Free English Pronunciation Course in San Jose CA



Ready to improve your English Pronunciation?

Join us in September 2017 for a free course of English Pronunciation held at WestGate Church, SouthHills Campus, in San Jose, CA, every monday morning!  Classes start Monday September 11, 2017 at 9:00 am registration and 9:30-11:30 class. Students can also join at any time during the year.

the cube @ south hillsOur location is 6601 Camden Avenue, San Jose CA 95120. We charge a one-time registration fee of $10, and there is an English Pronunciation textbook required (cost is about $30).  All 29 classes are free.  Our course runs from September to May 2018.

  • Is it sometimes hard to pronounce English for Americans to understand you?
  • Do you avoid speaking English, or using English on the phone, because it’s difficult?
  • Have you wondered what it’s like to learn about pronouncing English?
  • Do you think it’s hard to change a foreign accent?
I invite you to consider coming to our English Pronunciation class this fall.  Find out about all these issues while learning about American English speech patterns, and speaking in new and helpful ways, so others understand you!
ESL classroomOur teachers are 2 native American English speakers and one native Canadian English speaker, who work in our class, and we want to give you lots time to practice English. Intermediate and advanced students are welcome at our class.  
Learn more about our program and like our Facebook page – ESL Classes Westgate South Hills – San Jose, CA
We also have regular ESL classes going on at the same time.  We have 10 teachers and helpers, and we have 6 classes form beginner to advanced. We also have free babysitting for infants – age 5 on campus, so young parents can join us, too!
Contact our ESL program at WestGate South Hills Church by email at or by phone at 408-268-1676.

How do I know if I need English Pronunciation Lessons?

Pronunciation lessons promote clearer English speech

Pronunciation lessons promote clearer English speech

How do I know if I need lessons?

  • Your listeners look confused, and often ask you to repeat.
  • You make errors that offend others because they misunderstand your meaning (such as “dog” for “Doug”).
  • You say single words clearly, but pronouncing sentences is not understandable.
  • You miss career advancement because of your foreign accent.
  • You struggle to communicate with new people, or on the telephone.
  • You avoid using English because you are afraid of making mistakes.

Learn more about English pronunciation lessons here.

Why and How to Slow Down in English

talk fast how to slow down speaking EnglishAre you a fast talker?  If you are, this might be a problem when learning to pronounce English.

To be understood in English, you’ll need to use English sounds, link expected words together, and move your intonation up and down reducing less important words, and stressing more important words.

If you’re talking too fast for others to understand you, here’s what can happen:

  • Your message will be lost.  Some folks will just nod, but they have no idea what you said.
  • People will avoid talking with you.  Talking too fast makes work for the listener, and often we are too tired, or too lazy, to work that hard at understanding you.
  • Running words and sentences together without pausing confuses your message and makes it harder to understand.

Follow some simple rules to slow down in English and be understood better:

  1. Know your reasons for talking fast. Are you nervous? Get prepared for your talk and practice. Are you talking fast so no one will notice your accent? Believe me, often that makes your accent worse!  Get some training in pronouncing English sounds, and correctly linking and reducing words in sentences.
  2. Group your sentences into understandable phrases. Pause between each phrase.
  3. Watch your listener for signs of understanding.  You can probably tell when someone does not understand you by the look on their face.  Stop talking, and ask them what part they did not understand.
  4. Breathe Deep. If you breathe deep, you HAVE TO stop talking. Breathing a little deeper will also support your voice for longer sentences.
  5. Punctuation is your guide to pausing. Take pauses 1) after commas, 2) between thought groups and 3) at the end of a sentence.
  6. Ask a trusted friend for feedback.
  7. Practice to get comfortable with more or longer pausing.

Good luck speaking English!


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.


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!



The Importance of Silence – Social Thinking

How can you help someone who talks too much?  I’ve been teaching social thinking to young adults with Aspergers and this is our lesson from this week.

People who talk too much often feel pressed to be speaking. They report that silence makes them uncomfortable and so talking (often about anything and everything) makes them feel better. Unfortunately their “too much” talking may be making others around them feel uncomfortable. If that’s the case and your friend, student or client wants to make a change, they may need a good reason to be quiet. Help them understand the value of silence in conversation with these simple ideas.

Examine pictures of how others feel with too much talkingtalk too much.  It may be a little dramatic, but a photo or illustration can help someone “see” something that may not have noticed before.  Facial expressions in real life are rapid and changing, so the “too much” talker may not even see how the other person feels. This extra cue can help someone see discomfort, annoyance or unhappiness.

Discuss quotes. Have you ever heard “Silence is Golden” ? How about “You have 2 ears and only one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” These chestnuts have been around for ages – and that’s because of the wisdom in them. Get your client to verbalize what these mean, and they will improve their understanding of how important silence is for good communication and good social skills.

Discuss the value of silence. Did you know that if one is silent in conversation, it allows others to complete their thoughts without rushing, others feel valued and their opinion of you improves! That’s something that we love, isn’t it? Think of the benefits of silence and have your client do the same. When a person knows that there are benefits, they may be more willing to change, when change is uncomfortable. Remember the person who talks too much is often uncomfortable with silence.

I’ve included the free printable that I used with young adults with Aspergers in a social skills group. Hope this might help you also.

Image above from Bing images.

Social Behavior Mapping Examples for Adults – Social Thinking

Social Behavior Mapping Adults Social ThinkingI’ve been using Social Thinking’s social behavior map (SBM) with an adult Aspergers client.

I’m going to show you an example where the unexpected behavior makes others feel uncomfortable and may end up in causing the Asperger person to feel bad by the way they end up treating him. Asperger folks often live with others (with parents, spouses or roommates) and at times others prepare meals for them. What can happen when a person with high-functioning autism needs to discuss and comment on the dinner (often negatively), and why are the comments so badly received by the cook? Let’s use the SBM-A to look at the reasons why:


Your Unexpected Behavior Perceived intentions: How other interpret the intentions of your behavior How the interpreted intentions make others feel  How others react to their related feelings How the reactions make you feel
Critiquing the dinner.Telling the cook what you prefer, or what you would have preferred.Telling the cook what she can do to improve the dinner next time. The cook thinks you don’t appreciate or value her efforts.The cook thinks you think you could cook the meal better.The cook thinks you think you are better than them. – insulted- not appreciated- unfairly wronged- don’t like being with you – mean voice- nasty remarks (“Well then, you can cook your own dinner!”)- not wanting to cook dinner in the future- ignore or avoid being with you – confused- mad- sad- lonely- rejected



Follow the social behavior map from the right to the left and notice how unexpected behavior will have an affect on others, and ultimately on how they treat you.

The adult SBM has an important addition that’s missing from the SBM for kids. It has a column (#2) that asks you to consider how your message was perceived. This is something all adults (neurotypical) intuitively know. We act a certain way knowing the other person will perceive it (hopefully as we intended.)

How confused an Asperger person can be when he discovers what he intended is NOT what people perceived!

This client thought critiquing the dinner and providing feedback to the cook would be helpful! He needed to know that others might perceive his intention as differently than he intended.

See the blank social behavior maps ( Unexpected and Expected ) from Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke’s book Social Thinking at Work.






The Importance of the Social Fake – Social Thinking

“Why do I have to use the “social fake”?” my adult Asperger client protested. “I hate people who are fake! I want people to be themselves with me!” My client was taking the idea too literally, so I told him this story to help him understand the “social fake”.

Yesterday I got pulled over for speeding in my residential neighborhood. When the cop pulled me over my initial thoughts were,

“No! This is not happening. He does not want me. I don’t want to stop driving. I’m late for work already. Now I’m going to be even later. Maybe I can just keep driving. Maybe I can get away. I can drive pretty fast. Maybe he won’t be able to catch me….”

I did stop my car and talk with the police officer. While getting out my license and registration, I began to do the “social fake”. I pretended the conversation with the police officer was the most important thing on my mind. I gave him my full attention, smiled and quickly obeyed the instructions he gave me. I had lots of thoughts running through my head (not wanting a ticket, wanting him to let me go so I could get to work, etc.) but I did not say any of the thoughts I had. I kept my filter very tight, only letting out the thoughts that would make the officer comfortable.

He gave me the ticket and let me go. The social fake helped me to minimize any problems of this difficult situation. Imagine if I had not filtered my thoughts, and said everything that was on my mind? That would have made the officer uncomfortable, and may have caused him to create more problems for me.

The Importance of the Social FakeI got to work late and used the social fake to my advantage again. It was very busy at work and my lateness caused problems for my co-workers that morning. I could see that they were upset. I gave a genuine apology and began my work,  but did not explain why I was late that morning. In this situation my colleagues would have interpreted my explanation as an excuse, and would have had no sympathy for me. And they were right. Had I left early enough, I would not have been speeding, and the cop would not have pulled me over to give me a ticket. Later that morning someone asked why I was late. I quietly and humbly explained I got pulled over and got a ticket. (Social faking it again, I kept my filter on, and I did not say everything that I was thinking.) My co-workers were understanding and sympathetic, however that is because I tried to fix the problems my late behavior caused, and I did not whine or complain about my issues.

I used social thinking in these situations to keep people around me feeling comfortable (or at least neutral). Modifying my behavior also makes things comfortable for me, because my co-workers continue to enjoy being around me and working with me.

Learn more about Social Thinking here.

Talking Too Much at Work or School – Social Thinking

When adults with Aspergers (a kind of high-functioning autism) talk too much at work or school, there are some things that help. Here are some techniques I’m using with my adult clients. If you are the person talking too much, try these ideas for yourself.

Talking percentages. If there are 2 people having a conversation, each person gets about half the talking time, or 50%. If there are 4 people, each person gets about 25% of the talking time, and so on. Reminders to know what percentage is theirs may  help. For the “too much talker” – count up the people in your conversation group and only use “your percentage” of talking time.

How to not talk too muchRespond in 30 seconds (or 1 – 2 sentences).  One or 2 sentences should take about 30 seconds. For conversations at school or work to be efficient, keep to the 1 -2 sentences (or 30 second) rule.  Practice this with a friend and a timer.  At first you may find it really hard to keep your response at 1 – 2 sentences or only 30 seconds.  That’s probably because you are in the habit of going on and on!  Practice with a time at 1 minute.  If you can do it at 1 minute then try decreasing the time to 50 seconds, then go down to 40 seconds, and down to 30 as you are able.

Try a challenge – make your response in 15 seconds!  One of the most frequent complaints people at work have is that co-workers are not respectful of their time.  It may be that a “too much talker” does not know the hidden social rule that conversational comments and responses need to be 1 – 2 sentences, or about 30 seconds.

Filter!  Ever had a classmate or a workmate have their eyes glaze over with boredom?  Is it possible you are not using your talking “filter”?  how to not talk too muchA filter is like a spaghetti strainer or colander.  It allows some things to flow out (water) and some things to stay in (spaghetti)  I use a small strainer, a kitchen tool, with my clients.  When they give me too much information, I hold up the strainer!  At first they wondered what that was for, so we talked about filters and how it’s important to not

  1. say everything you’re thinking, or
  2. say everything you know about a topic, or
  3. repeat something that your listener has heard before

A filter needs to be over your mouth at all times.  Actually this a universal idea, because all adults need to filter what they say, throughout their whole life, in every situation.

Learn basics for conversation.  There are really only 3 ways to respond in a conversation where you are trying to stop talking too much and help the others in the conversation feel comfortable. Doing these things will make your conversational partner feel like you have a genuine interest in them. For a logical person it may seem silly to have to be concerned about your classmate or workmate’s feelings, but that is really what people need to be able to work well together, and share space efficiently.

  1. Asking questions to a person about that person
  2. Supporting comment/response
  3. Add-A-Thought

This idea comes from the Social Thinking website, and is aimed at clients who need help in the area of social skills thinking and social skills training.

Self-discovery.  Ask a trusted friend to provide his or her honest feedback about how much you talk and how it affects them.  Write down their answer.  Review the information and allow it to inform what you do next.  Have you  recently become aware that you are a “too much talker”?  Explore the reasons why you do it.  What is driving you to talk too much?  Do you have areas you can address that will help you to stop talking too much?  A friend or a counselor may help you to discover why you are talking too much, and knowing more about your reasons why may help you to make some positive changes.

Best of luck trying out these ideas.  As always, I’m happy to hear your comments or questions.  Thanks!