Springtime Challenge: Grow a Speech Garden

People who love gardening often spend all winter planning what they’ll grow in the spring. They pore over seed catalogs and websites, plot out their flower or vegetable beds on paper, and put aside money for new plants, mulch, and all the other necessary materials to make their garden beautiful and prosperous.

Have you ever thought about tending to your speech the way you’d tend to a garden?

Well, I’m issuing you a challenge!

Springtime Challenge

For Better Hearing and Speech month, we’re talking about how your communication takes care… the kind of care that would go into the planning and maintenance of a lush and healthy garden.

What does it look like to “grow a speech garden” with care?

Identify The Weeds

Any gardener knows that weeds will take over your garden in no time if left to grow! They become harder to uproot as they get bigger. The same is true for your speech: an unhelpful sound left unchecked will make you harder to understand, and will take more work to “unlearn” the longer you continue to use it.

Feed the Healthy Plants!Garden beds need nutrients in the form of fertilizer or compost – and of course watering – to ensure healthy plants and growth. Your American accent can benefit from similar care… so practice the sounds you know are working.

Introduce New SpecimensGardeners are always looking to include new specimens in their gardens – perhaps an heirloom vegetable variety they’ve never grown, or an exciting new hybrid of their favorite flower. When your correct sounds become strong enough that you don’t have to focus on them as much anymore, you can more easily introduce the next batch of sounds that need more work.

So, how do you know which sounds to focus on?

In this video from awhile back, I explain more about how your clear speech is like a garden you must maintain, and how important an individual speech coach or listener is.

And I also want to encourage you to join me for my 8­-week online clear speech course that starts June 9!

This course will tackle exactly what we’re talking about with your “speech garden”… identifying the sounds that give you trouble, practicing the correct sounds, individual attention from a speech pathologist (me, of course!), and listening and support from others who are also growing their “speech garden.”

Speaking and Learning Together

All the course information is right here, so don’t miss this opportunity to change the course of your speech this spring! Just like a garden that produces a bountiful autumn harvest, you can be speaking more clearly by this fall after my 8-week course.

And after you reserve your spot, you can bring a friend for free!

Working with a friend will help you both better tend to your speech gardens.

I hope you take this “Speech Garden Challenge” and commit to working on your American accent this spring… and I hope to see you June 9 for my “Speaking and Learning Together” accent reduction course!

Are You Willing to Take the Risk?

Years of hard work … people calling you crazy … putting your life at risk … trying to do something others said can’t be done … is it worth it? Apparently, Orville and Wilbur Wright thought so.

Today, August 19, we celebrate National Aviation Day in honor of the Wright brothers who got their first airplane to take flight in 1903. These brothers had a dream and they were determined to make it happen. They knew that if they studied hard enough, they could figure it out. Do you know what they studied?


Birds fly effortlessly and without thought, masters of their craft. If you want to learn how to do something well, the best thing to do is to copy a master. So, the Wright brothers studied birds, the structure of their wings, and the way they flew, and applied these principles to their airplane wings.

If you want to do something well, find a master to learn from. If you want to learn to fly, study the birds. If you want to learn to ski, learn from professional skiers. And if you want to learn to speak English more clearly, learn it from a native speaker who knows how it sounds and how it works.

Sure, there is a risk involved in working on your pronunciation. You might make a mistake while learning a new sound; in fact, you probably will. Most people do. But is that a reason not to try?

And yes, a colleague might ask you to repeat yourself or laugh at you when the new word that sounded so good in class didn’t come out right at all in conversation.

But, chances are, if you work hard, you will see improvement in your speech. You will speak English more clearly and others will understand you better. Your confidence will improve and you will begin to believe that you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible.

I want to partner with you as you take that risk and feel the thrill of accomplishment in your pronunciation skills.

And it all starts with a simple step. Click on the link below to reserve your space in my free webinar coming up on September 12.


Yes, that’s right. A FREE webinar! I’m taking away the risk for you. It’s no cost and no obligation. All you have to do is show up and give it a try.

You will learn tips and techniques to improve your pronunciation and ideas for increasing your vocabulary. You will find out about common grammar pitfalls and why it is so important that you work on your accent now.

Imagine being able to say whatever you want, any time you want because you know you will be understood. Doesn’t that sound great?

It just takes a small risk — it’s what I call “sign up and show up.” That’s it. Reserve your space here and show up ready to learn.


If you’re willing to take that risk, the rewards will be worth it; I promise! So don’t wait to reserve your place; space is limited and I don’t want you to miss out !

If you’re excited about this opportunity to improve your pronunciation, please share it with your friends. Pass around the link on Facebook and Twitter, and let’s see who is ready to take the risk to speak clearer English with confidence!

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)!