you pronounce words like “that” “other” “three” and “thing”. If you can see the tongue coming out between the teeth, you know you are probably pronouncing those sounds correctly. Additionally, you should feel some friction, vibration, or tingling in the tongue as you say these sounds.

It’s not enough to say these sounds correctly in front of a mirror by yourself. Your correct pronunciation must be used in your speech. Try saying the sentence, “Get those other three things, please.” Focus on using correct pronunciation as you pronounce this sentence. Then, you can focus on pronouncing this sound clearly in your regular speech.

S-blend Pronunciation

In English, we often pronounce many consonants together at once, which is different from Spanish pronunciation. As a result, Spanish speakers tend to insert extra vowel sounds in their words. This is especially problematic for words that begin with “s” followed by another consonant (sp-, sl-, st-, sk-, sp-, etc.).

As a result, Spanish speakers usually pronounce words like “spit” as “espit” or “slide” as “eslide.”

English pronunciation

To see if you’re pronouncing these words correctly, try saying the word “stop.” Place your hand on your neck, and pay close attention to the vibration that you feel, repeating the word several times. If you feel vibration at the beginning of the word, or if you feel your vibration turning off and on again within the word, you know that you are not pronouncing the word correctly. You should not feel any vibration in the neck until you say the “o” sound.

To practice this sound in context, practice saying the sentence, “Please speak to your son about screaming and slapping the other students.”

Pronunciation of Final Consonant Blends

Similarly, English combines many consonants at the end of words, and this can be difficult as well.

Thus, words like “tired” may be pronounced “tire”, “hold” is pronounced “hole” and “last” is pronounced “last.”

To see if you’re pronouncing these sounds clearly, record yourself saying the following sentence combinations:

“I watched a lot of TV/ I watch a lot of TV”

“I cleaned the house/I clean the house”

“You added an extra sound/You add an extra sound.”

Can you hear a clear difference between the first sentence and second sentence in each pair? If not, you’re not pronouncing those consonant blends correctly.

To practice these sounds, try saying two words together, like “feel down”, and then gradually eliminate more and more of the word “down” so you are saying “field”, still retaining a clear /d/ sound.

Due to the varying pronunciation problems that exist when learning English as a Spanish speaker, and the small differences that differentiate letters, 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 Spanish 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 pronunciation 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. 

English Mispronunciation – Which Words Aren’t You Getting Right?

English Mispronunciation

Chances are, if you’re speaking English, it’s not your first language.

That’s right, English has around 400 million native speakers, but a whopping 1.5 billion people speak English as a second language.

English Mispronunciation

Percentage English Speakers by Country. You’re probably not facebook friends with all of them, though.

 

Which means, chances are, if you’re speaking English, there are some words that you may be mispronouncing. And in fact, you probably don’t even notice that you are mispronouncing these words, because you use them dozens of times a day. No, we’re not talking about words like “pusillanimous” or even “Chthonian“.

We’re talking about the most commonly mispronounced words found in the top 100 words in the English language. Here at Confidence Learning Services, we find that most people think that these words are easy, because they’re only 3-5 letters long. But in reality, you may be saying these words incorrectly ten, twenty, even fifty times a day. Let’s take a look.

English Mispronunciation – work

– There’s no /o/ sound in the word, despite the misleading “or” spelling.

-“Work” has the same sound as “were” “sure” “her” or “word” (another one you’re probably mispronouncing).

Pronunciation Tip: Tighten the lips for the /w/ sound, and immediately place your tongue in the high, back position necessary for an /r/ sound. It may be easier to imagine it spelled like, “wrk” since there is nothing between the /w/ and /r/ sounds.

English Mispronunciation – come

– The vowel represented by the letter “o” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

– Rhymes with “some” (another tricky word) but not with “home.”

Pronunciation Tip: Keep the tip of the tongue touching the back of the bottom-front teeth, and keep the tongue as flat as possible, even pushing the back of the tongue down into the throat to make it flatter.

English Mispronunciation – other

– The vowel represented by the letter “o” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

– The “th”, is voiced /ð/ (meaning that there will be vibration in the throat). Be careful not to replace this sound with a /d/ /v/ or /z/ sound.

Pronunciation Tip: Pronounce a flat /ʌ/ vowel, then place the tongue between the teeth and vibrate continuously to make the /ð/ sound. Last, go right back into that “r” sound, bunching the back of the tongue very high and tight in the back of the mouth.

English Mispronunciation – what

– The /h/ sound in this word is unnecessary. Some American speakers (including me!) include the /h/ sound in “wh-” words, but most do not.

English Mispronunciation

But I’ve been carrying around this extra “h” all day!

– The vowel represented by the letter “a” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

Pronunciation Tip: To make the vowel sound correctly, keep the tip of the tongue touching the back of the bottom-front teeth, and keep the tongue as flat as possible, even pushing the back of the tongue down into the throat to make it flatter.

English Mispronunciation – with

– The letter “i” in “with” represents the relaxed /I/ sound in “it” and “if”, not the higher, more tense /i/ sound in “eat” and “sheep”.

– The unvoiced “th” /θ/ sound at the end of this word can be difficult. Practice saying the word in a sentence, like “Come with me” to make sure that you are not replacing this sound with an /s/, /t/, /f/, or removing it entirely.

Pronunciation Tip: The /I/ vowel is one of our most difficult sounds to make in the English language, but you can do it. Start with the tongue high in the mouth, to make the /i/ sound in “eat.” Then, relax the tongue completely and let it drop about half a centimeter to make the more relaxed /I/ sound, before you place the tongue between the teeth to make the /θ/ sound.

English Mispronunciation – this

– The “th”, is voiced /ð/ (meaning that there will be vibration in the throat). Be careful not to replace this sound with a /d/ /v/ or /z/ sound.

– The letter “i” in “this” represents the relaxed /I/ sound in “it” and “if”, not the higher, more tense /i/ sound in “eat” and “sheep”.

Pronunciation tip: Make sure that you voice the “th” sound, which you can check by placing your hand on your neck as you pronounce the word. You should feel vibrations in your neck as you say the /I/ sound. Focus on relaxing the tongue completely and letting it drop about half a centimeter to make the more relaxed /I/ sound.

Last, we have our unvoiced /s/ sound which is usually pretty simple.

English Mispronunciation – was

–  The letter “a” represents the /ʌ/ vowel that is the same as the “u” in “up.”

– The letter “s” represents a voiced /z/ sound.

Pronunciation Tip: It’s better to think of this word as being spelled “wuz,” which is how our grade school students often misspell it! Just like in the word “what,” keep the tip of the tongue touching the back of the bottom-front teeth, and keep the tongue as flat as possible, even pushing the back of the tongue down into the throat to make it flatter to pronounce the /ʌ/ vowel. Check to make sure you are making a voiced /z/ sound by holding your hand against your neck as you say this word.

English Mispronunciation – to

You’ve probably heard that “two” “too” and “to” are all pronounced the same, and it’s true – sort of. The word “to” by itself, or if it is being emphasized in a sentence, is pronounced with the /u/ vowel made by rounding your lips and raising your tongue high in the mouth.

However, most of the time, when this word is used in a sentence, we instead simply say “t” /t/, with very little vowel sound following the /t/ sound. No round lips, no tongue raised in the back.

Pronunciation Tip: Try it in this sentence, “We have to go to the store to pick up some food.” Each time you say the word “to”, your lips should not round- you can check this in the mirror.

English Mispronunciation – of

Probably the word I hear most frequently mispronounced by non-native English speakers! Many people mispronounce this word to sound like the word “off,” but actually:

– The vowel represented by the letter “o” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

– The letter “f” represents a voiced /v/ sound.

English Mispronunciation

Don’t risk sounding like this cartoon character when what you mean to say is “of.”

Pronunciation Tip: Think of this word as spelled “uv” instead. Focus on making a flat /ʌ/ vowel, followed by a voiced /v/. You should feel vibration in your neck as you pronounce both sounds.

For more help with English pronunciation, contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 and we will schedule a free pronunciation evaluation for you via Skype – no obligation, and no payment information needed.

Are there any other words that you hear mispronounced, or that you have trouble pronouncing? Let us know in the comments!

Festivals in Knoxville

Knoxville Asian Fest

Today I want to let you know about three special upcoming festivals in Knoxville.

First Annual Knox Asian Festival

Knoxville Asian Fest

http://knoxasianfestival.com/

Where: Krutch Park, Downtown Knoxville TN

When: Saturday, September 20, 10 a.m – 6 p.m.

Knoxville’s very first Asian festival will feature various performers, including music, Lion Dancing, and Martial Arts. There will be activities including Samurai practice and origami folding. Several vendors will be there, including some great Knoxville Asian food vendors – we’re looking forward to egg rolls! And there will be Door Prizes, with chances to win a $50 gift card, Free Sushi Making class, and more.

Confidence Learning Services will have a language booth at the Knox Asian Festival. We’ll be playing “Guess the Language”, with chances to win prizes for identifying different Asian languages, as well as playing an English language vocabulary game and giving away door prizes. Plus you can sign up in person for our English Pronunciation and Accent Reduction lessons. Stop by and say hi to us!

 

Knoxville Greek Fest

Knoxville Greek Fest

http://greekfesttn.wordpress.com/

Where: Saint George Greek Orthodox Church on Kingston Pike in Bearden

When: September 26th and 27th – 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and September 28th 12:00-6:00.

The 35th annual Greek Festival will feature authentic Greek food (Baklava?Dolmeh? Yes please!), as well as cooking demonstrations. There will be authentic Greek wares such as clothing, ceramics, jewelry, books and icons for sale. Face painting and games will be available for the kids, and there will also be church tours available and dancing.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the Greek Orthodox religion, Greek Culture, and Greek food, and participate in an iconic Knoxville event that has been taking place for decades.

 

HoLa Festival (Hora Latina)

)Knoxville HoLa Festival

http://holafestival.org/events/

Where:  Market Square in Downtown Knoxville

When: Saturday, September 27th – 7p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, September 28th – 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The HoLa festival always takes place during Hispanic Heritage Month, usually near the 15th and 16th of September which are the Independence days for Mexico as well as many Central and South American countries. Musical performances by the Asheville Tango Orchestra, Reverbnation, and Orquesta de Jaime Bonilla, among others, will be featured.

There will be special dance and drama performances, as well as craft activities for the kids and special family activities.

The food at the HoLa festival in Knoxville is so much more than tacos! Cuban Sandwiches and plantains, alteñas, empanadas, cuñape, tres leches, gorditas, and more will be available. Brush up on your Spanish and come hungry!

 

These festivals remind us that the city of Knoxville is so much more than Bluegrass music and the Great Smoky Mountains. We have diverse populations that make various cultural contributions to our city, and remind us of how global East Tennessee is becoming. There are more than 17,000 Spanish Speakers in Knoxville, many of whom are represented at the HoLa festival, and many non-native English speakers represented at all three festivals. Take the time to get out and get to know your community a little more, and we hope you stop by and say hello to Confidence Learning Services at the Knox Asian Festival.

American English Pronunciation Tips and Secrets

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Even if you have spent years in the U.S., people might still pick up on your accent if it doesn’t match Standard American English Pronunciation. Maybe you are tired of repeating yourself several times a day, or perhaps you would just like to avoid the infamous, “Where are you from?” question. Either way, you could definitely benefit from dedicating some time to American English Pronunciation practice. Here are some tips to help you in that process:

Learn to recognize the correct American English Pronunciation

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

The first step in speaking clearly is to listen clearly. Choose a few difficult words and pay attention to how various native speakers say those words – store cashiers, restaurant wait staff, radio DJs or news broadcasters. You might hear some variation among native speakers, but you should hear some of the same qualities in each different pronunciation.

Want to improve your American English Pronunciation? Forget about spelling.

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Unfortunately, American English isn’t written phonetically. This means one letter can make up to 20 different sounds. So spelling is very deceptive! Many people learned to read and write English first, and have memorized the correct spelling of each word. So they think that there is a round /o/ sound in the word “option” because it is spelled with the letter “o”, or that “word” and “bird” cannot rhyme because they are written with different vowels. The best way to learn American English is to close the dictionary, forget about how the word is spelled, and just listen. Try to make the same sounds as the native speaker you are imitating, no matter how the word is spelled.

Find a speech model with good American English Pronunciation.

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Like I mentioned before, there can be some variation among native English speakers, which can be confusing for someone trying to improve their pronunciation. Choose one person to be your “speech model”. This is not a friend or family member, but instead an American celebrity, actor/actress, or other public figure of your same gender. You should choose someone whose voice you enjoy and whom you enjoy watching. Spend a lot of time watching that person on television, or finding short clips of them on YouTube. Pause the video after each sentence and practice repeating the sentence, mimicking the speaker’s attitude, facial expressions, body language, etc. Go back and repeat the process again, until you can “do an impression” or “mimic” your speech model convincingly.

Watch your vowels!

Even though the English alphabet only has 5 written vowels, we have at least 11 spoken vowels in American English. These vowels are always a dead-giveaway for anyone who doesn’t have standard American English Pronunciation. Pay close attention to the vowels in any word you are working on pronouncing.

The words “beat-bit-bait-bet-bat-but-boot-boat-bite-bout” should each have different vowel sounds.

Use the right American English resources.

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Dictionary.com is a great resource for listening to the pronunciation of any given word. Merriam-Webster.com is another. Practice listening to the example pronunciation of the word you are studying, and then record yourself imitating the correct pronunciation

Seek help from an Accent Coach specializing in American English Pronunciation

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Although you can make a lot of progress on your own, you will be much more successful with a trained specialistwho can administer in depth evaluations, make personalized recommendations, and provide live feedback. Confidence Learning Services provides Accent Coaching worldwide via Skype, or on-site in East Tennessee.

 

Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to start out with a complimentary, no-strings attached Accent and Pronunciation Evaluation.