Not a Problem

My friend gave me good parenting advice years ago.  She used to say “If it can be fixed with money, it’s not a problem.”  Now I’m not trying to be glib about the availability of money.  Sometimes we need money and won’t be getting it, or won’t be getting enough of it.  But my friend understood what she was saying.

You see she had twin daughters, and one daughter got cancer, and after a brief summer of excellent medical treatment at a world-renowned hospital, her one daughter died.  My friend suffered one of the cruelest inequities of nature, losing a child.  After that she understood problems could be classified into two distinct categories, the ones you could solve, and the ones you could not.

In your family, are you focused or worried over your “not a problem” that will be solved?  Maybe it won’t be solved today… but if you think about the things that are truly important, is this one of them?

family problemsSet your priorities straight with your children and your family.  Do not keep your mind focused on the “not a problems”  that bother you.  Many of these will be over and done with soon.   You will have real problems, so know the difference.

Pronouncing “Asks” Correctly

she asks a questionFor the word “asks” like in the sentence “She asks a question” or “He asks a question”,  (when the subject of the verb is third person singular) I recommend  to make a brief stop between /as/ and /ks/.

Practice it this way

/as (brief stop) ks/

/as ks/

“she asks a question”

Listen to the audio here.

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Pronouncing “mountain” like an American

mountainMany of my students are not pronouncing “mountain”, “kitten” or “rotten” correctly.  ESL learners, and especially those speaking Asian languages, are pronouncing the “hard t” and in all these words.  In  “mountain”, they are pronouncing -tain like “gain”, or “pain”.   Their words come out sounding like this

  • mountain   [moun tain]
  • kitten   [kit ten]
  • rotten   [rot ten]

But this is not how Americans do it.  So here are some instructions on pronouncing these words the American way.

In American English, when you say a word that has a /t/ + a vowel + an /n/, this vowel is diminished.  Also the quality of the /t/ is changed.  We pronounce the /t/, and don’t release it (we say the beginning of the /t/ but don’t finish it).  The tongue is already up in the front of mouth so we leave it there, up against the alvealor ridge (the bumpy spot behind the upper teeth), and go right into the /n/ sound. The words will sound like this:

  • mountain   [mount  n]
  • kitten  [kit  n]
  • rotten   [rot  n]

Listen to the words here.

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Click on the free worksheet here for more practice words and sentences.

 

3 Rules of -ed: Audio Lesson

Hear the lesson “Pronouncing -ed Endings – 3 Simple Rules”

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PronouncingEdEndings

Regular past tense in English is always spelled -ed.

But it can be pronounced one of 3 different ways based on the word’s ending SOUND.

Most students make the mistake of using the first ending for all -ed words.

When the word ends with the sound /t/ or /d/ we pronounce -ed  /id/:

  • wanted = [wantid]
  • rented = [rentid]
  • needed = [needid]
  • decided = [decidid]

When the word ends with an unvoiced sound (the vocal chords are not vibrating) like /p/, /k/,  /f/, /s/, /ch/ and /sh/ we pronounce -ed /t/:

  • stopped = [stopt]
  • looked = [lookt]
  • laughed = [laft]
  • kissed = [kisst]
  • watched = [watcht]
  • pushed = [pusht]

Finally, when the word ends with a voiced sound (the vocal chords are vibrating) like /b/, /g/,  /v/, /z/, /j/, /zh/, /th/, /m/, /n/, /ng/, /l/, /r/ or any vowel sound we pronounce -ed /d/:

  • robbed =  [robbd]
  • begged =  [beggd]
  • loved =   [lovd]
  • closed =   [klozd]
  • managed = [managd]
  • breathed = [breethd}
  • dreamed =  [dreemd]
  • learned = [lernd]
  • banged = [bangd]
  • called =   [kalld]
  • bored = [bord]
  • played =  [playd]

 

 

 

B/V – How to Pronounce Them

Spanish speakers often have a hard time making B and V different!

minimal pairs b/v ESL accent reductionTo make B

  1. start with lips pressed together
  2. then pop lips apart
  3. while vibrating the vocal chords

B is is never held out for a long time.  You say it, then move to the next sound.

To make V 

  1. the upper teeth bite the lower lip
  2. then push out air
  3. while vibrating the vocal chords (you should feel a buzzing feeling)

V is always held out for a longer time.

Try practicing these B/V minimal pairs:

  • berry  very
  • base   vase
  • bent   vent
  • boat  vote
  • best   vest
  • ban  van
  • bat   vat
  • curb   curve
  • beg  Bev
  • Gabe  gave

Listen to the B and V words.

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“Watcha doin?” Reduced Forms

Reductions n EnglishAmerican English speakers do not say every word perfectly in conversation.  We frequently reduce forms (making words shorter and simpler.) This is not lazy, it is normal and expected in conversational English.

“What are you doing?” becomes “Whatayadoin?” or even “Whatchadoin?”

Learn the reduced forms of English and you’ll improve your listening and speaking.

Here’s a worksheet we used in ESL class that my students really appreciated.

ReducedForms

EKS Marks the Spot – How to Pronounce X

My early ESL students got stuck on “mixer” and “mixing” today.  X can throw you off.  Here’s another way to look at the sounds in these words:

correct pronunciation of Xmixer = mik + ser or miks + er

mixing = mik + sing or miks + ing

Just think of KS and those sounds should carry you through.  Here are some practice words:

  • six (siks)
  • mix (miks)
  • tax (taks)
  • taxi (taksi)
  • next (nekst)
  • extra (ekstra)

Keep up the good work learning English!

 

 

 

 

Long Time No See (You)

“Welcome back!”  was the greeting yesterday when I returned to my ESL classes after 7 weeks away.  I was taking care of some family issues.  It was so good to be greeted so warmly!

“You’ve come back! I’ve missed you!”

“You helped me with my pronunciation!  I’m glad you’re back.”

And my favorite – “Long time no see you!

Long time no see

Thank you students, for your warm welcome, but I need to tell you: don’t put the word YOU in that last saying.  We don’t say it like that.  Just say it this way:


“Long time no see!”

How to pronounce the soft G/J in Orange Juice

orange juiceMy ESL student had a hard time communicating with a waitress at a restaurant.  She tried to order orange juice.  Her soft G or J sound was the culprit. As a Korean, her soft G or J sound was more like an American ZH sound (like in measure).  This problem also happens for Russian, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin speakers because they use a sound similar, but not precisely like the American English soft G or J.

Soft G and J are pronounced the same in English. Remember English spelling is pretty difficult, with many different ways to spell words with the same sounds.  Wish it weren’t a problem, but it is!   Soft G is in words like giant, giraffe, age, and large.  J (pronounced the same way) is found in words like juice, jack, major, and reject.

If this a problem for you, try adding the /d/ sound right before:

d + zh  = j

Here are practice words that already have a /d/ sound in them.  By practicing these words, you can shape your /zh/ sound to be more like a /j/:

  1. edge
  2. hedge
  3. pledge
  4. wedge
  5. dredge
  6. budge
  7. drudge
  8. fudge
  9. nudge
  10. smudge

Listen to -dge words here.

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When you see other words with soft G or J, imagine there is a /d/ there and make that sound. It will sound more American.

Now let’s get back to orange.  The /n/ before the soft G sound makes it a little tricky, so go slow. Pronounce each sound carefully. And remember to add in the/d/ sound right before the soft G.

oran + d + ge  = “orandge”.

Want to practice this harder sound combination?  Here are some words with the same ending as “orange”:

  1. avenge
  2. challenge
  3. lozenge
  4. revenge
  5. scavenge
  6. orange

Listen to the “-nge” word list here.

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I hope that helps!  What sounds are you having trouble with?  Let me know and I’ll post the techniques to make your pronunciation more understandable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The OW in Scouts and How to Get it Right

When teaching my ESL students, we’ve discovered the OW sound is causing trouble!

Our reading lesson was on Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts. girl scoutsIn this case the sound is spelled OU.  But there is also another way to spell it – OW. Sorry, here’s where I apologize for English’s atrocious pronunciation and/or spelling! 🙂

The sound OW has a special name.  It’s called a diphthong (“dif-thong”).  This is when two two adjacent vowel sounds are pronounced in a syllable. The OW in scout is actually the sound /a/ (“ah”) pronounced first, followed directly by /u/ (“oo” like in boot)

OW = “ah”+”oo”

When I teach this sound I tell my students to make this sound “change in your mouth” .  Also think about getting cut, scraped or bumped.  We say “ouch!”  This is the sound we’re going for.ouch bandaid

Here’s some practice words with the sound OW:

  • Girl Scout Boy Scout
  • loud cloud proud
  • mouth south
  • ouch couch pouch
  • house mouse louse
  • sound pound found
  • ounce bounce pronounce

To challenge yourself, try reading the Girl Scout passage outloud. And keep up the good work learning English!  I’m PROUD of you!

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts