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

How to Improve English Spoken by Chinese Americans

If you were born in China but now live in the United States, you are part of a large and talented group of people. According to the latest census information, there are over 1.6 million Chinese immigrants in the United States. Of these, two-thirds are of adult working age and two in five have a college degree or higher; however, two-thirds have limited English proficiency and need to improve their spoken English.

This means that, if you are Chinese and living in the United States, there is a good chance that you are a highly educated person who has come to the United States expecting to succeed, but you may have trouble advancing in your career because you have not learned how to speak English like an American.

ESL classes are a wonderful place to start and they do a terrific job of teaching the basics of English vocabulary and grammar. I highly recommend them!

The problem comes for many people who have learned to speak and write English but find that they still cannot communicate with native English-speaking Americans. Have you experienced this? Have you had someone ask you to repeat yourself when you thought you had been perfectly clear? It can be frustrating and disheartening, especially for someone who has worked so hard, to find that it is not a lack of education or effort that is holding them back, but the difficulty in being understood.

So, if you have taken ESL classes and you speak English every day, what can you do to be understood more easily? One of the best ways to improve your spoken English is to try and speak with an American accent. You can ask American friends to gently correct you when you mispronounce a word. Write down words you have trouble saying correctly and practice them at home.

Every language has rules to its pronunciation, and understanding those rules is very important to reducing an accent. There are some rules in English that are very different from the Chinese rules, so they can be quite confusing to Chinese speakers of English. Some of these include:

  • distinguishing between the and l sounds
  • distinguishing between the n and ng sounds
  • knowing when to pronounce final consonants
  • understanding the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants, such as and gp and b, and t and d

These sounds can be very difficult to learn on your own because they are so different from your native language. You will probably experience the most rapid results by working with an accent reduction specialist, who can help you learn to speak English like an American. This professional can recognize where you are having difficulty and teach you new speech patterns that will make speaking English much less frustrating. As you improve your spoken English, you will find that your confidence improves as well, and you will begin to feel more comfortable living in the United States.

To start working on your American accent today, download my FREE report, How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Starting Today.

 

Make Your English Magnifique! Tips to Improve English Spoken by the French

Learning a new language can be quite a challenge, and learning it well enough to be understood by native speakers is an altogether different experience. As you may have found out for yourself, just knowing the English words may not be enough if your French accent makes it difficult for people to understand you. Speaking English with a French accent can be quite frustrating, especially if you can’t figure out what to do to make your speech more clear to the listener. If you are tired of being misunderstood, try the suggestions below to improve your spoken English.

You may find that, like many French speakers, you have trouble with the groups of English sounds known as affricates and fricatives.

Affricates are the sounds like:

  • ch, as in child or chicken
  • j , as in judge or jelly

Commonly confused fricatives include sounds like:

  • sh, as in shoe or ship
  • voiced th, as in these or those
  • unvoiced th, as in think or thank you

If you are speaking English with a French accent, you may not make the distinction between each of these sounds that is necessary for understandable English. So, you may substitute any of these sounds for any of the others, leading to confusion for the listener.

A simple request in English, like:

Jane, put these shoes in the chair.

could easily come out sounding like this:

Shane, put zeese choose in the share.

So, what should you do if you are a native French speaker and want to improve your spoken English? Practice, practice, practice. But, you must practice the right sounds. Ask yourself if you substitute any of the sounds listed above for other ones on the list. Be observant in your conversations for words that have these sounds in them, and be sure you are choosing the correct one. Practice the words listed above until you can say each one correctly. Perhaps you could ask an English speaking friend to listen to you.

If you are still not sure how to clarify your speech and you want some personalized help, I want to offer you a free accent screening when you visit my website at www.losemyaccent.com. I also invite you to download my FREE report: How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today.

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.

I Can’t Understand My Professor! or Why Accent Reduction Training is So Important

It’s a common problem at many universities. Students are frustrated, and their grades suffer. They attend class, do the work, and still their grades don’t improve. Even if they meet with the professor outside of class, there is little to be done. There is a communication barrier that can’t be fixed in just one meeting.

The Times Online reports on one situation where students simply cannot understand their foreign-born professor because of his accented English. They have approached the university for help, and have been told that the problem is being addressed. But, how? By offering them the option of changing teachers? What if there is no one else, and this professor really is the most knowledgeable one on this topic?

I don’t know how the problem is being resolved in that case, but I do know what would make a difference for the foreign-born teaching assistants and professors in many English speaking schools. Accent reduction training.

Our universities are full of brilliant young students from around the world, many of whom have never studied English with a native speaker. As a result, while their comprehension of English is excellent, their pronunciation is often very difficult to understand. This is particularly problematic when these students, because of their great academic abilities, become teaching assistants or professors without any further training in English pronunciation. Somehow it is assumed that the accent will magically disappear as they live in this country for a while, but unfortunately, for many people, that just doesn’t happen.

The best gift we can give these teachers is accent reduction classes tailored specifically to their individual needs. With instruction and encouragement from an accent reduction specialist, they will see remarkable changes in just a few weeks. If we can help them improve their English spoken in the classroom, they will feel more confident in their speech, be able to relate better to their English-speaking peers, and be more easily understood in front of the classroom or lecture hall. Because they are more understandable, they will be able to communicate their subject matter more effectively, and their students will be able to benefit from their vast knowledge.

And then, their brilliance will really shine through!

If you are a foreign-born educator, or you know someone who is, please accept as a gift my FREE download How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can TakeToday.

How Much is Your Accent Costing You?

Have you ever thought about how much your accent is costing you? If you thought your accent didn’t matter because you were so good at what you do, think again.

You may be surprised to learn that only 10% of job success is based on knowledge and skills. The other 90% is based on networking and communication skills.

That means that the way you talk and communicate with others really does matter, and your job skills alone may not be enough for you to excel at your job.

So, which would be the better investment? Focusing on your job skills, which accounts for 10% of your success, or focusing on your English skills, which accounts for 90%? Whether you are an engineer or a doctor, an architect or a software developer, your job will involve some amount of communication in English. And if that English pronunciation is not clear enough for your co-workers or clients to understand you easily, it could cost you a lot of money.

How can your accent cost you money in the workplace? In lost promotions, fewer job offers, and less earning potential. To avoid the possibility of discrimination lawsuits, it is unlikely that your boss would tell you that this is the reason. But, if you frequently have to repeat yourself for clarification or wonder if others understood you, chances are good that your accent is holding you back from your full potential at work. You may be new to the US and want to do all you can to ensure a successful career, or you may have lived in the United States for years, but your accent just never went away as much as you had hoped. Now is the time to give yourself the gift of better communication.

The money you invest in accent reduction classes will quickly be recouped in just one small raise or promotion that you otherwise would not have been offered. Your bank account and your self confidence will get a big boost. But not working to improve your spoken English skills and reduce your accent could cost you thousands of dollars in lost raises and promotions over the years. Don’t be deceived – what you don’t do can cost you!

If you want the payoff that will come by investing in your English skills, then start by taking the free accent screening at www.losemyaccent.com.

How to Improve American English Spoken by Hispanics

Have you ever wondered where accents come from? And why people from another culture can spend so long studying English and still have a hard time being understood? In this post, I’m going to focus on the Spanish language and how to improve American English spoken by Hispanics.

Every language has its own set of pronunciation rules, and most people learn those rules subconsciously just by hearing other people speak the language all of the time. As you were growing up, you learned the rules to your native language, Spanish, without even realizing it.

When we learn a new language, we try to apply those same pronunciation rules to the second language, often without even being aware that we are doing it. But, since every language has a different set of rules, this often leads to a communication breakdown. And the misuse of these rules is what causes you to speak with an accent.

So, if you grew up speaking Spanish but later learned to speak English, you may find that other English speakers have a hard time understanding you. For example, if you need a ride to work, you might call a taxi. Because Spanish speakers often substitute p for b, here is what could happen:

“I need a cap to go to work.”

“What kind of hat do you need?”

“No, no, a cap to ride in to get to work.”

“Oh, you mean a cab, like a taxi.”

You may know English very well, but it can be frustrating when people still misunderstand you. You can know thousands of English words, apply the grammar rules, and even understand the jokes and expressions, but if you don’t know the subtle rules of sound pronunciation, people will not understand what you are saying.

While each person’s speech is unique, there are some common pronunciation differences for many Hispanic speakers. Here are some sounds that are commonly mispronounced by Hispanic speakers of English and tips for helping you improve your spoken English:

1. saying an S sound instead of a Z sound

Many Hispanic 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 Sue and zoo.

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 P sound instead of a B sound

Once again, this is a difference in voicing. P and B are both made by pushing the lips together and releasing them. P is made without using the voice while B uses the voice. It is important to hear the difference because one letter sound can change the whole meaning of the sentence, as in the example above with cap and cab.

4. Saying a B sound for a V sound.

The V sound is made by placing the top teeth on the lower lip, turning on the voice, and blowing. If you put both lips together and blow, you get a B sound instead of the V. Practice with words like very and berry.

5. 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.

These are a few of the most common sounds that Hispanic speakers of English often mispronounce. Practicing these sounds will help improve the American English spoken by you and your friends.

If you want more personalized help to improve your spoken English, please take my free accent screening at www.losemyaccent.com.