New Vocalic R Practice Pack on TPT

Vocalic R collectionPlease stop by my TpT store and see the latest addition to my articulation resources.  I’ve added a new Vocalic R Practice Collection that will be a great supplement to teaching/learning R articulation.

R is the most difficult sound in English and many kids and adults need help with learning the sound.  American R is also a popular target for ESL students, and teachers of American English pronunciation.

Worksheets are organized by sound and have space to add personalized words or sentences.  Use this collection in class or in therapy to practice words with the sounds:

  • AIR
  • EAR
  • IRE
  • AR
  • OR
  • ER

Long E/Short I/ShortE (bead/bid/bed)

Bead_Bid_Bed English pronunciation San Jose CAWhen I work with students trying to modify their foreign accent, confusing these sounds is often the most common mistake.

This will lead to many misunderstandings, so getting it right will be a big help.

With words with long e – believe, colleague, really, heat – smile broadly with teeth almost closed. Arch your tongue in the middle, high enough to touch the upper teeth at the sides. Tense the muscles of your tongue and mouth. Try these practice words:

  • bead
  • eat
  • feet
  • beat
  • seat
  • heat

With words with short i – Italy, happiness, insect, living – make a little smile with mouth slightly open. Arch your tongue slightly. Relax the muscles of your tongue and mouth. Try these practice words:

  • bid
  • it
  • fit
  • bit
  • sit
  • hit

With words with short e – end, went, editor, edge – the mouth is open and the lips are relaxed.  Make a low arch with your tongue. Try these practice words:

  • bed
  • red
  • led
  • fed
  • said (Careful!  This one is “sed”)

Click here for handouts from Richard Lane’s pronunciation guide on long e, short i and short e.


How to Change a Foreign Accent

image from Bing Images

image from Bing Images

First things first – everyone has an accent!  I bet you didn’t realize that.  But it’s true.  You may find when you are learning a new language like American English, that your accent gets in the way.  When this happens you begin to think “How can I get rid of my accent?”

The answer is “You can’t.”   You can’t get rid of it completely, but you can make your errors seem less noticeable.  That’s where accent reduction lessons can help.  With accent reduction lessons (also called accent modification or American English accent training) you often work with a speech-language pathologist specially trained to teach you how to speak American English like a native speaker.

Your teacher will emphasise correct pronunciation of American English sounds, words stress and sentence stress, linking sounds together in running speech, common reductions, and the melody and intonation patterns that will help you to sound more American.

What’s your part?  You need to spend focused time listening and imitating American English.  One quick way to get a handle on an American English accent is to mimic an American speaking your language.  This is called reverse accent mimicry.  Just speak your language the way you may have heard an American speak it – by mimicking an American accent while speaking your language, you will trigger areas of your brain that control speech learning and accent.  Then make these same sounds when speaking American English.  You should see an improvement.

Try accent reduction books with CDs.  If you are an auditory learner the recordings will be helpful, and if you are a visual learner read along in the book while you listen.

Set a goal for yourself .  You could select one sound.  Many speakers from Asian countries can improve American R (made in the back of the mouth) and L (made near the front of the mouth).  Many speaker from Latin countries can improve TH sounds and add voicing to Z sounds.  Find out your trouble sounds and try to improve them on purpose.

Let friends or co-workers know that you are working on improving your accent.  Many Americans are too polite to correct words someone is pronouncing wrong, but if you let them know you want their feedback, I’m sure they will be happy to provide that.

Good luck with your accent learning,  and keep up the good work!


(previously posted July 2012)