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Pronunciation Tactics or Techniques To Speed Up Learning Clear English Speech

Why you should grow tongue muscle fibers using pronunciation tactics or techniques to most efficiently acquire and maintain clear American English speaking.


Understand this: By the time  native-born children are 4 to 5 years old, they typically have a 1,500 to 2,200-word expressive vocabulary (Barnes, 2022).  They pronounce most sounds correctly but may still have trouble with TH, R, S, L, V, CH, SH, and Z.  At 8-years-old, native-born children have mastered all speech sounds as well as rate, pitch and volume and are capable of carrying on a conversation with an adult (Stewart, 2022).    Notice that even for native-borns, the TH and L are not acquired accurately by 4 to 5 year old children who have been talking for 4 years!

Now for the topic at hand. Specific speaking tactics and exercises have speeded up learning and increased accuracy of English speech sounds for our student-learners. How do we know? Not just because we hear that, but because that is measured by assessments.

If you know the “why” you will understand the “how.” 

For skeletal muscles (tongue muscles are skeletal), there are two kinds of muscle fibers, slow twitch muscle fibers and fast twitch muscle fibers.  Scientific evidence indicates average percentage of slow twitch muscle fibers in human tongue is 54% — two-year-olds and adults (Sanders et al 2013).  

Most English consonant and vowel sounds have an extended duration in time, double or more, compared to the quick consonants or vowels.  Additionally, when  the task is to speak clearly,  English talkers do feature enhancement—they extend the duration of speech sounds (the slow consonants and lengthier duration vowels) and  range of articulator movements (which is congruent with the task-dynamic model of speech production—Kelso & Tuller, 1984). 

Getting the long duration English consonants (16 of 24 total consonant sounds) and vowels ( 9 of 14 vowel sounds) and  mastering a different position of articulators for clear easy to perceive English speech sounds is challenging, to say the least,  to the nonnative speaker. That two pronged skill is so critical, we teach it right away.   Of course for some speech sounds, the positioning and speed of  the articulators ( tongue, lips, teeth, jaw, vocal folds/chords) are the same  as for other languages.   It’s where English is different that makes the challenge.

For example TH both voiced and not voiced and L are high error speech sounds for nonnative speakers.

To produce clear, easy to understand  TH  or L speech sounds requires the tongue to be extended forward and for the duration of the speech sound to be extended  for at least double or greater duration in time than a quick English sound such as the consonant sound D.   With the eye, humans can’t see the slow twitch muscle fibers in the tongue.  But it stands to reason that slow twitch muscle fibers are activated to push the tongue blade forward and to extend out or stretch out the tongue blade so the tip extends to the front of the mouth.

To systematize the new learning and to simplify  (and because it works!), we teach the position of the tongue tip for the TH sounds and the L consonant sound to be the same.  That is, push forward  the tip of the tongue so it goes between the upper and lower front teeth or, better yet, to touch the lower lip. 

Consonants TH and L are slow in speed and duration of the speech sound is lengthier than the quick consonants.  The action of pushing the tongue tip all the way to the position of between upper and lower teeth or to touch the lower lip gives sensory feedback to the brain when the target has been reached.  Critically, it takes time— milliseconds— for that tongue action which adds to the duration in time of the TH and L English speech sounds.

Thus you as speaker are taking advantage of biomechanical characteristics of movement of the tongue to extend the duration of the speech sound for the slow consonants TH and L.  It stands to reason that your brain processes the task of pushing your tongue forward to  the lower lip or between top and bottom front teeth  and activates exactly the correct slow twitch muscle fibers.  The central nervous system and the slow twitch muscle fibers must learn this pattern for easy to perceive North American English consonants TH and L.  To make that tongue gesture and movement habitual takes much repeated practice.

Take home message for today, to acquire accurate American English pronunciation requires a tongue forward position for the consonants TH voiced and unvoiced and for L  (and for the American short vowel A).   The same is true for maintaining  the accurate pronunciation for these speech sounds and maintaining the strength of those slow muscle fibers in the tongue needed for these speech sounds.  The key  for acquiring accuracy and maintaining speech sound accuracy is activating the slow muscle fibers to push forward and stretch forward the tongue—that stretching and lengthening the tongue blade not only grows the slow twitch muscle fibers but also biomechanically lengthens the duration of the speech sound when coordinated with voicing at the vocal folds.

Seeing and hearing is understanding.

Below is our speech tip 4 for WORLD— see the pronunciation for L. Hmm, picture says “PAPER.” Unfortunate that YouTube made a mistake for the picture– but click on this YouTube video for WORLD and L. You’ll be glad you did!

Copyright 2022 by Clear Talk Mastery, Inc

15 Dimensions For Acquiring Clear English Speech

Why would you want to read this article?  It’s for people who are a little intense about getting the best out of learning. 

Intro to the 15 Dimensions for Acquiring Clear English Speech

Methodology of Clear Talk Mastery Courses

Physics has its M string theory, with eleven dimensions – the explanation and theory behind all things “physics.”  We submit that acquisition of clear North American English speech has fifteen dimensions.

For nonnative-born speakers of North American English speech (adults), prior learning of English is typically five to seven years.  Thus they are not newbies with zero knowledge.

The time has come to communicate detail for the methodology of  Clear Talk Mastery courses which is achieving gains with student-learners previously unheard of.  Even with us, the additional consistent gains of student-learners in the last two years has surpassed and surprised us.  In the preceding twenty years, student-learner made great gains – but between 2020 and beginning of 2023, the gains have even significantly surpassed those.

Why the big leap forward?   Actively since 2017,  my dream has been to put everything we have learned together and come up with coherent theory for how best to facilitate acquisition of clear North American English.  I’ve done lots and lots of thinking, putting ideas, our experience, and findings from scientific assessments together.  Especially the last 18 months was the delving back into the seminal and current research on as many of the 15 dimensions as possible.   The great leap came because I was doing all that thinking, researching, and working on Edition 4 of three of our textbooks so as to get all that information down on paper (in the textbooks!).

How to innovate?   That is what we have strived for since 2000—to find as many ways as possible to help nonnative-born adult speakers of English acquire clear English efficiently for long lasting learning.  To paraphrase Confucius:  Reflection is gold, imitation is quickest, and experience the most painful.  Innovation requires all three avenues.  For imitation, humbly remember that we are all standing on the shoulders of many others who have come before us.  For experience,  if you are not making enough mistakes (and feeling bad about it), then you are not innovating.   Reflection takes oodles of time.  Like Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.”  In 2017, we had reached 17 years of providing instruction for successful clear speaking mastery of North American English and it was then I started my big thinking  to codify and describe the many dimensions which are described in this article.

For this article, rejoice–  you get the end of the story first.

Below are the 15 dimensions for a person with English as a second language to successfully acquire clear North American English speech communication.  Success is defined as efficient and long lasting learning.

  1. Critical importance of assessment– initial diagnostic assessment to determine needs, then mid course and end of course assessment to monitor progress, redirect goals and methodology for the course(s), and also use the end-of-course assessment to scientifically assess the success for different strategies, tactics,  and methodologies. 
  2. From the beginning of instruction, training for six Clear Talk Strategies and four Tactics.  The 6 Strategies were derived from decades of previous research about the difference between characteristics of clear compared to casual English,  the characteristics of speech sounds accurately perceived as North American English, and clear speaking training used for improving the speech intelligibility of person’s speaking English.
  3. Systematic learning for positioning and action of articulators,  and coordination between articulator systems (e.g. vocal folds and voicing coordinated with positioning and action especially of articulators tongue, lips, teeth and jaw), 
  4. Muscle strengthening  for requisite slow and fast muscle fibers (MF)  needed for North American English accurate pronunciation especially for the tongue, lips, jaw and muscles attached to the vocal folds (for voicing).  Muscle strengthening is associated with growth of numbers of slow and fast MFs.  We used both direct articulator exercise and modes of clear talking to specifically grow and strengthen requisite speech muscles for North American English,
  5. Systematic learning for sequencing of English speech communication skills, especially English speech intelligibility  (e.g. speech sound accuracy before adding learning skills for word syllable accent stress and voice inflection of sentences). 
  6. Using the categories of coordinative structures or coordinated modes observed during 20 years of instruction, which we give the terms  Workout Clear Talk Mode, Careful Leveled-up Clear Talk Mode and Leveled- Up Clear Talk Mode– all of which are conscious but get easier with lots of practice, 
  7. Cognitive learning (learning rules and patterns)  to “bootstrap” physical learning and enhance memory for the complex procedural and multidimensional learning needed for English speech intelligibility and speech communication,
  8. Employing mastery learning principles (80 to 90% mastery before graduating to the next module’s learning) which also adheres to the well known principle of  “don’t add too much learning too quickly.”
  9. Distributed learning or spaced learning for the procedural learning associated with the complexity of intelligible North American English  and for  long lasting learning–    “What’s the good of efficient learning if you forget everything within months (or years) of finishing your instruction.”
  10.  Combining skills to level-up communication proficiency including, for example, combining thinking information and talking clearly at the same time or combining voice inflection patterns during sentences/connected speech and high English speech sound articulation accuracy,  
  11.  Speech feedback to the student-learner and standards of speech production which train high level attention and increased duration of time for attention to the task of accuracy–  “It’s not practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect,”
  12.  Student-learner’s commitment to the program of learning  (e.g. 12 consecutive weeks, etc)  –“It takes 70 days of practice every day to change a habit”, for example,  changing Spanglish, Chinglish,  Indian English,  Vietnamese English, Arabic English, etc., to clear North American English speech,  
  13.  Student-learner’s personal involvement in doing direct practice homework, deliberate practice in daily life, and focused attention during coachings– plus using enhanced tutoring via  24/7 video and audio lessons for direct home practice,
  14.  Student-learner’s belief in the learning principles explained  by the coach/instructor and in the textbook, videos, audios, 
  15.  Student-learner attachment to wanting to go to the next level of communication in English and notably the process of learning, interaction, encouragement with another human person who is coach or instructor.

It is all of these 15 dimensions which contribute to the exceptional progress of  our  student-learners for acquiring clear North American speech communication.   Note especially that without attributes of the student-learner for commitment, involvement, belief, and attachment, exceptional gains for acquisition of clear North American English speech could not be achieved.

©Clear Talk Mastery, Inc. 2023

How to Develop Lifetime Customers or Clients

How to Develop Lifetime Customers or Clients

If you have a product or a service you sell, don’t think you are done when you have made the sale.  The sale is actually the beginning of building a client relationship that will lead to a lifetime of repeat business and referrals.

In addition, by listening and responding to their needs, you are adding value by thinking beyond what you can sell them and showing an interest in other aspects of their life and business.  “How are things going with you?” “How can I help?” Talk with emotion and feeling– even on the phone people can hear that. This approach to being of service sets you apart from others in your industry. 

Be a Knight in Shining Armor

What to do When Listening? Be a knight in shining armor.

Listen to  your clients, customers, colleagues, friends, family, and when you hear them talk about something they need, step in and offer help.  “What can I do to help?” Or your help could come in the form of offering information  or introducing them to another person who could help them.

How to Talk to a Sad Person

In the New York Times several days ago was an article about how to talk to a sad person. During holidays we expect people to be happy and the New York Times recognizes that is not always the case.

What do you do when notice a person who looks sad?

Here are some tips.

1. Tell the person what you notice and ask if they’re sad.    It’s often a relief to a person that you notice.

2. Mildly ask them why. If they do acknowledge to feeling down, ask them why without being brash. It make take 30 seconds, 1 minute or longer for them to begin talking. Wait patiently without saying anything.

3. Sum up or reflect back what they said so they know you heard them and you understood.  This will show empathy.  Empathy means you understand what it must feel like to be in their situation.