The 100 Most Common Words in English

english knoxville

Although there are plenty of vocabulary resources that we recommend at Confidence Learning Services, not the least of which is the Oxford Picture Dictionary, it’s important to look at the most common words in the English language.

Many of these words are “function” or “grammar” words, meaning they do not have a very concrete meaning but rather serve a grammatical purpose in a sentence. While we cannot attach pictures to these words, they are extremely useful to learn. Once you learn these words, you will be able to recognize, understand, and read a large percentage of the English language. In fact, some people estimate that these 100 words make up about 50% of written and spoken English.

Lists of the “100 Most Common Words in English” are available from a variety of sources, and there are slight variations from list to list. This is because these lists are derived from analyzing different materials from different sources, as no one can accurately analyze all of the written and spoken English in existence.

Unlike most lists, however, this is list is arranged by categories, making it much easier to study and understand these words. We recommend that you study one category at a time. You will likely be surprised by how often you encounter these words each day!

100 Most Common Words

 

Nouns

time person year day way

 

Adjectives

new one two first good
even all other most

 

Adverbs

not no well there
only just then now

 

Articles

the a an some any

 

Conjunctions

but and or so also than because

 

Pronouns

Subject:   

I you he she it we they

Possessive:        

my your his her its our their

 

Object:                

me him us them

Demonstrative:

that this these those

 

Verbs

be have do say know can make like take will* could*
go come think use work want give get look would*

*Auxiliary or other verb forms

Prepositions

to of in for on as at with
from about into out up over back after

 

Question

who what where when why how

 

We hope this list is helpful to you as you are studying English. If you want even more assistance in your English studies, contact Confidence Learning Services today for a completely free English language evaluation. You’ll get to chat one-on-one with a highly qualified instructor about your personal goals and abilities in English. Call us now at 1-865-226-9477.

Why is English so hard to learn?

why is English so hard

Students complain about it, the internet is full of articles about difficult English grammar and spelling, there’s even a poem dedicated to expressing just how difficult English actually is.

So why is English so hard? Many people struggle to express exactly what makes English so hard to learn. Since we deal with the difficulties of English on a day-to-day basis at Confidence Learning Services, we thought we’d outline some of the top difficulties most people have with the language.

What makes English so hard? English spelling.

As the poem points out, there are several different ways to pronounce the “ough” syllable, as in, “through”
“dough” and “cough.” But that’s not the only aspect of English spelling that is difficult to master.

Although English has 5 written vowels, (a, e, i, o, u) there are approximately 12 spoken vowels. We say approximately because these vary from region to region. That means that written vowels cannot correspond directly to spoken vowels, and we get all sorts of messy vowel combinations. For example, “oo” may represent the “oo” /u/ in “food” or the “oo” /ʊ/ in “book”. However, “ee” and “ea” may represent the same sounds, in words like “need” and “bead,” or ea may represent a different sound, as in “bread.”

english is so hard

This chart shows the tongue position for just 4 vowels.

In fact, although the English alphabet only has 26 letters, it has 44 spoken sounds. It doesn’t take a linguist or a mathematician to recognize that discrepancy as problematic.

English grammar makes English so hard.

Although English has a couple of things going for it in the grammar department – no pesky genders, no noun declensions – there are a few aspects of grammar that make English difficult.

Let’s look at the past tense. The problems begin when we recognize that the regular past tense “-ed” suffix has one spelling but three possible pronunciations. However, once we have mastered those, we realize that many verbs have irregular past tenses. Of the 18 most common words in the English language, 13 have irregular past tenses.

It’s not just the past tense we have to worry about. Something as simple as the plural is more complicated than it seems. Again we have two common ways of writing the regular plural – adding “-s” or “-es” to the end of the noun. However, we have 3 ways of pronouncing those endings, and again, many mysteriously irregular plural nouns as well, like “man/men” “woman/women” “child/children.”

I’m stressing out about English stress.

why is English so hard

Stress does make English hard, and I’m not referring to the anxiety you may feel when studying. English is a “stress timed” language, meaning syllables in the language may last different amounts of time, but there is perceived to be a fairly constant amount of time (on average) between consecutive stressed syllables.

This means that unstressed syllables between stressed syllables tend to be shortened to fit into the time interval. For example, if two stressed syllables are separated by a single unstressed syllable, as in ‘come for tea‘, the unstressed syllable will be relatively long, while if a larger number of unstressed syllables intervenes, as in ‘come and have some tea’, the unstressed syllables will be shorter.

Many languages are syllable-timed, rather than stress timed, so the idea of shortening syllables is almost incomprehensible to many students.

Those are our top 3 reasons why English is so hard to learn. What about you? What areas of English do you struggle with?

We’d like to make English a little easier for you. With our personalized course schedules, individualized lesson plans, and flexible scheduling, we make it as easy as possible for you to get top quality instruction face-to-face with an expert. Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free English assessment via Skype.

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.

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Become fluent fast – 10 tips to help you become fluent

accent reduction in knoxville

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6. Fluent fast – Local TV, movies, music

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Watch movies, listen to music, sing songs, and browse newspapers and magazines. It’s fun and helps improve your pronunciation and comprehension.

You may struggle when trying to read words in your new language, but watching the subtitles on music videos and trying to sing along will help you learn new words and pronounce them more accurately.

TV Shows, Movies and music are invaluable language learning tools.

7. Fluent fast – Non-verbal cues

Beyond words, observe locals when they talk. Body language is important, as well as appropriate and inappropriate hand gestures. Learning to understand the Indian head bobble while learning Hindi or bowing while studying Japanese, combining body language with a new tongue helps you communicate better.


8. 
Fluent fast – Get emotional!

Emotive experiences often etch impressions onto our memory. Make full use of embarrassing / funny / angry experiences by linking them to the new language.

As a child, when playing with friends and counting in Spanish for hide and seek, I mispronounced the number “veinte.” I don’t even remember how I mispronounced the word, but I remember all my friends laughing at me, and I know the correct pronunciation of all my Spanish numbers now. Make full use of embarrassing / funny / angry experiences by linking them to the new language.

Needless to say, the embarrassment helped correct my pronunciation for good! Similarly, negotiating with shady cab drivers or nasty vendors also helps you learn numbers rather quickly so you don’t get ripped off.

9. Fluent fast – Start with friends, then branch out.

While individual classes can be highly beneficial for unsurpassed attention, group classes with friends can greatly aid learning. Having a friend to practice with helps you get better, and you can also learn from the different mistakes different people make.

On the other hand, venturing out solo in a foreign country forces you to speak with local people–say the person riding next to you on the bus, or standing in line at the market. It also prevents you relying on a friend with stronger language skills to do the talking for you in key exchanges such as asking for directions or buying food.


10. Practice at every opportunity before and after you travel.

Ever felt really “rusty” and lacking confidence in a language despite having taken classes or used it (or even mastered it) at some other time in your life? Languages are alive and require exercise. Find avenues to practice wherever and whenever you can.

If you’re interested in getting some help along the way with your language learning journey, contact us today for your free consultation at 1-865-226-9477.

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.

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.

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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.