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!

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.


American English Pronunciation: How do you say Pecan?

Do you say “pu-KAHN”, “pe-KAHN”, or “PEE-can”? The latter reminds me of an emergency restroom substitute — but I digress.

I only mention the pronunciation of pecan because today is Pecan Day. Did you know that the pecan is the only nut tree native to North America? Or that the name pecan comes from an Algonquin word meaning “nuts requiring a stone to crack”? Or that eating pecans could improve your love life? No kidding — I learned all these wonderful facts and more from the National Pecan Shellers Association.

But what I did not learn was the official American English pronunciation of the word pecan.

In honor of Pecan Day today, I decided to take a survey to see if we can figure out where the different English pronunciations of the word pecan originated. It’s a highly debated topic, and one that doesn’t appear to have a definitive answer. The major dictionaries list more than one pronunciation, though “pu-kahn” is listed first and seems to be the most widely accepted.

Does it depend on which American accent you have? Some say the split between “pu-kahn” and “pee-can” falls on the Mason-Dixon line, but my research so far says not. Though many southerners say “pu-kahn” and many from the Northeast say “pee-can”, it isn’t consistent. One theory I read suggested that people from more rural areas, regardless of location, say “pee-can”, while those from larger cities say “pu-kahn”. Another said that the accepted pronunciation has changed over time. So, has it changed? Do you pronounce pecan differently from your parents or grandparents?

Here’s your chance to contribute to some unscientific but fun research:

Tell us where you grew up, whether it was a small town or larger city, and how you pronounce pecan. If you pronounce it differently from other family members, tell us that too. If you learned English as a second language, tell us whether or not your English teachers were native speakers and if you know where they grew up. Invite your friends to participate as well; the more responses we get, the more accurate the results will be. I’ll post a summary of the results in a few days.

Happy Pecan Day!

Remember to tell us about your American English pronunciation of pecan in the comments below.

Note: When this post was originally published, there was one comment:

  • 9/23/2010 4:07 PM buttercup1 wrote: I’m currently in the Niagara Region of Ontario, and almost everyone here says PEE-can 🙂 I was actually surprised.

What Can the 2010 Winter Olympics Teach Us About How to Lose an Accent?

Many of us are feeling a bit sleep-deprived this week, having spent more hours than usual in front of the television, cheering on our country’s athletes in the Winter Olympics. We hear the stories of determination, overcoming obstacles, hard-earned success….and sometimes unexpected defeat. While they all arrived at the Olympics on different paths, they share the same goal – of doing their personal best and having a chance at going home with the Gold.

But what do the Winter Olympics have to do with being able to lose your accent and improve your spoken English? It’s the determination of setting a goal and doing what it takes to achieve it.

I have been working with a young man named Ashraf, who has moved away from his native Egypt to earn his doctorate at a top university in Japan, where they speak English as the common language. He really wants to speak English like an American, so we have been working together via Skype, with a 14 hour time difference.

It’s not always easy to make the scheduling work out, and I wondered how he would find the time to practice in the middle of his doctoral studies. But, he has the determination and discipline to make it happen. He told me this week that he sets aside an hour and a half every day just for practicing his English vocabulary and pronunciation. All while he is a full-time doctoral student.

He is speaking English more clearly every day, and I am convinced that he will achieve his goal of being able to speak English like an American.

There may not be a gold medal in the Winter Olympics for improving your English pronunciation, but if there were, this man would be a serious contender. Determination, focus, and a passion to do your best – that’s how to lose your accent!

If you would like to know more about how to lose your accent, please visit www.losemyaccent.com

Learning to Improve English, Spoken or Written, is Like Learning to Ski

With much of our country wrapped in snow, and the kids clamoring to make a snowman, winter sports such as skiing are on my mind. I think back to my high school skiing trips, and learning the basics of how to start and stop while on the beginner slope. And I realized that learning to improve English, spoken or written, is a lot like learning to ski. In the beginning, you just need the basics, a few simple rules to help you survive.

If you don’t live in an English speaking country, the basics may be all you ever need. But, if you move to a country where English is the common language, you will probably want to improve your spoken English and writing skills.

In skiing, if you want to move away from the beginner slope, you may need some instruction to improve your skills. Some people can watch and imitate a more experienced skier, and they learn all they need to navigate the more challenging intermediate slopes. Others, however, need a few hours of coaching from an instructor to master the skills they need to safely make it down the harder slopes.

Learning to improve your English skills is much the same way. Some people can watch and imitate their friends and co-workers and learn what they need at that point. For others, a few hours of personalized instruction with an accent reduction specialist makes all the difference in their language skills and accent.

And then there are those who really want to ski, but just keep falling flat on their face. No matter how hard they try and how much they watch others, they just can’t figure out how to keep the skis under them. It is important to them to learn how to ski, so they hire a personal instructor who will watch them, determine exactly what they are doing wrong, and teach them the skills they need to be a successful skier.

For many non-native English speakers, the story is the same. They have tried watching others, reading books, and watching videos, but their English pronunciation just doesn’t improve. They really want to speak English more clearly, but they can’t figure out what to do. They need a personal instructor, just like the skiers did, to walk alongside them, show them exactly what they’re doing that isn’t working, and teach them the skills for success.

So, where are you in your journey to improve your English, spoken or written? Have you learned all you need from English classes and friends, or are you looking for the instructor who will guide you in achieving your English pronunciation and writing goals?

If you’re looking for a way to improve your English, start by downloading my FREE report How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today, by visiting http://www.losemyaccent.com

Can I Lose My Accent Without Giving Up My Culture?

Do you ever worry that if you decide to improve your English pronunciation, you will lose part of your heritage?

Are you afraid that if you want to lose your accent, your family and friends will feel that you are abandoning them and your native culture? Please do not let this fear keep you from doing something that you know will benefit you. Your family and friends love you and want the best for you. If you are living in an English speaking culture now, you want to give yourself every opportunity to succeed, and that includes making sure that your English is easy to understand.

No one is asking you to forget your heritage or pretend you are someone you are not. When we talk about losing or reducing your accent, we are really talking about changing those parts of your pronunciation that make your English difficult for others to understand. Most people, even after completing accent reduction classes, will still have traces of their accent in their everyday speech. Ideally, your goal is not to eliminate the accent completely, but to change the parts of it that make it difficult to understand. Ultimately, the goal should be to have the best of both worlds: an accent that sets you apart as a native of your homeland while still being completely understandable in English.

Would you like to learn more about how to reduce your accent without giving up your heritage? Take a free accent screening at www.losemyaccent.com and find out exactly which sounds you should be practicing!

How Your Accent Could Keep You From the Job of Your Dreams

You’ve worked hard to learn English, gotten the degree you wanted, and maybe had the opportunity to try out your skills in a good job. But now it’s here – the opportunity to interview for your dream job. You’ve waited a long time for this, so of course, you want to do everything you can to get ready for the big day. You research the company, buy a new suit, and make sure you’re mentally prepared.

You walk in, shake hands, and say hello.

And wait.

But it didn’t turn out the way you had hoped.

I know it doesn’t seem fair, but decisions are often made in interviews in the first 10 seconds. First impressions are critical, and communicating clearly is essential. The reality is that the person who speaks standard American English more clearly is often chosen over the one who has superior skills but was difficult to understand.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers says that communication skills is the number one thing employers are looking for — more than computer expertise, and even more than a strong work ethic. That means that one of the best things you can do to increase your chances of getting that dream job is to improve your English communication skills.

I was helping one client prepare for an upcoming interview by rehearsing possible questions and answers and practicing the pronunciation of several words common to his profession. We were brainstorming possible words that he might need, when he said what I thought was shadow. “That’s a word I know I’ll use a lot as a manager,” he said. Puzzled, I asked him to explain how he would use it. We were working together over Skype, and he finally typed the word schedule. The astonished look on my face made him laugh, and when I gave him the correct pronunciation, he was so thankful that we had practiced prior to his interview. “Can you imagine,” he asked, “if I had gone into the interview and said shadow when I meant to say schedule? That would have been terrible!”

I know you don’t want to make a terrible mistake in your next interview, so be sure you polish your English pronunciation before you go!

To get speech tips to prepare for your next interview, take my free online speech and accent screening at http://www.losemyaccent.com. Invest a few minutes in your future success!

Why is English Pronunciation and Speaking So Hard for Arabic Speakers?

Arabic is a Semitic language, and so it differs significantly from English, which has a European language base. Native Arabic English speakers may have a particularly difficult time with English pronunciation and speaking because of the aspects of English which do not exist in Arabic, such as certain consonants including v and g, many vowels and diphthongs, and a variety of consonant clusters.

If it is important to you to improve your spoken English, you can learn to speak with an American accent.

The missing consonants v and g may be some of the easiest sounds to work on, because very similar sounds do exist in Arabic. These two sounds are the voiced counterparts to the unvoiced sounds f and k.

Both the f and v sounds are produced by placing the top teeth lightly on the lower lip and blowing. To change the f to a v sound, the voice must be turned on. When you are making this sound correctly, you will feel your throat vibrate if you place your hand on it. Try saying fan and van.

Similarly, the g sound is the voiced pair of the k sound. Make a k sound and then turn your voice on and do it again. It should sound like the g sound. Once again, if you put your hand on your throat, you should feel it vibrate when you say g. Try saying came and game.

English has many more vowel sounds than Arabic; in fact, Arabic has only 8 and English has 22 different vowel and diphthong sounds! Many Arabic English speakers have a hard time with the short vowels, which are rarely used in Arabic but are very common in English. Words such as can, truck, beg, sit, and on could be difficult to understand if the correct pronunciation isn’t used.

Another tricky element of speaking with correct English pronunciation is consonant clusters — groups of 2 to 3 consonants that are pronounced as one continuous sound, without any vowel sounds between them. Many Arabic English speakers put a vowel sound between the consonants, such as saying kulock for the word clock. Practice saying consonant clusters as one continuous sound. Whether the word has the sounds kl, pl, gr, sp, st, or str, they are all pronounced without a vowel sound between them.

If you find yourself getting frustrated,you can learn more on how to improve your English pronunciation and speaking skills by downloading my FREE report How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today.

Are Accent Reduction Classes Right for Me?

Have you ever been misunderstood when you thought you had been very clear?

Do people ever ask you to repeat yourself because they don’t understand what you said?

Are you concerned that you may miss a job opportunity or promotion because of your accent?

If you have ever experienced any of these things, you may have wondered if there were any way to make yourself more easily understood without losing your regional dialect or native accent.

The great news is that you can have it all!

Are Accent Reduction Classes Right for Me?

By working with a trained speech professional, you can improve your English pronunciation, often by 50% or more, without completely losing the accent that reflects your heritage.

Would it improve your self-esteem to be understood every time you speak Would you gain self-confidence if you never had to repeat yourself again Would you sleep better at night knowing that your speech no longer negatively impacted your job performance? If you answered yes to those questions, then accent reduction training could be right for you.

First, look for a speech trainer or coach who specializes in accent reduction. Speech pathologists have the highest degree of training in how to teach you to pronounce sounds correctly.

To determine if an accent reduction class will be beneficial, ask for a free screening or consultation and tell the trainer exactly what concerns you have about your speech.

A quality program should include a customized evaluation and a training plan tailored to your individual needs. It may include either individual or small group sessions, since it is often beneficial to hear others practice even if their native language is different from yours.

Your classes may be held in person at your office or at the office of your speech coach. Alternately, you may choose to have private lessons via webcam, a more private and often more cost-effective option.

During the sessions, you should learn to hear the differences in your speech, discover a new way to pronounce troublesome words, and practice your new skills in relevant conversation.

Reducing your accent will require a time of dedication and practice on your part, but by working with a qualified speech professional and practicing at home, you will soon find yourself communicating more easily with everyone around you.

As Anthony Robbins says, “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”

Don’t you want a better quality of life?

Then make a difference in your life by enhancing your communication skills. Find an accent reduction class today, because every word counts.

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 communication skills.