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Accent reduction: Key Skill- Get the Vowels

Accent reduction: Key Skill – Get the Vowels


Have you noticed that people are most likely to say to you “What?”  “What did you say?” after you have said a multiple syllable word?

Critical information for multiple syllable words– each syllable has a meaning and there are 14 vowel sounds (some people say 17) for North American English and 5 letters –a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y.

Pronunciation Alert: Say each vowel in a multiple syllable word clearly.

When ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) 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 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– (a, e, i, o, u– short vowel pronunciation or long vowel pronunciation. The academic term for that is “schwa vowel.”

However, 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 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 important reason to master accurate spelling is that the meaning of the syllable 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  important practical reason to master spelling. In the last 10 years, more and more employers are asking us if we can help our students-learners (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  “ever better!” coached courses by clicking “Services” on our website www.ClearTalkMastery.com. For first time English Clear Talk pronunciation learns and to efficiently renew your coached course learning, check out the subscription program called ClearTalk Weekly, www.subscription.cleartalkmastery.com

PS- It really is true that we have made exceptional strides in our teaching for mastery and long-term learning in these pandemic years with gains previous thought impossible (even by us!).

English Speaking Training- Opening a Conversation— Top Tip!


English Speaking Training– How to Start a Conversation– The Top Tip!

Approximately 2010, I read a newspaper article that changed overnight my typical greeting to everyone.

The article’s topic was how to talk to a person who has recently suffered the death of a loved one—- spouse, partner, parent, child, relative, friend or for many, pet.

The article pointed out that the typical greeting is “How are you?” For a person suffering the loss of a loved one, the truthful answer would be “bad” for a considerable amount of time. The author reminded the readers that in North America, the expected answer is “Fine.” But that answer for people in grief is “a lie” and not at all accurate.

So the article suggested “How are things going?”. Then respondenta can answer the typical “Fine,” or “OK,” because for the “things” in their life — daily activities– those are “OK.” Emotions not fine but activites are OK. Noteably, the respondent has not been forced to lie or be untruthful.

Body language and tone of voice will reveal a great deal about the current well-being of people. Be alert to those.

For communication interactions where the other person is not grieving for a loved one, the question of “How are things going?” makes it easier for the respondent to immediately describe a recent significant happening in their life. For example, “I just got word from the programmer who developed the coding for my research for my PhD that there is an error in the code.” Or, “I had to let go the nanny for my child.” Those are real life examples.

The specific words of a question go a long way in determining the depth and quality of the answer.

Why would you want to know the current state of well-being of the other person? So you can determine how to proceed with the upcoming communication or task. If the other person had a car accident the previous day, then your proceeding forward with discussion of complex tasks could be modified to take account of less than optimal well-being.. Also, you could do follow-up questions to determine the current physical and emotional status of the other person. Follow-up questions show that you care. For relationahip and rapport, caring is the foundation.

For improving your pronunciation and diction for clear American English, practice with our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos.

Check out our subscription called ClearTalk Weekly,– weekly English intelligibility and pronunciation tutorials — video audio, and extra reading aloud exercises. Use the subscription as a first time learner with Clear Talk Mastery or as a refresh for your learning in the coached course. Just so you know, people’s pronunciation can drift from the great accuracy achieved during the coached courses. Click here for information about the subsripiton www.subscription.cleartalkmastery.com