We help you speak English clearly.
Free Speech Lesson


Word Memory- What You Don’t Know!


Get Ahead of the Curve

Speed Up Learning

Article 14

Saying Words Out Loud

       Robust evidence indicates that saying a word out loud makes it more memorable than simply reading it silently or hearing someone else say it.   This memory benefit of “hearing oneself” (and producing the word) is referred to as the production effect.  The results of studies indicate that oral production is beneficial because it involves two different componentsspeaking (a motor act) and hearing oneself (the self-referential auditory input).  (1)  (2) (3)

Amazing Effect of Accurate Reading Aloud on Accurate English Pronunciation

       Speech intelligibility increases dramatically when native-born English speaking children learn to read and spend more time reading.  Five-to-six-year-old English learners have vocabularies of 2,500 to 5,000 words and add 5,000 words per year for the first several years of schooling.  (4) (5)

        For adult nonnative-born individuals who want acquisition of clear English pronunciation, reading aloud accurately words, phrases and sentences is an ideal vehicle for increasing accuracy of pronunciation for helping to make accurate pronunciation habitual.  

       It is in reading words that English communicators learn, for example, that there are different meanings for “hit” and “hid” or  “hot” and hat”  or “bottle” and “battle”  or  “virus” and “various” or “kind” and “kin”. Or the embarrassing pronunciation mistakes of  “focus” and “f*ck us,” or “beach” and “b*tch”.

Amazing Effect of Accurate Reading Aloud on Comprehension of English Words and Sentences

         Just as the comprehension of English words increases exponentially when native-born children learn to read and spend more time reading,  nonnative-born persons who increase the intelligibility or accurate pronunciation of English words report that their understanding of spoken English also greatly improves.   Likely, the oral production which is a motor act and involves the component of the brain for oral speaking  generates memory and recognition growth for hearing and processing English speech. (1) (2).

        An example involves a south Korean-born person who had been working on her Ph D for philosophy in the United States for about three years when she first started working with us.  She came to her coaching during her Course 2 incredibly happy.  That very week she watched broadcast news report in English and turned off the English subtitles and found that finally she could understand English spoken news report!


         Now some information for just about everyone who needs to understand and speak multiple syllable words—for social conversation, current broadcast news vocabulary, and especially work vocabulary.

Learning and Memorizing English Words

     According to research whole-word memorization is “labor-intensive” requiring on average about 35 repetitions or trials per word.  This strategy of 35 repetitions of a word consecutively or in “one sitting” is called massed practice and is excellent for human memory.

     Phonics advocates — who argue that learning decoding rules or patterns substantially affects the efficiency of learning to read accurately, –say  that most words are decodable, so relatively few words have to be memorized. (6)

Typical Inefficient Learning Strategy for ESLers Learning to Speak English

      In our interview with new student-learners for more than 20 years, we ask how they learned to speak English.   Most reported learning by imitating the teacher and memorizing  pronunciation of words.  Rarely were their English teachers native-born English speakers, so the pronunciation was accented English—Chinglish, Spanglish,  German accented,  Arabic accented, etc.  Nowadays, more ESL students are reporting that they also used audio recorded lessons where imitation, of course, is the name of the game.

Irregular  English Words – Optimal Learning Strategy

      Notably, irregular words which do not follow the typical four syllable rules or types for written words  present a substantial challenge.   Research in 2018 concluded that “fully-alphabetical students”  learn irregular words more easily when  they use a process called hierarchical decoding.  (8)  “Fully-alphabetical students” are those who are fluent in the pronunciation of the 25 English consonants and 14 vowel sounds.   Hierarchical decoding means to focus attention on the irregular elements such as a vowel-digraph where there is a silent e such as break (b-r-ea-k) or great (g-r-ea-t) where the “e” is silent, or  height (h-eigh-t) where the “e” and “gh” are silent).   In essence, teachers and tutors should teach decoding with more advanced vowel patterns before expecting English communication learners, including young native-born readers to tackle irregular verbs.   These words requiring hierarchical decoding are also called “word families.”

Question- Why Didn’t My English Teachers Teach Me These Rules or Approaches to Decoding English Written Words?

      The simple answer is that they didn’t know the rules or approaches.

Take Home Messages?

     What are the take-home messages for this article?

     First, accurate reading with your voice of words, phrases and sentences are excellent routes to increasing the accuracy of spoken American English (using  deliberate practice and distributed or spaced schedule of practice).

      Second, remember from the preceding blog article that reading (similar to speaking  from your brain and not accompanying reading written words) involves more than six separate areas of the brain which must be coordinated together.

      Third, memorizing the pronunciation of words (it takes about 35 repetitions for each word) is called massed practice.  Consecutively and accurately repeating with your voice an important and difficult word is an excellent use for massed practice mode of learning.  But to get those words into long-term memory requires distributed or spaced schedule of learning.

       However massed practice of 35 repetitions is a downright impossible task for the vocabulary needed for fluent English (30,000 to 65,000 words average vocabulary for native-born English speaking adults).    This gets to the obvious need for using better strategies for learning accurate English pronunciation  (aiming for fluency, perhaps, of 30,000 to 65,000 vocabulary words for fluent English).

     Use these better strategies or approaches —-

      Systematically, learn the rules for pronunciation for English words, also called phonics approaches.  Begin with  learning the letter to speech sound relations. (9)

       Then add English pronunciation for English syllable types  of open syllables, digraph syllables, silent e syllables and closed syllables.

       Then learn the most frequently accurate 8 rules for dividing written multiple syllable words into syllables.  Recall that professional words are usually multiple syllable.  Once these rules for the four syllable word types and 8 most frequent rules for dividing English words into syllables  are fully integrated in your memory (you are  a fully “alphabetized learner”), then  systematically learn hierarchical decoding for irregular English words.

       The key? Structuring the learning

  What you just got is a super quick summary of our research and development for more than 20 years at Clear Talk Mastery.

P.S.  Why so many irregular words?  Because English is a polyglot language which means it has borrowed words from many languages.  The first immigrants into the British Isle brought proto-German with them, then Norse came with the Vikings from Scandinavia, followed by Norman conquest of the British Isle and many French words.  With the explosion of science knowledge,

Footnotes for blog

  • Colin M MacLeod (December 18, 2011). “I said, you said: the production effect gets personal.”Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 18 (6): 1197–1202
  •  William R. Klemm (December 15, 2017). “Enhance Memory with the “Production Effect”. Psychology today”.     
  • “Study finds reading information aloud to yourself improves memory. University of Waterloo”.. December 1, 2017.    
  • Hustad, K.C. et al Speech Development Between 30 and 119 Months in Typical Children I: Intelligibility Growth Curves for Single-Word and Multiword Productions,  Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, Oct. 4, 2021.
  • “Inference, says Clare Sealy, isn’t a skill that can be taught.  But it can be improved-through knowledge.  ResearchED.. 24 June 2019.
  • Murray, Bruce; McIlwain, Jane (2019). “How do beginners learn to read irregular words as sight words”. Journal of Research in Reading. 42 (1): 123–136.
  • “Orthographic mapping. Reading rockets”.. 19 September 2019.
  • Murray, B., et al, How Do Beginners Learn to Read Irregular Words as Sight Words,  Journal of Research in Reading , July 4, 2018
  • Linnea C. Ehri (2014) Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary, Scientific Studies of Reading,  18L1,5-21, D01 in “Orthographic mapping. Reading rockets”.. 19 September 2019

Copyright 2023 Clear Talk Mastery, Inc

Accent Reduction- Environmental and [n] pronunciation