Will You Sing at the Spring Fling? Or, the American English pronunciation of the -ing Sound

Now that spring has sprung, it’s got me thinking about that -ing sound that keeps showing up in conversation and is so important in American English pronunciation. Not only has spring sprung, but you may be asked to sing at a spring fling, or wonder who is going to the prom, or worry about how the students are doing who are taking final exams. June is the most popular month for a wedding, and of course the happy couple will need wedding rings.

So, to keep up with the conversations that are sure to include this sound, you must be sure that you can pronounce the -ing sound properly at the end of words. Some common mispronunciations include- inG, where the hard g is emphasized, -ink, where the ng sound is followed by a k sound, and -een, where the vowel and the consonant are changed. The short I is replaced with a long e sound, and the ng sound is shortened to an n. This is not the sound we are looking for.

We want a short I sound, I, followed by the ng sound. This sound is a blend of the n and g sounds, made by pushing the back of the tongue against the soft palate at the top of the mouth, as if you were going to say g, but instead of saying g, say n. It should sound like -ng.

Listen to the recording below to hear the correct pronunciation.

Here are a few practice sentences for you:

  1. Will you sing at the spring fling?
  2. The cat is sitting on a ball of string.
  3. I put a ding in my car.
  4. The king wore a large signet ring on his finger.
  5. Jane had a sling on her arm after she fell.
  6. You are wearing too much bling for the wedding.
  7. Do you like to use the search engine Bing?
  8. The bee will sting you, but not on its wing.
  9. I like to play ping pong.
  10. There is one thing I’d like to know.

How did you do?

If you need something to help you remember to practice this new sound, try tying a piece of string around your ring finger. When people start asking why you are wearing such lovely bling, tell them you are trying to fling away the old pronunciation, and sing a new song of correct American English pronunciation.

For more free, easy pronunciation tips, be sure to download my free guide How to Speak English Like an American .

What did you think of this practice? Too easy? Too hard? Be sure to leave me a comment so I can create more blog posts that are helpful to you. The more you share with me, the more you get what you’re looking for!


Spring Has Sprung: A Fun Poem for Pronunciation Practice

In the last couple of weeks, spring has suddenly burst into life, with fresh green leaves and beautiful new flowers appearing daily in my yard. Every spring, I am reminded of a silly poem that I heard growing up. I mention it here to give you a taste of American culture, and also because of the fun pronunciation practice. You can download an audio below to hear the correct American English pronunciation.

You need a few pieces of information to better understand the poem. First, ris is a shortened form of risen. It is not grammatically correct, but the poet used it to make the lines rhyme. Second, whitewash is a liquid similar to white paint that is not used much in the US anymore. (Hint: the poet is not talking about actual whitewash). Third, a sissy is someone who is afraid or a coward.

Here is the poem:

Spring has sprung;
The grass has ris.
I wonder where
The birdie is?
There he is
In the sky.
He dropped some
Whitewash in my eye!

I am no sissy;
I won’t cry.
I’m just glad
That cows can’t fly!

Did you get it? I hope it made you laugh a little. And I hope you are enjoying a beautiful, glorious spring day!

Don’t forget to download the audio below of the American English pronunciation of this poem. When you practice, try to make your pronunciation and intonation match mine. And make sure you get your FREE guide, How to Speak English Like an American, by visiting www.losemyaccent.com

Download [Duration: 0:37 | Size: 580 KB]

How to Improve Spoken English — 5 Accent Reduction Tips For NRI’s and English Speaking Indians

As an NRI, you have spent years studying English and know thousands of words. Your written English communication is superb. You are confident that you are ready to live in America and will be able to communicate easily with those around you.

But then, you get here and you find out it isn’t nearly as easy as you expected. Why can’t these people understand you? Do you really need to improve your spoken English? It’s frustrating when people misunderstand you, particularly when you know you have a good grasp of the English language.

So, what’s the problem? It’s all in the pronunciation. No matter how great your knowledge of the English language is, if you don’t know the rules of English pronunciation, you will have a very hard time being understood. Many people apply the pronunciation rules of their native language to English, but the rules are different, and that’s where an accent comes from.

So, for example, you might try to say:

Will, would you zip the green coat?

But, it sounds like:

Vill, vould you sip de kleen co?

To the listener, it doesn’t make much sense.

But, what can you do? As an NRI, you’ve already invested years learning English and you want to move on in your career and your life. The best thing to do is to figure out which sounds are causing the most confusion in your spoken English, so you can learn to practice saying them correctly. It will be different for everyone, depending on your native language, but there are similarities among many of the dialects of India.

You can practice these sounds in everyday conversations, as you go about your daily life. I’ve listed below some of the most common sounds that many Indian speakers have trouble pronouncing. See if you can figure out which of these applies to you.

1. Saying an S sound instead of a Z sound

Many Indian speakers use an s sound for a z sound. S and Z use the exact same tongue and mouth shape; the difference is in the voicing. The S sound is produced without the voice, but the Z sound requires the voice. To feel the difference, put your hand on your throat and try saying S-s-s-s. You should not feel anything. Now try saying Z-z-z-z. You should feel a vibration in your throat.

Practice saying words like sip and zip.

2. Saying a K sound instead of a G sound

This is a very similar issue to the one above. K and G sound are both produced in the back of the throat, but the K is unvoiced and the G is voiced. Try saying K-k-k and then G-g-g-g. You should feel the tickle or vibration on your throat when you say the G sound. Practice saying coat and goat.

3. Saying a V sound instead of a W sound

The V sound is made by placing the top teeth on the bottom lip, turning on the voice, and blowing. The W sound is made by rounding the lips as if to make an O sound and then turning on the voice as the lips open slightly. You can practice as in the example above, using the words wine and vine.

4. Saying an F sound for a V sound

If you put the top teeth on the lower lip and blow without turning on the voice, you will make an F sound. To make the V sound, you need to turn on your voice. Practice by saying fine and vine.

5. Leaving off Final Sounds

Final consonants are very important in English, but many Indian speakers will let the final consonant drop off. When this happens, it is difficult for the listener to determine what word has been spoken. For example, cat, can, and cad could all sound like “ca”. Be sure to enunciate the final consonants in words.

The best way to reduce your accent and improve your spoken English is through practice, both with American speakers and with other NRI’s. When you identify which sounds you need to work on, practice them and pay careful attention to when you use those sounds in conversation. If you have trouble figuring out which sounds are hard for you, or figuring out how to produce the new sounds, you can contact an accent reduction specialist. That way, you can find out exactly what to do to make your spoken English more understandable, and your English pronunciation will grow quickly and efficiently.

Why don’t you take my free online speech and accent screening at http://www.losemyaccent.com? It only takes a few minutes, and you will get free tips on how to improve your pronunciation.

English Pronunciation – 7 Tips For Creole English Speakers Who Want to Improve Their Spoken English

Whether you came to America before or after the earthquake, the culture shock of adjusting to life here must be immense. And then, you are faced with the added burden of figuring out how to communicate with those around you.

Even if you speak English, your Creole background may make it difficult for others to understand you. I would imagine that you wish there were an easy way to improve your English pronunciation. It would make your life much less frustrating, wouldn’t it? Did you know that just by changing a few of the sounds you say, you can make your speech sound less like Creole English and more like standard American English?

When you speak English, it is very natural for you to use the pronunciation rules for Creole, but they don’t work as well in English. That’s where your accent comes from — when you try to apply rules of Creole speech to English. So, learning some of the English rules will make your English much clearer, In this post, I’m going to share with you seven of the most common mistakes that Creole speakers make when speaking English.

  1. Not pronouncing initial h — Creole speakers don’t pronounce the h in the beginning of words, but English speakers do. Words like he, human, and horse need to start with the h sound.
  2. Not pronouncing final k — Many Creole speakers leave the final k off of words, which can cause confusion. When the k is not pronounced, stake sounds like stay, and fork sounds like four.
  3. Not pronouncing final d — Again, Creole speakers tend to leave off the final sound, but this time it is the d sound. This can change not only the word, but it can also cause confusion in grammar, because the past tense -ed endings are not pronounced. So, play and played would sound the same, and so would row and road.
  4. Not pronouncing final t — This is very similar to leaving off the d sound, as it affects both understanding words and knowing when the past tense is being used. Without the final t sound, I stop and I stopped sound the same, as do lie and light.
  5. Substituting long e for short I — This vowel confusion is very common, but learning both vowels will go a long way in making your speech more understandable. Practice saying word pairs like sheep/ship, deep/dip, beet/bit, seat/sit, and sleep/slip.
  6. Substituting o for a — This confusion probably is due to overcompensating when reading the word. It often occurs with words that are spelled with an o sound in the middle, but are pronounced with an ah sound, such as mop, job, and blocks.
  7. Not distinguishing between oo sounds — There is more than one way to pronounce the oo sound, and the two most common are the “short” oo, as in book, look, and took; and the “long” oo, as in school, pool, and tool.

With a little practice, you will begin to hear the difference between Creole English and the more standard American English pronunciation. Before long, you will feel much more comfortable and confident speaking English!

Get Your Foot in the Door, and other useful idioms

Get your foot in the door, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot afterwards! Idioms, or expressions that don’t mean literally what the words say, are part of everyday speech in America. To avoid misunderstandings, it is important to improve your spoken English by mastering as many idioms as possible. Today’s expressions all use the word foot, and each idiom is highlighted in the story. Try and figure out as many of the expressions as you can as you read the story about a man named Steve getting advice from a friend about an upcoming interview.

Steve has wanted to work for the Global Electronics company for years. He would love to design and build widgets, but has no experience in the field. Until now, he couldn’t figure out how to get his foot in the door, but now he has the perfect contact.

John has been working there for the past 3 years in HR, and offered to schedule an interview for Steve for a new position. John sympathizes with Steve, as he remembers well how he felt before he was hired. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he has a chance to help out a friend.

“You need to put your best foot forward,” John told Steve. “There are a lot of people interviewing for this position, and the competition is tough. If you get off on the wrong foot with the boss, you probably won’t have a chance at the job.

The last guy we interviewed shot himself in the foot, bragging about how he had cheated his previous employer and no one found out. I think you’ll do fine, though. You are very motivated and articulate; I don’t think you’ll put your foot in your mouth.

If you do well in the first interview, the senior vice president will want to take you out for lunch to get to know you better. He looks like he has one foot in the grave, but he still holds most of the decision-making power. Just relax and enjoy yourself; he won’t set foot in the company cafeteria, so he will take you to a nice restaurant and the company will foot the bill. I know you’re nervous because you haven’t done this type of work before, but once you get your feet wet, you’ll do great.”

How did you do? Check yourself below with the list of definitions for each idiom.

  • Get his foot in the door — get started toward a goal; take the initial step to do something bigger
    • origin: Traveling salesmen used to go door- to door to sell their goods. They would put their foot in the door so the owner couldn’t shut it and would have to listen to their sales pitch and, hopefully, buy something.
  • Shoe is on the other foot — the situation is reversed, so the person understands a different perspective
    • origin: Years ago, shoes used to be made exactly the same for each foot, but later they were made specifically for each foot. Then, it was uncomfortable to wear one shoe on the other foot. So, if you wore your shoe on the other foot, you would notice how different it felt .
  • Put your best foot forward — make a great first impression; begin with enthusiasm
  • Get off on the wrong foot — start poorly, make a bad impression, start a relationship with a mistake
  • Shoot himself in the foot — accidentally do something to harm your career or advancement
    • origin: literally, accidentally shooting oneself in the foot, causing temporary or permanent damage
  • Put your foot in your mouth — say something foolish or embarrassing
    • origin: thought to come from foot and mouth disease, which causes embarrassing red spots and sores all over the mouth
  • One foot in the grave — near death
  • Set foot in — enter
  • Foot the bill — pay whatever money is due
    • origin: Footing used to mean adding up figures in a list and placing a total at the foot of the column. Years ago, it was common practice to ask a customer to foot the bill (check the arithmetic) as a polite way of saying ‘pay the bill’. Over time, it became an accepted expression simply meaning to pay the bill.
  • Get your feet wet — try something new; get some experience working
    • origin: Someone who is afraid to swim will start by getting their feet wet, taking a step towards the new experience of getting all the way in the water and swimming

Did you get most of them right? Then you got off on the right foot and will soon have the world at your feet (be very successful)!

It May be April Fool’s Day, but Don’t be Fooled by the English Pronunciation of OO

Did you ever wonder why today is called April Fool’s Day? Apparently, it’s all because of King Charles IX, way back in 1564. He decided to change the official calendar of France and move the New Year celebrations from April 1 back to January 1. Some rebellious Frenchmen were resistant to the change and continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1. They became known as “April Fools”, and it became tradition over the years to play jokes on people on April 1. Several other countries have developed their own unique April Fool’s Day celebrations. In France, the victim is called an “April fish” and in England he is called a “noodle”.

And this brings me to the English pronunciation tip of the day — dealing with the tricky OO sound, as in noodle and fool. Often, the OO sound is long, as in those words and words like school, room, boot, moon, and goose. But occasionally, it has a shorter sound, as in book, took, look, cook, foot, and cookie. How do you know which pronunciation of OO to use when you see it in words?

I have come up with a rule that works in most situations:

In general, if “oo” is followed by a K, it is short, and otherwise, it is long.

Exceptions: foot, soot, and stood, which use the short sound.

Try saying the words below out loud: (Be sure to click on the icon at the bottom to hear me read the words out loud for you)

Long OO sound

  • fool
  • tool
  • school
  • cool
  • scoop
  • room
  • boot
  • goose
  • loose
  • moose
  • moon
  • noon
  • poodle
  • root
  • noodle
  • scoot
  • shoot

Short OO sound

  • book
  • shook
  • rook
  • took
  • look
  • cook
  • hook
  • nook
  • cookie
  • foot
  • soot
  • stood

Now try saying these practice sentences out loud:

Long OO

  • The fool tried to look cool on his way to school.
  • Use a tool to scoop the dirt.
  • A goose is loose in my room.
  • Stay cool! A moose is nearby.
  • You cannot see the moon at noon.
  • Oh, shoot! The poodle is eating my noodles.
  • I need to scoot this plant away from the tree root.

Short OO

  • I took a look at the book in the nook.
  • The cook dropped a cookie on his foot.
  • The rook was covered in soot.
  • The fish hook caught in her foot.
  • He shook the box of books.

Combined Sounds

  • Look at that fool eating a cookie at school.
  • Put your foot in the boot before you leave the room.
  • The moose shook his head at the moon.
  • The goose stood on the book at noon.
  • Be careful! Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
  • Scoot your poodle away from the nook full of tools.

Now you’ve had the chance to practice the OO sounds. Download a recording of this blogpost below, and practice the words and sentences while you listen to me say them out loud. Keep working on them until they feel natural to you. That way, the English pronunciation of the OO sound won’t fool you on April Fool’s Day or any other day!

Download [Duration: 5:17 | Size: 4.8 MB]

For more pronunciation tips, be sure to get my FREE guide, How to Speak English Like an American, by visiting www.losemyaccent.com.