We help you speak English clearly.
Free Speech Lesson

Speech Tips

Amazing Effect of Vocal Reading on Pronunciation


Did You Know?

      Writing is only about 5,500 years old, unlike human speech estimated to be from 50,000 years to 2 million years old.  In contrast to speech, the human brain did not naturally evolve to read.  Thus, the brain adapts to the challenge of reading.

       The Amazing Effect of Accurate Vocal Reading on Accurate English Pronunciation Article 13

     English speech intelligibility increases sharply for North American children when they learn to read.  For adult nonnative-born individuals who want acquisition of clear English, reading words, phrases and sentences is an ideal vehicle for helping to learn accurate English pronunciation.

      It is in reading words that the speakers learns that there are different meanings for “hit” and “hid,” or “hot” and “hat,” “bottle” and “battle,”  “kin” and kind,”  “beach” and “b*tch” which rhymes with “witch”.

       And in oral reading or reading with your voice, the human being learns that the spelling of the English word most frequently corresponds to the accurate pronunciation.

       The process of reading involves most of the brain, especially an interconnection between visual areas and language areas.  And importantly reading also involves neural systems related to action, emotion, decision making and memory.

        Big alert!  The sensorimotor cortex of the brain is the most active region of the brain during reading.  A seminal MRI study in 2014 involving adults and children, where bodily movement was restricted, demonstrated strong evidence revealing that this region may be correlated with automatic word processing and decoding.  Specifically, this area of the brain was highly active in persons new to the English language, as well as those children learning to read, and those children struggling to read (dyslexia). 

                                            Brain Regions Used for Reading?

      Here is the description from Wikipedia (Reading):

      The occipital and parietal lobes are involved for orthographic processing of visual words

       The two major regions of the brain associated with phonological skills (speech sounds) are the temporal-parietal region and the Perisylvian Region (in  MRI study, 2001).

     The Perisylvian Region, which is the region of the brain believed to connect Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, is another region highly active during phonological activities when participants are asked to verbalize known and unknown words.

     The inferior frontal region is active in several reading related activities associated with comprehension and processing skills such as spelling and working memory.

     In addition to regions on the cortex considered gray matter on MRIs, several white matter fasciculus are active during different reading activities.  These three white matter regions connect the three respected cortex regions as the brain reads thus these regions are responsible for the brain’s cross-model integration involved in reading.  These are the left arcuate faciculus, the left inferior longitudinal faciculus, and the superior longitudinal fasciculus.

      The cerebellum, which is not part of the cerebral cortex, is also believed to play an important role in reading.  The role of  automatization, word accuracy, and reading speed is associated with the cerebellum.

        Have you wondered why learning to speak clear English feels so hard?   A principal reason is that your brain is working hard to access and coordinate a good number of separate brain regions!

Article 13, Blog, copyright 2023 Clear Talk Mastery, Inc

B and CH for “Beach” For Fast and Easy Learning Using Human Brain Info

B and CH for “Beach” For Fast and Easy Learning Using Human Brain Info

This is Number 5 in our series of recommended sequence for fast, easy mastery of American English speech sounds.  The directed instruction is for English consonants B, CH and the word “beach”.

Your brain organizes the production of speech by phonetic feature and by muscle group of the face.

The speech sound for American English B has the phonetic features of being quick and  of having a voice from the vocal folds in your throat and releasing an audible puff of air.  The American English B is pronounced by using the fast twitch muscle fibers of the lips by pressing the lips together and then opening the lips quickly.

For the American English speech sound CH,  the phonetic features are the release of an audible quick puff of air but no voice from the vocal folds in the throat.  The American English CH is pronounced by using the fast twitch muscles fibers of the tip of the tongue by pushing up and pressing the tip of the tongue against the roof or top of the mouth directly behind the top front teeth then bringing the tip of the tongue down quickly.

How do you know if you are doing these accurately in American English?  Answer: if your speech sounds match that of Dr. Antonia Johnson’s production on the video below, you are accurate for American English.  

Information alert:  The pronunciation of those sounds may be different in your first language so pay close attention to the position of the articulators–tongue and lips– the manner which is quick for American English, and the requisite or needed speech sound!

Buy One, Get Three Free and the Human Brain

Buy One, Get Three Free and the Human Brain– Aarticle 12


It really is true, for mastering American English, you can “Buy one, get three free.”  Every time you push the blade and tip of the tongue forward in your mouth for the accurate TH no voice speech sound, you are also deliberately practicing the TH with a voice, the L, and the American English Short Vowel A as in “hat.”

That’s because of how the human brain controls speech.

                               What Part of the Brain Controls Speech?

Control of speech is part of a complex network in the brain.  The brain regions called lobes  which control speech include the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes which formulate  or put together what you want to say and are located usually in the left hemisphere (Cafasso, 2019).  —– More later about the importance of “usually”—which is actually critically important for human brains.

The motor cortex in your frontal lobe enables you to speak words. The brain’s language regions work together as a coordinated network with  some parts involved in multiple functions and redundancy in some processing pathways (Abbott, 2016).

To speak clearly, you must move the muscles of your mouth, tongue and throat. This is where the motor cortex participates.  Located in the frontal lobe, the motor cortex takes information from the Broca area, in the front part of the left hemisphere,  and tells the muscles of your face, mouth, tongue, lips, and throat how to move to form speech (Cafasso, 2019).

In particular, past studies have found that a part of the human brain called the ventral sensorimotor cortex, or vSMC, controls speech.  Using electrical stimulation, researchers found which general areas of the vSMC controlled which parts of the face and mouth.  But that kind of electrical stimulation couldn’t trigger meaningful utterances.  That finding reveals that speech sounds are not being stored in discrete brain areas, but rather arise from coordinated motor patterns involving multiple areas (Wein, 2013).

Electrical patterns in the brain transitioned within tens of milliseconds between distinct and different representations or patterns for different consonants and vowels. (Wein, 2013)

Importantly, regions of brain activity during speech have a hierarchical, overlapping structure organized by phonetic feature.   Examples of phonetic features for American English include whether the speech sound has a voice or no voice (like P vs D, F vs V), or for instance whether there is prolonged audible friction of air  as in S, Sh, F, V or in contrast, the speech sound is quick ( such as J, CH, P, D).  Also, scientists found that consonants that require similar tongue locations have overlapping areas of activity (for instance American English T, D, J, Ch for tip of tongue, and NG, K, G for back of the tongue).  Notably, patterns of brain activity differ the most between consonants and vowels. (Wein, 2013).

Wein also emphasized that although the researchers used English,  they found the key phonetic features observed were ones that linguists have observed in spoken languages around the world.

For acquisition of clear American English speech when it is a second or other language (ESL, English as a Second Language), a key skill to master is changing and making different the movement and positioning of the muscles,  and the tension of muscles in the tongue, lips, jaw, and the muscles in the throat for the vocal folds or chords.

To reiterate because it is so important: speech sounds and spoken words require coordinated motor patterns, which are hierarchical and overlapping.  An example of this coordinated motor or movement pattern is the coordinating of making a voice at the vocal folds in your throat with pushing out air from your lunghs and positioning of the top front teeth on the lower lip to make the American English speech sound V.

The research cited above gives physiological and brain insight for an important facet of learning or acquiring clear English pronunciation.  That is, researchers have discovered that the brain is organized for speech according to movements of the face and mouth which includes tongue, lips, jaw and for phonetic features which include voicing or no voice, and audible air friction such as in S, Z, SH, ZH which is SH with a voice.   You probably already know that positioning of muscles of the lips is a critical articulator difference which distinguishes the English speech sound of S from SH and Z from ZH.

Now to swing back to the “Buy one, get three free”  proclamation.  A practical application is that if you train your motor system in the brain for the accurate positioning of your tongue “forward” for TH with voice—such as “the”–  you are also training the positioning of the tongue  for TH with no voice – such as “think”–and also for the consonant L—as in “light” and “tall” and the tongue forward movement  for the American English Short Vowel A as in “hat.”  The same principle applies for the accurate pronunciation of  English speech sounds K, G, and NG  which uses the back of the tongue hitting the roof of the  back of the mouth.  Do one of those K, G, NG accurately and you are making stronger the neural connections in the motor cortex for two more speech sounds.

Do you want motivation or a reason for doing a lot of accurate speaking (including reading words and sentences)?   The “Buy one get two or three free”  motivation is powerful reason.

Recall that the same kind of bonus  to “Buy one get one free” motivates humans to buy products in grocery or other stores and online.

To add important actionable information:  Evidence indicates that daily practice of 400 to 800 times leads to reorganization of the brain connections after a stroke, also called “brain attack” or CVA, Cerebrovascular Accident (Vearrier et al 2005; Flint Rehab 2023.  If my arithmetic is accurate, to speak 400 speech sounds consecutively, as in connected speech, reading aloud, takes about 30 minutes.  If you are using a recorded video lesson or recorded audio lesson to accurately imitate, then the practice time is longer because you must listen and perhaps watch before you imitate.   With our more than 800 different student/learners for more than 20 years, most frequently they do 30 minutes of  deliberate practice with their voice speaking Clear English (Careful Leveled-Up Mode or Work-Out Mode) and add minutes for the listening to  audio recorded spoken English with or without video.   For humans, listening and imitating accurately clear English words is quite efficient for learning and mastery for accurate American English pronunciation.

The take-home message is quite good! The good news is that accurate American English is not some random collection of phonetic or speech sound featuresunknowable because they are random.   Instead, systematic learning – which has been our mission for more than 20 years–which uses the scientific evidence of brain organization and function for English speaking can lead to excellent efficiency in learning.  The systematic learning is the crux of the exercises and tasks for learning from video recorded lessons, different audio recorded lessons, and customized textbook with additional tasks for independent speech practice without imitation for deeper learning..

Yay for efficient and long lasting learning based on brain research and evidence and experience with student-learners.  Yay today for “Buy one, get two or three free!”  Way to go, human brain!  Way to go for human being learning!

copyright 2023 Clear Talk Mastery Inc

P for “Priority” for Massed and Distributed Practice

This is Number 4 in our series of recommended sequence for fast, easy mastery of American English speech sounds.  The directed instruction is for English consonant P and the word “priority.”

It’s estimated it takes 35 accurate repetitions of a new word to memorize it accurately.  That’s called massed practice. That will get you in to the associative phase of  procedural learning.  Getting to the autonomous phase where the pronunciation is automatic and long term learning is gained through even more accurate pronunciation.  That is best spread out in time,  and is spaced learning or distributed learning or timing.  More information?  http://www.cleartalkmastery.com/blog/2023/05/10/the-endgame-is-procedural-memory/

By practicing different words, you are giving your motor system and motor memory variety so it can p for producing the P sound with the needed tension in the lips and pressing of the lips when the speech sounds preceding and following the target speech sound are different.

That’s why the words I, 3 and 4 in this series all have directed instruction on the video for the English speech sound p—“probably,”  “anticipate,” and “priority. “

Copyright 2023 by Clear Talk Mastery

The Endgame is Procedural Memory

Accent Reduction: The Endgame is Procedural Memory Article 11

shutterstock_189932195 - Copy

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasures nor this thing nor that but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing.   William Butler Yeats.

The endgame is to type on a keyboard without looking at the keys.  Or to safely ride a bike, or safely drive a car, or accurate English speech!

All are procedural memory which end up as automatically retrieved.  When needed procedural memories are automatically retrieved and used for execution of the bringing together of procedures involved in both cognitive and motor skills.  These skills also range from tying shoes, to reading, to acquiring grammatical rules according to Koziol et al, 2012,  Wikipedia, 2023, and Ullman et al, 2005.

Acquisition of clear and accurate English speech communication is  procedural learning.  Procedural memory is a type of long-term memory which aids the performance of particular types of tasks without ongoing conscious awareness of the previous experiences of learning.

Procedural memory is created through procedural learning, or repeating a complex activity over and over again, until all of the relevant neural systems work together  to automatically produce the activity.  Implicit procedural learning is essential for the development of any motor skill or cognitive activity.   Procedural learning and memory are implicit because the actual learning is inferred from an individual’s improvement in performing the task.

Repeating the task over and over is critical.  It is in the repetition that all the relevant and needed neural systems get connected to work together.

We’re lucky to be living in 2023.  Originally, Beaunieux and colleagues (2006) in empirical research  confirmed the existence of three separate phases of procedural learning.  They conceptualized the three phases as a combination of explicit and implicit contributions to the formation of procedural memory.

Specifically, during the repetition of the task, at the beginning of learning a task is where the effortful learning of the cognitive phase happens.  Repeating of a task over and over at the beginning of learning is marked by a steep learning curve.  Then with more repeating of a task, that is followed by gradual improvement and ends in high performance levels without further improvement.  The gradual increases to higher or better performances characterize emerging automatization of the associative phaseSustained highest performance characterizes autonomous procedures when procedural memory has formed (Hong et al, 2019).

Learning to drive is one of the most widely known examples of procedural learning among adults.   The more you drive, the better you get at it.  Just reading a manual on driving or observing your parents drive will not suffice, and hence you won’t be a good driver unless you put your foot to the pedals.

What does this have to do with acquisition of clear English speech communication?  Typically nonnative-born adults who find that others are having difficulty (and likely frustrated) with understanding their English speech seek fixing their English speech communication.  (Alternatively, their supervisors recommend instruction.)   Since these adults have spent 18 or more years of speech production in their first language,  the ground floor or core task is their learning how to produce the American English (AE) 25 consonants and 14 vowel sounds accurately so they are easily understood by native-born Americans and other internationally- born persons.   There is cause for rejoicing for the first language consonant and vowel sounds which are the same as American English.  Ground floor is thus focusing on acquiring the position  and speed of the articulators of tongue, lips, teeth and jaw and making a voice or no voice for American English consonants and vowels which are different from the first language.  This is the cognitive stage of learning for the procedural learning of accurate American English speech communication.

In order to go from the first phase of procedural learning which is the effortful phase and cognitive phase (steep curve of learning), through the associative phase (more gradual learning) and onto the final autonomous phase of learning for sustained high performance—all this takes practice over and over again for the speech articulators, vocal folds, and pushing of air from the lungs.  The repeated practice must be accurate!

Again, good thing we live in the 21st century.  Procedural memory is created by repetition of complex tasks until all the requisite neural systems work together to produce automatically the activity.  We actually know a great deal about those required neural systems.  More about those neural systems  later.

Copyright 2023 by Clear Talk Mastery