Episode #1 – Your New Year’s American Pronunciation goals



Hi, It’s Lisa Scott with losemyaccent.com. Have you written your New Year’s Resolutions or set those New Year’s goals? I will tell you in just a minute why that might not be a good idea.

But first, I want to share with you how excited I am about some of the new developments we have here at Accentuate. One of the biggest changes is that we are moving to much more video this year. When you ask pronunciation questions, it is so much easier for me to explain them when you can actually see what I’m explaining. So, starting today, the majority of my blog posts will be videos rather than written articles.

You have asked for some lower priced video trainings, and those are coming as well. I have an all new 6 week series that is almost ready for you, so I’ll be sharing the details very soon. I can tell you that since my birthday is at the end of January, I will be running a very special birthday sale as I launch this new series.

And lastly, I have started a Facebook page that is just for us to talk about your questions and concerns regarding American pronunciation. So, come visit me at www.facebook.com/losemyaccent and tell your friends to join us too. Introduce yourself, share your concerns with learning English, and ask your questions about pronunciation, grammar, intonation – whatever is on your mind! I will try to answer simple questions on the page and I will choose some of them as topics for future blog post videos. I’m really looking forward to connecting with you there!

And now, back to my comment at the beginning on why New Year’s Resolutions might not be a good idea.  People make them every year and every year they get frustrated because they just can’t stick with them. But what if instead of focusing on the specific goal, you focus on the outcome, or who you want to be when you meet that goal. Let’s take the example of setting a goal to reduce your accent. You could set a measurable goal of improving 50% on a pronunciation test, and that would be great. But you don’t really care if you score 50% higher on that test, do you? What you really care about is being understood more easily, not having to repeat yourself, and feeling confident when you speak English. Right? Those are outcomes rather than goals, and it is those outcomes that truly make you feel like you’ve accomplished your goal.

So, how do you change your focus? First, you think about your goals for the year one by one and think about how you will be different when you meet that goal. What will you gain by meeting that goal? What will the outcome be? That is your true motivator and the way to help you stay focused to accomplish that goal.

And if one of your goals is to improve your American pronunciation, and the outcome you are looking for is to be understood more easily and feel more confident when you speak, then I hope you will be an active part of our community this year. Watch these videos, share your questions on the facebook page, and let me know what I can do to serve you as you work towards the outcomes you desire in 2013.

See you next time!



Oatmeal: Breakfast Food or an Exercise in American Pronunciation?

Who would have thought that talking about breakfast would be the perfect opportunity to practice your American pronunciation? Just when you thought you were only trying to fill your stomach, you learn that you can also fill your mind with a great word for pronunciation practice.


Oatmeal, the breakfast staple in many cultures.

Yes, that humble little word can give your mouth a workout, not only as you chew your food, but also as you practice moving your lips to make the correct sounds.

To get the American pronunciation correct, you want to start by rounding your lips to make the long O sound to say oat. Then, rather than releasing the t on the end, you will catch that sound in your throat, like the sound in the middle of the word “uh-oh”. Alternately, you may put the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth as if you were going to make a T sound, but don’t release it.

Now, it’s time to smile wide as you say meal, holding that long E sound for just a second before dropping your jaw slightly to say the ul sound on the end of the word. You end the word with a quick schwa sound followed by an unreleased L. Oatmeal. Try saying it slowly: oatmeal.

Now say it a little faster: oatmeal


Here are a few sentences to get some more practice with those long O and long E sounds:

  • Joe eats oatmeal before he goes to sleep.
  • Please eat your oatmeal and then go to school.
  • I feel like eating oatmeal in the snow.

Now that you’ve had the chance to practice it, I hope you’ll think about the American pronunciation of oatmeal the next time you’re fixing breakfast.

Don’t like oatmeal? Leave me a comment and tell me your favorite breakfast food. We just might discuss its pronunciation in an upcoming blog post!

To hear the podcast and practice along with me, click below:

  • 2/5/2011 11:35 AM Sandra wrote:
    Elisa and I love to eat oatmeal in a snow day!

Have Fun! Improve Your Spoken English by Playing Games

Once you’ve completed an accent reduction course and learned some new sounds, you need to practice those sounds to improve your spoken English and make it a habit in everyday conversation.

Of course, you can plan get-togethers with your English speaking friends, and a fun activity to get everyone talking is to play a board game. Many board games will encourage interaction, and they are all great for practicing conversation, but there are a few that are particularly good for building your English pronunciation and vocabulary skills.

The harder you have to think about what you are going to say, the harder it is to remember to use the correct English pronunciation. That is what makes these games such great practice. And, they’re lots of fun!

One of my personal favorites is Taboo. The object of the game is to get your teammates to guess a word written on your card, but you can’t use the most common words to describe it. You have to find another way to tell what it is so your teammates can guess. For example, you may have the word “ladder”, but you can’t use the words “rungs, steps, paint, or high” to describe it. So you might say “an object you lean against your house when you need to get on the roof.” Get the idea?

Another great game is Balderdash. You are given a card with a word on it and several definitions, but only one is the correct one. You also make up a definition for the word and ask the other players which one they think is correct. You get points for bluffing, or fooling, them when they choose your definition.

A third great game to build your vocabulary, descriptive skills, and knowledge of American culture, is Apples to Apples. In this game, each person gets noun cards with a person, place, or thing listed on them. An adjective card is placed in the middle and each person selects the noun card that they think goes best with the adjective. Here’s the fun part: each person has to explain why they think their card is the best, and the person selected as the judge gets to decide whose is the best.

While these games are readily available and not too expensive, you could make up your own version of each of them with a good dictionary and some paper. To make a game similar to Taboo, you can choose some common words and list the words used in the definitions as the ” not allowed ” words.

A home version of Balderdash can be played with just a dictionary. You choose a word from the dictionary, read its definition, a definition of another word on the same page, and one you make up on your own.

For a comparison game like Apples to Apples, you need a stack of index cards and a list of nouns and adjectives. Write one word on each card, keeping the nouns and adjectives separate. Pass out five noun cards to each player, put an adjective card in the middle, and you’re ready to go.

So, whether you choose the convenience of purchasing ready-made games or you decide to spend the time to make them up yourself, language games are a fun way to enjoy time with friends and to improve spoken English.

Not sure how to improve your English pronunciation? 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 exactly which sounds to work on.

  • 7/9/2010 8:11 PM Jeff Brunson wrote:
    Apples to Apples is one of the most fun boxed games I’ve ever played. Played it only once with some life-long friends at our annual reunion. I’m amazed at the possibilities of such games to help one with communication and connection thru improving language skills.
  • 7/10/2010 2:05 PM Melanie McGhee wrote:
    I have to agree with Jeff here. I love your out of the box approach.

Yum! Improve Your Spoken English by Eating Candy!

You want to improve your spoken English and you are trying to remember everything you’ve learned about pronunciation and intonation,but it’s hard to break old habits. Even when you know the correct pronunciation of a sound, remembering to use it in conversation is another matter.

You’ve tried lots of different ways to remind yourself to use the correct speech, but they’re just not working. Before you give up and think you’ll just have to live with your accent the way it is, there is something else you can try.


Yes, I mean mints and lemon drops and sour candy. Not as a reward or incentive, but as a reminder. Let me explain what I mean.

We all use our senses every day to remind us to do different things. When we see a note, we’re reminded to complete a task. When we hear an alarm, we know it’s time to get out of bed or to be somewhere. Everyone has one sense that works better than others at cueing them to remember things.

One often overlooked sense is the sense of taste.

Now, of course, many of us greatly enjoy our sense of taste as we eat a delicious meal, but what I’m talking about here is using the sense of taste as a reminder.

How can you find out if your sense of taste will remind you to practice the skills you need to improve your spoken English? By conducting a simple experiment.

All you need is a list of 10-20 words that you are working on (all with the same sound in them) and some strongly flavored candy – mints or lemon or other sour candy. It is important that you choose a candy that you do not eat regularly, because we want it to”wake up” your mouth and brain when you eat it, signaling your brain to pay attention to what is going on.

Keep the candy in a bowl on your desk, in your pocket or purse, or somewhere easily accessible so you can suck on it throughout the day.

Each time you reach for a piece of candy, recite a few of your practice words, paying careful attention to pronounce them correctly. Over the course of the day, your brain will learn that when it senses that taste, it’s time to use your new English pronunciation.

If this seems to work well for you,experiment with several types of candy over a few days and see which one triggers the strongest memories. If the candy is too mild, you may just enjoy the taste too much and forget the practice, so be sure to use only strongly-flavored ones.

What a yummy way to improve your spoken English!

Not sure exactly which sounds you should be practicing? 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: The Secret to Learning 16 Sounds in Under 2 Minutes

Would you like to know a quick and easy way to master English pronunciation? What if you could learn 16 sounds in just under 2 minutes? Of course, you will still have to practice to master them, but I’m going to give you the secret of how it’s done.

The secret: it’s all in the voicing.

One of the most common challenges for second language learners trying to improve their spoken English is knowing the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds. The beauty of this is that when you understand this concept, you have automatically figured out the differences in 8 pairs of sounds: s/z, p/b, t/d. f/v,k/g, sh/j, tch/dj, and voiced and voiceless th.

So, what exactly is the difference in these voiced and unvoiced sounds? Glad you asked!

Each pair of sounds has the exact same tongue, teeth, and mouth placement;the only difference is whether or not your voice is turned on.

To know if your voice is turned on, try this simple test. Put your hand gently over the front of your throat and breathe. Do you feel anything?No, you shouldn’t. Now, put your hand on your throat and say “ah”. Feel the vibration? That’s because your voice is turned on.

If you saw last week’s video, English Pronunciation of S and Z , then you’ve already learned the basics of voiced and unvoiced sounds. So, let’s just do a quick review.

We’ll try it with one pair of sounds: S and Z

Put your hand on your throat and say s-s-s-s-s. You shouldn’t feel anything.

Now, put your hand on your throat and say z-z-z-z-z. You should feel the vibration because your voice has to be turned on to make the Z sound.

Your mouth, teeth, and tongue should be in exactly the same position for saying S and Z; you just need to turn your voice off for the S and on for the Z. Does that make sense?

Now you can try it with the other pairs of sounds. I’ll list below which ones are voiced and which are unvoiced. And, there’s an audio download at the end for practice. Remember, for each pair, the mouth placement is the same; all that changes is the voicing.

Unvoiced Sounds and Voiced Sounds

  • s for sip and z for zip
  • bfor pat and b for bat
  • t for two and d for do
  • f for fine and v for vine
  • k for come and g for gum
  • sh for wishing and j for vision
  • tch for choose and dj for juice
  • th, as in thank and th, as in these

Practice sentences

  • Sip your drink before you zip up your coat.
  • Pat bought a new bat before the game.
  • I have two things on my list for you to do.
  • It is fine with me if you trim that vine.
  • Come here and I’ll give you some gum.
  • I’m wishing for a new vision for my future.
  • Did you choose the orange juice or milk?
  • Thank you for these tips!

The secret to these sounds is not such a secret any longer! Spend some time practicing these sound pairs, and you will be well on your way to mastering English pronunciation.

Not sure which sounds you should be practicing? 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 of S and Z: How to Make Voiced and Voiceless Sounds

One very common struggle for second language learners is understanding the voiced and unvoiced sounds, particularly S and Z. 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 yourthroat. You should also be able to feel the difference if you put yourhands over your ears or on your cheeks. You should feel them vibratewhen you say Z, but not when you say S.

I have created a video which demonstrates the difference between the two sounds, and also gives you some practice words to try. You can watch it below and practice along with me.

English Pronunciation: A Tongue-Twisting Poem

For those of you looking for a challenge to practice your English pronunciation, I present you with a poem highlighting some of the crazy variations in English.

I want you to try and read it aloud before listening to the podcast below. Since I teach an American accent, that is the way I recorded it. British English pronunciation would vary slightly on some words. Have fun – and be sure to try it yourself first and then listen closely to the podcast and see how well you did. Good luck!

Fun English Pronunciation Poem
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough, and through.
Well don’t! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard but sounds like bird.
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead,
For goodness sake don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth as in mother
Nor both as in bother, nor broth as in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear, for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose—
Just look them up—and goose and choose
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword
And do and go, then thwart and cart,
Come, come! I’ve hardly made a start.
A dreadful Language? Why man alive!
I learned to talk it when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn’t learned it at fifty-five.

So, how was it? Harder than you thought? Not so bad? If you did well with this one, you are well on your way to communicating fluently in English! I have another, more diabolical English pronunciation poem that I will share soon – but I have to practice a few of the words first!

If it was a challenge for you and you’d like some personalized coaching on your pronunciation, you can get a free session with me after you take my free accent screening at www.losemyaccent.com.


Use Your 5 Senses to Improve Your Spoken English

You’ve been working very hard to improve your spoken English, practicing those new sounds whenever you have the chance, but it’s hard to remember to use your new English pronunciation in everyday conversation. What can you do to remind yourself to use your new skills when talking with friends or discussing a project at work?

It’s really a matter of developing a new habit, and it works much the same as any new habit you might try to learn, like making your bed in the morning or unloading the dishwasher before bed. The hard part at this point is not figuring out HOW to do it, but consistently remembering to do it every day.

Research has shown that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit, so if you want to improve your spoken English in everyday life, you need to remind yourself to use the new pronunciation for at least 21 days. Of course, you will feel overwhelmed if you try to remember every sound you’ve learned all at once.

So, here is my recommendation. Pick one sound to focus on at a time.

Now, you need to figure out the best way to remind yourself to use that new sound. We’re going to discuss how to use your senses to do just that. Over the next few Mondays, I’ll be discussing these options in more detail, but I want to give you an overview to get started.

Unless you have a disability, you use the five senses of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling every day. You probably prefer one sense over another, but you may not know which one helps you remember the best.

We’re going to do some experiments to find out. I will show you how to use each of your senses as a cue to remind you to use your new and improved spoken English in daily conversations. We’ll try things like looking at brightly-colored paper, listening to a bell, touching a rock, tasting sour candy, and smelling perfume.

How do you think you could use these activities to remind you to use better English pronunciation?

Share your ideas below, and be sure to read next Monday’s post to learn how brightly colored sticky notes could be your key to English- speaking success!

The Rain in Spain: How Eliza mastered the English Pronunciation of the Long A Sound

Don’t you wish there were a magic button you could push to improve your English pronunciation? Wouldn’t it be great to wake up one morning and, all of a sudden, you could say all those difficult sounds?

Of course, there is no magic button, but sometimes your hard work and persistence seems to suddenly pay off, when a sound that has eluded you for a long time unexpectedly comes out perfectly.

In the popular play and movie My Fair Lady, young Eliza Doolittle finally masters the “proper” English pronunciation of the long A sound, after lots of hard work and practice. Just at the point when her tutor is about to give up on her, she gets it.

Her purpose in working so hard on her English was to be seen as a “lady” instead of just a flower girl on the streets. She was motivated by a desire to improve herself and gain more opportunities in life. What motivates you to improve your English pronunciation? The chance for a better job? The freedom to be understood every time you speak to friends? The desire to feel confident that you CAN speak clearly and be understood?

Watch the video clip and practice the long A sound along with Eliza. You can say it: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”

Even if it seems hard at first, one of these days you will wake up and, as if by magic, you too will have mastered the correct English pronunciation of the long A sound.

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.