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Accent reduction: Grab the Power of Vowels

Accent reduction: Grab the Power of Vowels

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There’s incredible power in vowels.

Have you noticed that it is the multiple syllable words that people are most likely to say to you “What?”  “What did you say?”

Today, I’ll give you a tip that will make a huge difference in people understanding your multiple syllable words.

The tip? Say each vowel in a multiple syllable word clearly.

When people speak multiple syllable words in English, they often shorten or reduce unstressed syllables to a very short vowel sound. They do this because it is just easier not to move the tongue very much.  In fact, sometimes the speaker moves his tongue so little that the vowel is so short in time that the listener is actually unable to determine which vowel letter it represents in the word. The academic term for that is “schwa vowel.”

However, many studies show that when speakers are aiming to talk more clearly, they will say the vowels more clearly. When they say the vowels more clearly, listeners say, “It is so easy to understand you.”  This is true for clear speech in English and in other languages.

For our training for clear American English, we train speakers to make all vowels in a word more accurately to match the written vowel.  For example,   the “ment” in “appointment” would be pronounced as “ment” with a short vowel “e” and not “mint” with a short “I”  or a schwa, which is an indistinguishable vowel.  By aiming for accurate pronunciation to match the written vowel letter, the speaker makes it easier for the listener to process accurately “ment.” This is a suffix which often changes verbs into nouns.

Also, by paying attention to the vowels and saying them more accurately, the speakers are anchoring better in their brain the accurate spelling. One most important reason to master accurate spelling is that meaning is in the spelling.  For example, “ment” is a suffix which takes a verb and makes it a noun.  “Mint” is a flavor  such as in “peppermint” or “spearmint.”

The prefix syllable “ex” is another example.   Saying the short American vowel “e” in “ex” clearly makes it easy for listeners to process the prefix “ex” and understand the meaning of the prefix with the rest of the word.  For instance, “exit,”  “extreme,” “extend.”   If the speaker made the vowel sound like a short “i” as in “ix”  or an indistinguishable vowel  as in a schwa  and closer to “uh,” then the listener would not know he was hearing the very common prefix, “ex.”  Being able to easily and quickly process the “ex,” means that the listener can identify the word right away and combine it with the other words in the sentence to easily understand the information of the entire sentence.

Here is a second additional important practical reason to master spelling. In the last five years, more and more employers are asking us if we can help our students (and their employees)  get spelling more accurate because it is embarrassing to them when emails go out with inaccurate spelling.

Yay, yay.  The extra effort to speak the vowels very clearly has big-time benefit  — to the speaker, the listener, and also to the employer and the individual’s career advancement.

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

Check out our new advanced weekly speech tip program, our new subscription called ClearTalk Weekly, www.subscription.cleartalkmastery.com

 

 

Rerun from July 15, 2015

Guidelines for Powerful Listening, 1-3

Guidelines for Powerful Listening, 1-3

  1. Show interest in people and what they say.
  2. Make eye contact and focus your attention on the other person.
  3. Give all of your attention to what is being said. Looking at the person will help you focus!

 

Rerun from July 13, 2015

Accent Reduction: Best Strategies for HOW To Learn Accurate, Clear English Speaking

Accent Reduction: Best Strategies for HOW To Learn Accurate, Clear English Speaking

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Before we get to the best strategies for HOW to learn accurate, clear English speaking, let’s ask the important WHY question.  So why do you need to know how to learn the skills for reducing your accent and making your English easy to understand?

The answer comes from research on academic learning. Teaching students good learning strategies enables them to know how to acquire new knowledge, which leads to better learning outcomes, writes lead author Helen Askell-Williams of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.  Studies bear this out.  Askell-Williams cites an example of a recent finding by PISA,  the Programme for International Student Assessment, which administers academic proficiency tests to students around the globe. “Students who use appropriate strategies to remember what they learn, such as underlining important parts of the texts or discussing what they read with other people, perform at least 73 points higher in the PISA assessment – that is one full proficiency level or nearly two full school years – than students who use these strategies the least,” the PISA report reads.  (See Annie-Murphy Paul’s summary in Smart Learning Strategies, in her “The Brilliant Report” of Oct. 7, 2013.)

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You need to know how to learn to speak clear English,  so the learning is efficient AND long-lasting.  These are strategies that work:

  • It takes 70 days of practice every day to change your habits from accented English to clear easy to understand English.  That is 10 weeks of learning.
  • Do a full diagnostic assessment to know what you already know, such as accurate speech sounds, and to know what your errors are.  That way you can focus on what you need to change.  That’s efficient learning!
  • Do daily practice of a minimum 5 days a week, at least 30 minutes of English speaking exercises
  • Take every opportunity in daily life to practice the tactics for clear English pronunciation and other intelligibility skills.  This way you learn to adjust your mouth movements and loudness of your voice to the circumstances.  And you learn to think and talk clearly at the same time.
  • Use clear talking visual learning and visual models (for example, video lessons using a human teacher)  in addition to voice only recorded lessons to give you the biggest gain.
  • Get periodic checks to be sure you are using your speech muscles in exactly the right way.  For most people, once or twice in a week feedback during coaching works perfectly.
  • Get specific training advice on exactly what to do with your speech muscles.  Remember, it is not practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.

Remember the 1000 and 10,000 practices you need to make clear accurate English a habit.

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

Check out our new advanced weekly speech tip program, our new subscription called ClearTalk Weekly, www.subscription.cleartalkmastery.com

 

 

Rerun from July 8, 2015

Listening & Sharing= Master Networker

Listening & Sharing= Master Networker

Listening, sharing, and passing useful information along to others is the mark of a master networker—a person who grows and nurtures relationships.

 

Rerun from July 6, 2015

Public Speaking- Top Tips for Practicing Your Speech

Public Speaking-  Top Tips for Practicing Your Speech

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What to do when you are invited to do a speech?

The general rule of thumb is to begin practicing your speech at least several days before you are scheduled to deliver it.  Many expert speakers recommend practicing your speech about five times in its final form.   Given that few speeches are longer than twenty minutes, and most are shorter, this represents a maximum of two hours of practice time – time that is well spent.

Here’s a checklist for Practicing Your Speech.

  1. Practice with your speaking notes.
  2. Change the parts of your speech that aren’t satisfying, revise your speaking notes as you go.
  3. Focus on communicating your speech ideas, not on yourself.
  4. Visualize the setting where you will speak as you practice, projecting your words to different parts of the space to reach audience members.
  5. Time each part of your speech – introduction, body, and conclusion
  6. Practice the speech under realistic conditions, paying attention to projecting your voice and working with your speaking notes unobtrusively.
  7. Some people like to audio record and/or video record the speech and review to determine your likes and dislikes.
  8. If possible practice in front of at least one volunteer, and seek constructive feedback of what she likes or dislikes.
  9. Schedule your practice sessions early in the process so you have adequate time to prepare.
  10. Practice your speech at least five times.

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

Check out our new advanced weekly speech tip program, our new subscription called ClearTalk Weekly, www.subscription.cleartalkmastery.com

 

 

Rerun from July 1, 2015