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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!).

What Happens When You Don’t Listen & the Unforeseen Danger of Misinterpretation

What Happens When You Don’t Listen & the Unforeseen Danger of Misinterpretation…

Poor listening skills can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and missed opportunities.

But even if you do listen by paying attention and hearing all the words, you can still misinterpret what you hear.

How can that happen? A frequent cause is not having all the information or making an assumption which is not accurate.

Example– Your client is married and both husband and wife work remotely at home. You know this because your client talks about both taking care of the two-year old. You remember your client saying that the husband helped her get her job. She works remotely for a hospital system whose home base is in Minnesota. You assume they both work for the same company and decided (for some reason) to live in Pennsylvania.

ACK!!! Your assumptions are wrong. Turns out they live in Pennsylvania in the city of her husband’s professorial job at a university and he does blended work— on site at the university and remote work. They do not work for the same company.

So how to avoid misinformation and inaccurate assumptions? Use clarifying questions like: “Let me see if I understand accurately …” or “Do I understand correctly…” or “Tell me if I have the picture right…”

Develop your skill of listening and asking clarifying questions to increase connection with people, inspire trust and rapport, and build strong relationships that lead to greater satisfaction and successful outcomes.

English Speaking Training –Strategies for Satisfying Conversations

English Speaking Training-Strategies for Satisfying Conversations


To make a satisfying conversation, first consider the strategy of asking questions throughout the conversation.  That makes dialogue and both people are learning about each other. 

Satisfying conversations are like tennis games or badminton games. The conversation goes back and forth like the tennis ball or birdie. You talk for a minute or two, then you ask the other person a question.

What to do if you can’t think of a question after you have shared something?  Try this: “What do you think about that?”

Now the respondent can go in any direction in response — refer back to something you said earlier, express an opinion, or even change the topic by saying “That reminds me of something that happened to me last week.”

Open-ended questions invite the other person to open up.  Also, use them when in negotiating or planning.

“What do you think about that?” is fantastic in everyday conversation.  You can get farther in understanding other people by learning about their experience and opinions.  That makes for building relationship and ultimately trust.

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 weekly tutorial program for efficient, systematic learning of accurate American English pronunciation, the subscription called ClearTalk Weekly, www.subscription.cleartalkmastery.com — less than five dollars a week.

Or…. do you feel your pronunciation skills learned in your personal one- on-one coaching course with Clear Talk Mastery has drifted and needs work? Clear Talk Weekly will get you back on target right away! Or better yet, go to the next level with your next coached course!