Social Thinking – How to Enter a Conversation

Social Thinking Lessons How to Enter a ConversationFor the adult with Aspergers (a type of high-functioning autism), knowing the rules for conversation can be tricky. The steps for entering, participating in and ending a conversation are specific and expected.

I’m posting today on how to enter a conversation. The ideal person this is written for is one who talks too much, barges into conversations, talks about himself too much, and does not catch the cues that others are giving, such as looks of boredom, annoyance or disgust!

  1. Engage your mind. Think about the purpose of the conversation, the intent of the other people, if your contribution will be welcome, etc.
  2. Move your body. Position your body in a way that shows you are open to joining the conversation
  3. Think with your eyes. Make eye contact with the others in the group and then use your eyes to watch for cues that show how others are feeling about you. You will be using your eyes during the entire conversation and interpreting how others feel about you sharing space with them.
  4. Speak. Use your words, tone of voice, volume, to communicate your message.

Based on Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking program, I try to teach my “talks too much” client he must enter the conversation as a nobody in order to become a somebody. He must be silent in the beginning, and use his mind, body and eyes to figure out when, what and how much to say to enter a conversation already in progress.

If he does not make eye contact with the others and contribute a brief (initially) appropriate comment, the others will not welcome him into their conversation.

Once he’s in, he must monitor and modify his input to the conversation to keep the others feeling comfortable about his presence there.

The others will probably never tell him what he’s doing wrong (if anything), but they will behave in a way that avoids him in the future based on his problematic social thinking skills in this area.

Here’s the free printable handout used in this lesson.


American Christmas – Singing Carols

American Christmas Singing CarolsSinging Christmas carols is a great activity for your ESL class or English pronunciation class.  This year for our students, I choose 3 well-known carols – Jingle Bells, The First Noel and Silent Night.

Each song has lessons in it.  My favorite lessons to do with singing are “linking”.  It’s so natural to show and practice linking.  I teach my students that linking in Jungle Bells

“one horse open sleigh”

sounds like

“one horse soap and sleigh” and they always get a big kick out of it!

For The First Noel I teach my students about linking vowel sounds using the “y” or “w” sound and that Noel sounds like No well.

Silent Night is the most common of all carols and has been translated into over 300 different languages.  Have students sing along in their native language for one verse. Also I teach about pronouncing child and mild by stretching out the I and adding a short uh sound before the LD –  child sounds like chi yuld and mild sounds like mi yuld.

Songs are easy to find to go along with this free printable Christmas carol worksheet.  Enjoy! and Merry Christmas!

Work Meetings & American Culture

American Meeting CultureAs an international, when you’ve been promoted to manager or supervisor in your U.S. company, you may find American work meetings confusing.  Being in charge over others at work is a privilege. Congratulations!  To run effective meetings you may need to understand what Americans expect at a work meeting.


  • Time Management. Be proactive about the time expectation  Repecting time in the US is pretty important. If you are used to meetings going long because the discussion goes off topic, and your cultural expectation is to be relaxed about that, I encourage you to consider your American staff will not appreciate that.  It may seem to Americans that their time is wasted and that translates to “lack of respect”.
  • Have an agenda.  If you send out an email agenda ahead of the meetings, you may want to also make a print copy to carry into the meeting.  An agenda keeps you and the others in the meeting on track.
  • Keep control.  No repeats.  Choose your words wisely and don’t repeat yourself.  Employees who repeat when they present their ideas need to be stopped also and reminded not to repeat.
  • When thing go off topic – get back on track.  Bring the topic back to the agenda items only.  Politely interrupt “We need to get back to the items on the agenda.  Save that topic for another time.”
  • Find an assistant to keep things on track.  Look for someone who aligns with your ideas, can assist you in keeping the meeting productive, and is an honest and trustworthy person.
  • Consider accent modification training.  Employees will not tell you when they misunderstand you. They will likely struggle until things can be clarified (What a loss of time, productivity and money!) But training to make your spoken English more understandable translates to a more effective working situation, greater productivity and greater financial strength for you and your company.

Learning the expected culture of a U.S. business meeting will be good for you and your business.  And keep up the good work learning English!



S Family of Sounds Pronunciation Lessons

S Family of Sounds_English Pronunciation_ LessonsThis post is a collection of resources for the S Family of English Sounds.  You’ll learn about the correct way to pronounce English

S  Z  SH  ZH  CH and J


My Korean students have a hard time with these sounds, often substituting one for another.  This makes it very hard to understand their English.  But other foreign-born speakers of English need to learn these 6 different English sounds also.  Many of the resources also have audio and free printable handouts to practice the words.    I hope you enjoy these resources!

S Family – Tricky Words

S Family – Advanced Practice

S Family – Simplified

S Family of Sounds

J Sound in “Orange Juice”

Z Sound in “Wizard of Oz”

English ZH Sound

ZH – The French Sound in English

Z and ZH



Reducing Words with i – Audio

Reducing Words with i - audioSounding more like a native American speaker takes practice and our pronunciations lessons this month included practicing

reducing multi-syllabic words with “i”. 

Words like “president” and “silicon” would have a reduced “i” – that is the “i” in the weak syllable of each word would be reduced to an “uh” sound.

president  sounds like pre suh dent

silicon sounds like si  luh  con

accident acc   sə   dent
amplify am     plə fy
animal an     ə   məl
beautiful beau   tə ful
California cal     ə   for nia
capital cap ə təl
carnival car   nə   vəl
centipede cent     ə peed
dedicate de     də   cate
difficult dif   ə cult
episode ep     ə sode
fascinate fas     ə nate
festival fest   ə val
fortify for   tə   fy
halibut hal   ə bət
hesitate hes   ə tate
hurricane hurr     ə cane
indicate in     də cate
minister min   ə ster
monitor mon   ə tər
obligate o     blə gate
pelican pel   ə can
president pres   ə dent
primitive prim   ə tive
sacrifice sa  crə fice
satisfy sa   təs fy
sediment sed   ə   ment
silicon sil     ə   cən
similar sim   ə lər
terminal term   ə nəl
terminate term   ə nate
testify tes     tə fy
vertical ver     tə   cal

Get a free printable of these practice words for reducing words with i.

Listen to the audio here.

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And as always, keep up the good work learning and speaking English!

Common Sounds – The ‘ul’ in English

Words with UL_Syllablic LWe’ve come upon a sound in English that the whole class is having trouble with.  It’s the sound


and it’s in so many words! It’s in the last syllable of these words:

able table fable cable

people steeple

trouble double triple

little middle saddle cradle handle

The problem is that hardly anyone teaches how to pronounce words with -le or the “ul” sound.  The words above have a common spelling but the pronunciation can be hard if students are used to pronouncing words the way they are spelled.  This is Syllabic L and it’s always a weak, or reduced, syllable.

We also see


in these words:

royal mortal jewel annual casual manual mutual usual

and in the names:

Carol Cheryl Russell Sybil Wendell

The “ul” sound is the weak, or reduced, sound in words or names with 2 syllables.  The spelling varies but pronounce the second syllable “ul”.

One last place we see


is in words with final L and have a long vowel or “er”.  Americans stretch out words like this:

Meal sounds like “mee yul”

Fail sounds like “fay yul”

Hole sounds like “hoe wul”

School sounds like “skoo wul”

Girl sounds like “ger rul”

World sounds like “wer rulld”