Why do people have an accent?

Why do you have an accent?  Three reasons:  sound rules, sound discrimination, and motor patterns. Sound rules: Each language has sounds and rules for combining these sounds.  When we learn a language in school or as an adult, we typically aren’t taught sounds or sound rules.  We learn grammar but not sound rules.  Most speakers learn sound rules from immersion, not instruction.  These sound rules govern what sounds can be combined together into syllables, which sounds can end words, and how to combine words in sentences. Sound discrimination: It is difficult to distinguish and “hear” sounds in languages other than our mother tongue.  Babies can distinguish every sound that every language uses.  But, as we get older, we lose this ability.   So even if we want to change our accent it becomes difficult because we don’t know what to change.  We can’t distinguish the mistakes.  If you can’t hear the sounds from

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How to say million, billion, and trillion.

Today’s question is one that I hear about once a week:  “How do I say million, billion, and trillion?” The mistake that I hear people say is mill-e-on with three syllables.  The word should be pronounced mill-yin with two syllables.  In fact, million, billion, and trillion all have two syllables.  The trick is to make sure that “illion” is pronounced yin. Listen to an example here:  Million, billion, trillion

What is a voiced sound?

  A voiced sound is category of consonant sounds made while the vocal cords vibrate. All vowels in English are voiced, to feel this voicing, touch your throat and say AAAAH.  Feel that movement in your neck?  That is voicing. Consonants can be either voiced or voiceless.  Some consonant sounds are made with the lips and tongue doing exactly the same thing but the voice is OFF or ON (vibrating).  This leads to many mistakes since the sounds look the same and sound similar.  Look at the following sound pairs that are made in the same manner with the tongue and lips but not the voicing.  Touch your throat as you say each sound to feel the difference. Voiceless Voiced P B T D K G F V S Z CH J Most ESL speakers really have a difficult time with voicing at the end of words.  Which can lead to

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Free Interviews with Jennifer Tarle

Want to learn more about accents and Jennifer?  Then listen to these free interviews: Feast of Fun – This is the Voice I Want to Use Fred Lefebvre with Jennifer Tarle 8/18 Feast of Fun – Election, Peanuts & Coke

Why are some words so difficult to say?

This great question is commonly asked by many of my clients:  “Why are some words so difficult to say?” This question often comes after making a mistake when a word is very similar in the native language and English.  For instance, many Spanish speakers will learn to say ST without the “eh” sound preceding it.  But then the word school comes up in conversation and out pops “eschool”. Then the client gets upset:  “Wait!  I know that!  How did that happen? Am I regressing?” No regression, just a word that is very similar in the native language, Spanish, and in English, so mistakes will occur. You can learn to control this by keeping a list of these pesky words.  Practice, practice, practice and you will create a new habit and no longer make the mistake. Try it!  People will notice a difference.  

What are R-controlled Vowels?

R-controlled vowels consist of a vowel plus the R. These are very difficult for foreign English speakers. You need to move your mouth a lot to say these sounds, so I put them into the category that I call “movement vowels”.

How to say -CIAN, -TION, -SION

Today’s question is from a Japanese viewer: “Are -cian, -tion, -sion endings all pronounced the same?” Yes, they are pronounced SHUN. beautician clinician politician abbreviation action temptation omission concision conclusion

I can't hear the difference

Today’s question is from YouTube: “Hello Jennifer, First of all I am a frequent podcast listener and want to tell you this: “People did notice the difference!!! The more I listen to your podcast the more it seam that people get what I ask them or want them to do”, so thank you very very very much for the great work you are doing us. Secondly I have a tiny issue saying P and B, or may be confusing both of them, p instead of b.   I have heard couple your podcasts: cap & cab but it doesn’t seam that my Arabic want to let it go smoothly. What do you recommend for me. Thanks” First, thanks for the kind comments.  I love that the videos are making a difference! The big difference in P and B are the VOICING.  Voicing is when your throat vibrates to make the

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Where are the Phonetic Transcriptions?

Phonetic transcriptions are not on my site. This is a choice.
The reason that I don’t use them is because they seem to confuse people.
Learners tend to rely on them for visual cues. Pronunciation is based on auditory cues.

Can you explain a glottal stop?

Here is another question from You Tube: “I have another question…about something called the glottal stop?  For example, Americans pronounce button without pronouncing “ton” but instead a “n” sound from the throat… so it sounds a little like, “bu *stop* n”.  Can you explain that?” Sure.  A glottal stop is a sound that happens when air is stopped in the throat.  A true glottal stop is in the word Uh Oh! It’s the UH part. What you are hearing is a final consonant sound glottal stop. We often use this at the end of words on “stop consonant sounds” of d, t, k, g, b or p. To do this for the T, D: hold your tongue behind your top teeth at the end of a word. Do NOT pull it down, or the air will explode too much. To do this for the P, B: Close your lips. Do NOT open

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