The Most Important Goals of Accent Neutralization

What are the most important goals for an accent neutralization program?

You might think the sounds of English are the most important goals to work on. But what many don’t realise is there are additional features of English that may be more helpful to focus on. These features include word stress and sentence stress, rhythm, intonation and linking words.

The wrong stress on a word may confuse your listener. Percent sounds like person with the stress on the wrong syllable.

Wrong sentence stress or wrong intonation can confuse your listener, and he may think you’re asking a question, or you’re not finished talking yet, if your intonation goes up instead of down.

Not linking sounds in words and between words. If you ask for a Die Et Coke, will they understand you want diet coke?  Learn to link inside and between words. (diyet coke)

Sounds of English are important to learn (bag and beg are not the same), and other features of english are valuable to learn too.

Having another person listen and point out your errors is a good first step to pronouncing English clearly. A teacher who provides feedback and sets goals for learning is the next best step. Be sure to learn these other features of English along with learning sounds.

 

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.

Pronouncing “the” or “thee”?

Pronounce The or Thee

Pronounce The or Thee

A very common word in English is “the”.  But you might notice we pronounce it two different ways!

If “the” is next to a consonant, it will be pronounced [thuh]:

the book  [thuh book]

the car  [thuh kar]

the man  [thuh man]

If “the”is next to a vowel, it will be pronounced [thee] and often has a linking sound [y] to help you easy say the phrase:

the orange  [thee (y) oranj]

the ending  [thee (y) ending]

the acorn  [thee (y) akorn]

So practice the pattern for an improved American English pronunciation.

 

Jaw Stability/Jaw Grading in Tongue Thrust

TongueThrust Eng Vowel Ex Pix page jpgIf you have a student or client with tongue thrust (as known as oral myofunctional disorder)  you may need some information about the jaw.

Learn more about the jaw here and see my resources for therapy ideas on Teachers Pay Teachers.com.

Vowel QuadrilateralThe vowels are often affected by the position of the jaw. If you are teaching English pronunciation to a foreign-born speaker, they may improve their low vowels /ae/ as in /cat/, and /ah/ as in /pot/, if they open their mouth wider (move their jaw to a low jaw position).

See my free printable English Vowel Quadrilateral here.

See my free printable Mouth Openings Pictures & Words Page here.

The entire Tongue Thrust/Jaw Stability handout packet is available on TeachersPayTeachers.

KT for Chinese Speakers

esl-studentsHere’s help for Chinese speakers to get a more American English sound. When consonantsc” (k) and “t” are in the middle of a word (like “practice”), or between two words in a phrase, (like “take two”), hold out the vowel just before the “k” sound, then make a gentle, quiet “k” linked to the “t”.

DO NOT fully pronounce the ‘k’ sound or it will sound like pra  KA  tice (practice) or da KA tor (doctor).

Listen to the audio here.

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practice

pra——>  ktis

doctor

do——-> ktor

active

a——-> ktiv

factor

fa——>kter

Free printable list of KT words here.

 

 

A Day in the Life of an SLP – Accent Modification

 

Day in the Life of an SLP Accent ModificationI’m headed off to work this morning, where I’ll spend 2 hours in English pronunciation class with adults from 5 different countries and cultures.  It’s every Monday morning and my current clients are Iranian, Chinese (Mandarin), Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese.  Our class is part of an ESL (English as a Second Language) program in our community.  Stand-alone courses like this are often called accent modification, and can be taught to groups or individuals.  The success of the program relies on client participation and teacher feedback.  As a speech language pathologist, I am applying my knowledge of American English to help clients.  The goals are for clients to understand spoken English better, and to speak English in a way that they are understood better by Americans.

ESL Classes

We learn and practice the sounds of English.  But just as important as sounds, we learn linking patterns in phrases and sentences.  We learn reductions (like “going to” is often reduced to “gonna”), because it improves listening comprehension.  We learn about rhythm, stress and intonation, which is particularly hard for students whose first language is monotone.  This photo shows clients and I practicing strong and weak stress patterns in sentences, moving a ball high or low as we speak. Lastly American culture is often a topic in class, as well as techniques to improve communication styles.

It’s the start of a new class and I need to record each client with a brief test.  I will listen to each recording and identify the target goals for that client.  I’ll write it up in a one page summary.  I’ll also take a recording at the end of the year for all the clients, and do another summary page.  This prep takes time, but is worth it to have pre-and post- recordings.  Clients get a listening home practice assignment each week.  They write a short paragraph and read it in class, and I provide feedback.  After class I read their home practice sheets to get a better idea of how each is listening, understanding and writing in English.

ESL classroom

To prepare for class, I’m following a text, choosing the lessons that are most needed for this class (L vs. R, and stress & rhythm),  but I also developed my own materials to teach about things that seems overlooked in pronunciation, (things such as jaw height for vowel sounds, for example). Early on, I had to try a number of texts and materials.  I also did some formal training, but much of my skill was learned “on the job” with clients.  It’s important to take notes on what topics come up for your clients.  I developed a curriculum, but often the need for new skills shows up in a session.  I research or develop materials to add when this is of value to the clients.

I see individuals, in person and by videochat.  Sessions are often held in the evening or early morning, because they are needed to fit around the client’s work.  Each client gets pre- and post- testing for a course, which is generally 15 weeks.  Some clients choose to take a second, or third course.  Each client uses a text with CDs of the American English accent.   I spend time prepping materials specifically chosen for each client. Often I record audio and upload it to Dropbox for clients to hear and practice.

I live in a high tech area that draws a lot of internationals.  I think that is why I’ve been successful at booking accent modification clients.  My clients are often professional men and women, who desire to advance at work, and they find their accent or communication style may be holding them back.  I work with children of professionals who want their child or teen to sound more like an American.  This translates to better education and work prospects for them. I work with housewives, who upon coming to the U.S. realize their English teacher back in Japan or Korea taught them a lot of wrong things!

Speech language pathologists are uniquely qualified to teach accent modification. Your training and experience with speech, language and communication has prepared you to begin today.  If this is an area that interests you, I would encourage you to explore the possibilities.  SLPs are a generous group of people who will share materials, and ideas, and cheer you on in this area!  Many thousands of people worldwide desire to communicate in English.  Therefore competency in speaking and understanding English is greatly sought after now, and it will be in the future.

Understanding Can and Can’t

Understanding Can & Can'tA student in English Pronunciation class asked how to make “can” and “can’t” different, because when she hears Americans use these words it’s hard to tell them apart! Sometimes you hear the T on “can’t”, but not always.  There is an easier way to know the difference:

When we use “can” (affirmative), the vowel often gets reduced, and sounds like “kin” or “kun”.

But with “can’t” (negative), the vowel never gets reduced.  It always sounds like a short A sound.

“I can [kin] do it.” “Can [kin] you call me?” “We can [kin] go.”

“I can’t [kant] do it.” “Can’t [kant] you call me?” “We can’t [kant] go.”

 

 

 

 

Pronunciation Apps & Internet Resources

Pronunciation Apps Listening Resources imageBe sure to use your tablet or computer for additional help with Pronouncing English. The following resources (free or cheap) focus on the North American English pronunciation.

MacMillan The Pronunciation App (free) This features words using the sounds of English with IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet).  It has practice and quizzes for reading, writing and listening.

K12Phonemes (free) Learn the sounds of English with sounds and words, plus a nice video of a real person speaking.

Sounds of Speech  ($3.00) This is from the Iowa Phonetics project.  You’ll see and hear sounds of English with a video illustration of the mouth saying the sounds/words.  The app is $2.99.  You can access the program for free with your laptop by going to the University of Iowa Phonetics home (available on a computer or laptop only, not a tablet.)

Dragon Dictation (free) Set it to American English. and the Dragon Dication computer program will try to recognize and turn your spoken sentence into printed text.  See how well you’re pronouncing English!

Here are free resources for listening.  Audio is in beginner, intermdiate and advanced levels, many with audio transcripts.

  1. Randall’s Listening Lab http://www.esl-lab.com/
  2. English Listening https://www.englishlistening.com/
  3. Many Things http://www.manythings.org/elllo/
  4. Talk English http://www.talkenglish.com/listening/listenbasic.aspx
  5. Agenda Web http://www.agendaweb.org/listening/intermediate_advanced.html
  6. Rong-Chang Listening http://www.rong-chang.com/listen.htm

Keep up the good work learning English!

Tongue Twister Fun

Tongue Twisters ESL English PronunciationTongue Twisters are poems that are tricky to pronounce, even for native speakers!

Trying to say a tongue twister poem fast often has hilarious results!  But they can be very good practice when you say them slowly.  Here are a few of my favorites: She Sells Seashells, Peter Piper and How Much Wood?

  • She sells seashells by the seashore.
  • The shells she sells are surely seashells.
  • So if she sells shells by the seashore,
  • I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Hear the audio clip She Sells Seashells.

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  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • If Peter Piper Picked a peck of pickled peppers,
  • Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Hear the audio clip Peter Piper.

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  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
  • If a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Hear the audio clip How Much Wood?

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Click here for a free printable worksheet – Tongue Twisters

Shortcut for Pronouncing -ed Endings

Shortcut -ed endingsPronouncing -ed endings correctly makes a big difference.  When a student can pronounce the -ed endings he will be much easier to understand.  Comprehensible English is the goal of accent modification.

There is a common method of teaching -ed endings by using /d/, /t/ and /id/.  This was a little confusing for my lower students, so I developed a “shortcut” to pronouncing -ed endings.

Words ending in T or D, add ‘id’ and say it as a separate syllable.

Words ending in all other sounds, add “d” and DON’T say it as a separate syllable.

Important tip!  Beginning D is said with a puff of air.  Ending D is said with NO PUFF OF AIR!  This is helpful, when students say “gooda” for good,  “hadda” for had, “playeda” for played or “moveda” for moved. No puff of air here will help your student’s English to be more comprehensible.

See the free printable Pronouncing -ed Shortcut handout here.

Have fun speaking English!