Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Part 1: Learning the American Speech Rythym

One of the issues I find when working with ESL clients learning accent reduction at Accent Master is the tendency to bring in the rhythm of their first language when speaking American English.  Changing the rhythm is challenging but not impossible.  So follow this 3 part series on rhythym in American English.

Rhythm the beat or prosody of speech.  The way you sound when you imitate an American's speech in your own language.  Each language has there own sound or rhythm.  To speak with the American rhythm their are 3 features to consider:

1.      Alternation 
2.      Linking
3.     Trimming

Here we will look at alternation of stress in sentences.  


Alternation simply means to alternate between stressed and unstressed words or syllables. Heavier stress occurs at approximately regular intervals of time.  With the weaker words syllables squeezed in between.  It important to realize that one vowel carries the stress for the word, so the whole word is not longer and louder but the stressed vowel or syllable does.  For more information word stress please go to that post: word stress video.

 Words that will carry more stress will be longer, louder and with a fully produced vowel sound.  The stress in a message unit is generally found on content words or loud function words.

Content words include

  • ·         Nouns
  • ·         Verbs
  • ·         Adjectives
  • ·         Adverbs

Loud function words are words that carry important grammatical meaning such as

  •    Question words
Who, what when where why
  • ·         Demonstrative pronouns: demonstrate thing or things  this, those, that
  • ·         And negatives: no, not

While our soft function words that do not receive stress are

  • ·         Is, are
  • ·         Pronouns: he , she, they, them etc..
  • ·         Articles a, the
  • ·         Prepositions: in, on, under etc
  • ·         Conjunctions and, but , also,

Not that they can be left off!  Just because they are not stressed does not mean that they do not serve a great informational purpose.

Say the following sentences stress the words bolded:

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise

Hope of gain  lessons pain

In the following sentences I put  first just the stressed words then added soft function words.  Adding on the soft function words barely changes the amount of time it takes to say the sentences.

   Friends             need              help
My friends have needed help
My friends have been needing some help

2.      Proposals due Friday
Our proposal’s due Friday
Our proposal’s due on Friday
Our proposal should have been due Friday

 Here I put the stress mark as close to the stressed vowel of the stressed words as possible.  Try to copy the pattern.  American English does have an up and down flow to it.

Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change
throughout much of the history of the United States.. In 2006 the United States accepted more legal   
immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined. After ethnic quotas
on immigration were removed in 1965 the number of actual (first-generation) immigrants living in  
the United States quadrupled, from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007. Over one million
people were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 2008. The leading countries of origin of immigrants to
the United States were Mexico, India, the Philippines, and China. Nearly 14 million immigrants
entered the United States from 2000 to 2010.

It is challenging to alternate the stress.  The benefits though are real.  The American ear is trained to hear this pattern so when English is produced with an accented rhythm it does cause a delay in understanding what is being said. Important information maybe missed. 

Accent Master


Monday, July 22, 2013

5 Amazing Tips to Improve Your Pronunciation Now!

Hello ESL learners who are presently working on accent reduction or as we say at Accent Master; learning an American accent.  I have put together a list of tips that have helped many of my clients improve their spoken English.

 Are you looking for ideas of what you can do right now, even if you can't make the time to take one of our private or group classes in English pronunciation?  Well let me give you the link in case you didn't know that beyond our excellent software program we do indeed have private classes  Accent Master Private Classes Oh and while I am at it I will mention that our software program price has been reduced to just $99.00, or a download for $89.00.  Here is the link for that great deal:   Accent Master Software .  Okay so lets get to what you can do on your own.  Below I am giving you 5 tips that will really help you be understood.

 Five Tips to Improve Your English Pronunciation Now!

  1. English flows.  It has been said that the rhythm of English is like that of jazz.  Often new speakers of English are told to slow down; this can actually cause more difficulty.  English words are often connected as in “how-are you” The first two words sound like one.  If you separate each word you will end up sounding robotic.
  2. The /th/ sound, this one is not found in many languages, with the exception of Greek and Cotillion Spanish.  The good news is that it is easy to see in the mirror.  Take a look in the mirror.  Whisper this sentence.  He thought a bath would be a good thing.  You should see your tongue sticking out just a bit between your teeth 3 times.  The most common mistake is to replace /th/ with a /d/ or /t/.  Just move that tongue out a bit and you will have it.
  3. Listen to a book on tape.  This will be an excellent example of English spoken well.  Listening to well produced English is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Training the ear to “stop hearing with an accent” is crucial to accent modification success.
  4. How about that /r/? The American /r/ is different than most.  There is no contact from the tongue to any other part of the mouth when producing the /r/ sounds.  Just curl the tongue tip back and let the air flow out around it. 
  5. Here is a simple tip about /s/ and /z/.  Often in American English we like to write s and then produce a /z/.  As in the final position of words.  If an s follows a vowel or a silent sound at the end of a word it is produced as a /z/.  Here are some examples.  
s that is produced as a /z/                          s that sounds like an /s/
Cries                                                          hits
Beds                                                          tacks
Rays                                                          bells

The most important thing you can do now is practice these 5 tips.  Then go our and use them in conversation.  Put on your American accent in low pressure situations, like ordering your coffee or talking to a sales person on the phone.  Then try it out on acquaintances until you feel confident to start using these new  patterns in conversations that are more  intense for example with a boss, a colleague or a client.

Lynn founder of ;
Accent Master

Friday, July 19, 2013


How important is intonation, well fairly. At Accent Master I find many of my ESL learners find the up and down, sing song typical of American English challenging to imitate in conversational speech.

Intonation carries the implied meaning in a sentence.  The general pattern of your speech can imply that you are down, or very excited or that you are asking a question.
for example if you say the

"I can write the report" it is a simple statement.

If you say

"I can write the REPORT" with a rising inflection, you may sound incredulous or questioning.  So if you want to come off as sure and capable, but you use a rising intonation you may actually sound unsure and incapable.

So we can safely say that intonation is as important as any other aspect of advanced spoken American English.  You don't want to be implying the wrong message. 

Practice stressing the highlighted words in each sentence:  Stress the words by making them slightly louder, longer and higher pitch.

You told him not to speak to the press.

1.    You told him not to speak to the press.  -  Implying that it was all there idea

2.    You told him not to speak to the press.    - More natural stress pattern

3.    You told him not to speak to the press.-  Contrastive you told him, but not someone else

4.    You told him not to speak to the press. - Clarification

5.    You told him not to speak to the press.    -Contrastive you told him not to speak to the press, but you didn’t say anything about writing a letter.

6.    You told him not to speak to the press.   - Contrastive he’s not to speak to the press but maybe he could speak to another person
Write down some common sentences from your daily life and practice changing the stress pattern.  Practice is key! 

Lynn Founder of
Accent Master

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spoken English's Real Impact on Your Life

How Does Your Accent Really Affect Your Work, Relationships, and Confidence? 

So here we are in the heat of the summer, and I think it is a good time really think about our speech and how it truly is impacting the impression we make on the world.  How are we representing ourselves?  Do we put our best foot forward or do we just muddle through.  I am guessing that if you read a blog on spoken American English that you must be some one striving for more, to always put your best foot forward, as I find most of our clients at Accent Master to be, they work on accent reduction or put a clearer way learning an American accent to improve their chances at promotions, being project managers, getting hired, making a clearer sales pitch.  Successful people that don't give up on taking it one step further.

Lets  really evaluate how our speech affects our progress, our lives. Be honest with your self
  • I am asked to repeat myself how many time in a day? 
  • I avoid using certain words      
  • I may have experienced because of my accent:
lost job opportunities
looked over for promotion
networking connections

  • I avoid networking or job socialization because I was nervous about my communication skills 
  • I feel out of place socializing because I am misunderstood  
  • In casual conversation I am
  • When explaining complex ideas my accent interferes
  • Talking on the phone in English 
  • I try to speak with an American accent when speaking English 
  Speaking with an American accent would improve
  • confidence
  • work/job performance
  • social life
  • public speaking
  • desire to share ideas
  • leadership skills
  • client relationships
  • others perception of my abilities
Because of my accent people see me as:
  • More naive
  • less capable
  • nicer
  •  more knowledgeable
  • less knowledgeable
  • not precise
  • less educated
  • more educated
  • a leader
  • a mediator
  • less friendly
If I meet someone with a different accent then myself it effects my perception of them 
  • More naive
  • less capable
  • nicer
  •  more knowledgeable
  • less knowledgeable
  • not precise
  • less educated
  • more educated
  • a leader
  • a mediator
  • less friendly
So what did you find? More positive associations with speaking nonstandard or accent American English?  Or more negative?  For more videos and tips for speaking standard American English please go to:  Accent Master.com

Successful communication is within your reach!

Lynn Founder of
Accent Master