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Free Speech Lesson

Dr. Antonia Johnson

The Real Thing


The Real Thing

There is no substitute for the real thing.  A 30-second demonstration is more effective than 30 minutes of words.

Strong Verbs

Strong Verbs

Do you want to make your communication direct and to the point? Consider using those verbs that describe movements of the human body.  These are great substitutions for abstract verbs.  Here’s a list for you:

bear, blow, break, bring, call, carry, cast, catch, come, cut, do draw, drive drop, fall, get, give go, hang, hold, keep, lay, let, look, make, pick, pull, push, put, run, set, shake, show, skip, slip, split, stand, stay, stick, strike, take, talk, tear, throw, tie, touch, turn, walk, wear, work

More on Why So Many “r”s in English

English Pronunciation: More on Why So Many “r”s in English

Recall from the last speech tip that we discussed why there are so many “r”s in English.

That leads to the next question:  Is there a logical reason or a physiological reason why the English language would use the “r” physiological movement in so many words?  (Speech is the movement of muscles.)

I think the reason may be found in the “r” production in many languages.    In so many languages (but not American English), the “r” is produced by moving the tongue just a little bit from its position for the preceding vowel or is produced by making a kind of vowel sound.  To most ears, the “r” sounds like another brief vowel. In speech vocabulary, we call that sound  a “schwa.”

Thus for many languages, the “r” is made in an efficient manner.  The brain tells the tongue muscles “just move the tongue muscles just a little bit,” and voila, “you have a different sound.”

But for American English, we took the production of the “r” one step further and made it substantially different than the “r” of other languages.

My theory is that by changing the production of “r” to the clear American English “r,” speakers made it easier for the listeners to determine that they were hearing an “r” and not just a prolonged vowel sound.   As the English language expanded with all the new vocabularies of the last 100 years which include science and technology vocabularies, it became very important to distinguish the “r” from just an additional vowel sound.

Thus, all those words with “r” in the root part of the word AND all those additional words which had “r” in prefixes and suffixes were easier to hear and process in the listener’s human brain. That meant that the words were more accurately processed by listeners.  And it is critical that we accurately communicate information.  We have so much information to communicate to people, we also want it to be relatively easy for them to clearly understand our words and meanings.

These days we have an additional reason to speak the “r” and English clearly.  That’s because people who speak English are frequently speaking with listeners who don’t have English as their first language, and those listeners are already struggling to understand all of what we are saying.

To accurately say the clear American English “r” is indeed difficult. But do the mastery.  The gain for communication is so good!

Here is the take home message for you:

Because such a large percentage of English words have “r”s in them, master the clear American English “r”, and you will vastly improve your listeners’ understanding your words and message!

PS Count the number of words in the last sentence that had “r”, and you will get a real-life example of the power of the “r.”

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

Rerun from 06/28/2027

English pronunciation: Why is the “r” in so many words in English.

English pronunciation: Why is the “r” in so many words in English?


Did you know that the “r” sound in English is the most difficult sound to say?   It is so difficult that native-born North American children don’t master the “r” until they are about four years old or seven years old.  There are some children who don’t fully master the “r” until they are eleven or twelve years old.

A rational person would reason that if a speech sound is that difficult to say, then it would be a lower frequency sound in English.  However, focused attention to “r” made me notice that there were so, so many words with “r” in them.

The interesting question is, why are there so many “r”s in English?   All of a sudden, I think I have a couple of answers.  Today I will give you part one of my theory and next time part two.

A primary reason that we have so many words with an “r” is that we use the “r” for many prefixes and suffixes, consonant clusters, and root words.

Prefixes and suffixes:

  • “re” (like in “return”),
  • “ir” (like in “irregular”),
  • “er” (like in “painter”),
  • “er”  for comparative suffixes (like in “bigger, faster, stronger”),
  • “or” (like in “cursor”),

Consonant clusters:

  • “tr” (like in “train,” “trail”),
  • “br” (like in “break,” “brain”),
  • “dr” (like in “drive, “ “drink”),
  • “str” (like in “strange,” “string”)

We also use the “r” in the middle of many common words:

  • “ir” (such as “bird,” “birth”),
  • “or” (like  “sort of, “sport,” “fork”),
  • “ar”  (Like in “car,” “bar”),
  • “arr” (like in “carry” and “marry” and “marriage”)

Some people say there are a half a million words in English, some say a million, and some say a billion.  It depends upon how they are counted.  Whatever the total number, we have expanded our count of words by using consonant clusters and using prefixes and suffixes.

The “r” is so important because we so frequently say it in spoken English.

Next time is an answer to the question of what is it about the production of “r” that prompted human beings to use it so frequently in our words in English.

Click here: www.cleartalkmastery.com/scheduler to sign up for a Free Sample Lesson with us!

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

Rerun from 06/12/2013

How Can You Make Your Speaking and Writing to Be Easy to Understand

Here is a list of valuable auxiliary verbs.  Auxiliary are also called “helping” verbs because they go with other verbs.

This speech tip and blog works on the principle that the more natural and idiomatic or daily life English gets, the more it expresses ideas by auxiliary verbs.

For example, read this passage from an employee “How to Do Work” manual: “With our view of broadening the individual’s training and increasing his/her knowledge of the ABC Company’s organization, operations and service, staff members are chosen periodically for advanced continuing education and training.  These training programs are designed to give our staff members an opportunity….” etc.

Here’s my advice—as per Rudolf Flesch tip.  What a human being would say is something like this”  “We’d like to help you add to your training  and  get to know our company better….  Our advanced training programs are meant to give you the opportunity…”

So you see that ordinarily when people speak English, they use a lot of such words as like to, get to, and mean to.

Here’s my and Flesch’s list:

aim to

be apt to

be bound to

be supposed to

care to

claim to

get to  and got to

happen to

hate to

have to

help —-ing

keep —–ing

like to

mean to

minding —-ing

plan to

seem to

stop —-ing

use to, used to

want to