Aug 27

Solve The Pronunciation Puzzle By Turning Spelling To Your Advantage

By Ashley | Confidence

The spelling of British English is pretty confusing, right? I’m sure that if you did a degree in Linguistics, studied the etymology of words and spoke Latin then you’ll know exactly why and when to use certain pronunciations but the physiological business of ‘how’ to pronounce English words might still be a mystery.

Just take the words ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’, which in a standard British English accent would all be pronounced exactly the same. And the reason you might be pronouncing them differently is because you are hoping that the spelling is an accurate guide to the pronunciation, but sadly it’s not.

Now, considering however persuasive the spelling seems to be in terms of pronunciation, maybe we could turn the spelling to our advantage?

For example, the vowel sound in ‘term’ is pronounced exactly the same as the vowel sound in ‘work’ and ‘hurt’ – crazy, but true. Now, in my experience, so long as you’re not pronouncing the ‘r’ (for more on this, see my blog post – 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech), many speakers actually pronounce the vowel sound in ‘term’ quite well, possible because the ‘er’ seems to suggest the right sound. So, what if we were to borrow that spelling and rewrite the other words? So ‘work’ becomes ‘werk’ and ‘hurt’ becomes ‘hert’. Now, if you really let what’s written inform the way you speak, you might hear a difference in what you said – probably closer to the target sound than before.

This is just an exercise for pronunciation – let’s be clear that I don’t actually want you to start spelling these words differently when you write – so whether you think about it as re-programming or de-programming the spelling, arriving at that new sound and new pronunciation is all that matters, right?And after it has happened once, you suggested a new synaptic connection in your brain, and it then becomes a possibility for the future.

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English Pronunciation Roadmap CRASH COURSE

FREE DOWNLOAD for how to pronounce 850 of the most common, everyday English words that you will definitely be using all day every day.

  1. How to pronounce the words
  2. Over 40 mins of audio for you to imitate and practice with
  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
  4. Pictures illustrating the shape of the lips and position of the tongue for each vowel sound

Head on over to this blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech have a read, scroll down, click on the FREE DOWNLOAD and get started now!

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Aug 27

The Triple-Threat – How Visual Cues Massively Improve Clarity Of Speech, Comprehension AND Pronunciation

By Ashley | Clarity

Have you ever considered how much of speaking and comprehension is visual? Try watching a film with the volume off and notice that your eyes go to the next best cue for what the speaker is saying – the lips.

Do you notice how the shape and position of the lips clearly helps to distinguish which sound someone is making? Look in a mirror and say the vowel sound OO as in ‘food’ and then the vowel sound EE as in ‘seen’. In a standard British English accent the lips change from a rounded, pouting shape to a slightly spread, subtle smiling shape. So, the shape and position of your lips helps in two ways – it suggests to your listener (or observer) which sound you are using visually which consequently helps you to be more clearly understood.

Now, if you overuse your lips you might start to look and feel a bit strange not to mentioned a bit patronising. But observing these different shapes evidently helps you to be more clearly understood – so it doesn’t just benefit you if you’re speaking in a loud or busy place or to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

However there is a third benefit – it impacts on the sound and tone of your pronunciation. Different accents use their articulators (tongue, lips, soft palate) in very different ways. Changing the habitual positions and shapes of the lips in pronunciation can be a game-changer in your journey towards speaking English more clearly. For example, say the word ‘food’ with very wide, spread lips, and then with rounded lips. Can you hear the difference? Try the same thing with ‘you’, ‘shoe’, ‘move’ and ‘soon’ – it changes the quality and tone of the pronunciation, right? All of these word are pronounced with rounded lips in a standard British English accent.

And the good news is that so long as you know which shapes go with which sounds in the target accent, it’s something that you can work on independently – just make sure you have a mirror! So the question is: are you using these visual cues to their full benefit?

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Want to keep learning?

English Pronunciation Roadmap CRASH COURSE

FREE DOWNLOAD for how to pronounce 850 of the most common, everyday English words that you will definitely be using all day every day.

  1. How to pronounce the words
  2. Over 40 mins of audio for you to imitate and practice with
  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
  4. Pictures illustrating the shape of the lips and position of the tongue for each vowel sound

Head on over to this blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech have a read, scroll down, click on the FREE DOWNLOAD and get started now!

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Want to test your lip reading skills?

Check out this blog post from the BBC Ouch – Charlie’s Lip Reading Challenge

Aug 27

The Astonishing And Unexpected Benefit Pronunciation Has On Intonation

By Ashley | Clarity

Quite recently, I was coaching someone from Spain and we were exploring the difference between the KIT and FLEECE vowel sounds (so for instance ‘slip’ and ‘sleep’). She had a habit of making the KIT vowel sound too long in duration, which made it sound more like the FLEECE vowel. This was important for her, because it meant that words like ‘slip’ actually sounded more like ‘sleep’ – not great if you put it in a sentence like ‘I’m going to slip’!

We did some exercises and she successfully shortened the length of the KIT vowel sound which was a huge leap for her, both in terms of pronunciations and being more clearly understood.

We moved on to some sentences that focused on these long and short sounds and she suddenly stopped and said – as if she had just had real epiphany – ‘the rhythm is different, Ashley! The rhythm is really different between the sentences!’.

What was astonishing for her to discover (and a joy for me to facilitate), was how not only was her pronunciation and clarity of meaning massively improved, but she had started to get part of the intonation of a standard British English accent.

Forget ‘two birds with one stone’, this was a triple turnaround – her pronunciation, clarity of meaning AND intonation was improved just by getting the length of the sound.

She said it’s like ‘buy one get two free’, which is always welcome, right? So, as long as you know how long a vowel sound should be in a standard British English accent, you’ll be triple-jumping your way to being understood – first time every time.

WAIT!

Remember to scroll down leave a comment, give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, either way just give me a reaction, subscribe to my channel, like my page, leave a comment and I’ll speak to you soon.

Want to keep learning?

English Pronunciation Roadmap CRASH COURSE

FREE DOWNLOAD for how to pronounce 850 of the most common, everyday English words that you will definitely be using all day every day.

  1. How to pronounce the words
  2. Over 40 mins of audio for you to imitate and practice with
  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
  4. Pictures illustrating the shape of the lips and position of the tongue for each vowel sound

Head on over to this blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech have a read, scroll down, click on the FREE DOWNLOAD and get started now!

LEARN MORE...

Aug 27

A Pronunciation Game Changer – Having A ‘Second Take’

By Ashley | Clarity

‘How do I integrate these new habits into live, everyday conversation?’, is a question and challenge I hear a lot from people who want to change their accent and pronunciation. It would be great to be able to offer a quick-fix solution (and I’m working on it) but like any learning, especially when it comes to changing habits, it can take time, a lot will power and practice.

However, having established how useful ‘word banks’ can be (see another blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech) I spent some time reflecting on my own experience of changing my regional English accent towards a standard British English accent and I remember that feeling of only noticing my old pronunciation AFTER I spoke – which of course is too late to do anything about. I used to think, ‘when are things going to change? Am I always going to be like this? I should just give up and accept it?’, which of course didn’t help at all. And then one day, I found myself repeating the phrases that I wasn’t happy with just after I had spoken them. Obviously I didn’t do this in front of the person I was speaking to, but when I was next on my own, almost unconsciously, I found my self repeat what I had just said.

And this was a really significant turning point for me, and a real game changer because of course, in most conversations we only tend to us a finite number of words and variations of those words in specific phrases and sentences, and so by repeating, those phrases or having a ‘second-take’ as it were, I was building in a new neurophysiological habit. So the next time I used that phrase or variation of that phrase, I had a bank of ‘rehearsed phrases’ from which I spoke and of course every time I spoke those phrases, the clearer, more accurate and more confident I became.

So I wonder if it’s possible for you to replace the frustration and fleeting hopelessness with having a ‘second-take’ and start building your own bank of rehearsed phrases.

WAIT!

Remember to scroll down leave a comment, give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, either way just give me a reaction, subscribe to my channel, like my page, leave a comment and I’ll speak to you soon.

Want to keep learning?

English Pronunciation Roadmap CRASH COURSE

FREE DOWNLOAD for how to pronounce 850 of the most common, everyday English words that you will definitely be using all day every day.

  1. How to pronounce the words
  2. Over 40 mins of audio for you to imitate and practice with
  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
  4. Pictures illustrating the shape of the lips and position of the tongue for each vowel sound

Head on over to this blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech have a read, scroll down, click on the FREE DOWNLOAD and get started now!

LEARN MORE...

Aug 27

How To Make Learning New Pronunciation Child’s-Play – The Art Of Imitation

By Ashley | Ease

I’m a big believer in observation and imitation as a means of learning. In fact, it’s what we tend to do as children – we watch the world and the people around us and try out their behaviour, their language, the way they use their body, and through this exposure and imitation we learn new things. And the more we practice them the more habitual and deeply ingrained they become.

These observation and mimicry skills never leave us (although in some they are not quite so well preserved), and it is through those same skills (and others) that we learn new things. So, if you’re trying to learn a new accent, you absolutely need to surround yourself with those people who embody what you have the capable of doing.

Now you might be thinking, ‘but how can I tell if they are speaking with a standard British English accent?’, or ‘but I don’t know anyone who speaks in the accent!’. So you might start by searching google or YouTube for ‘RP accent’ or ‘standard British English accent’, or even ask a native friend if they can point out other people that you work with or socialise with who speaks in this accent and if they aren’t any, ask them if they know of any one in the media (public speakers, politicians, news readers or actors) who speak in this way. You might find some podcasts, interviews or audio books featuring one of these people. For instance the politician Theresa May or actor Stephen Fry are good examples of people of speak in this accent.

Either way, whether they are real or in the media, listening and listening and listening to them, and observing and observing and observing them will help you enormously in your pursuit of speaking with ease like a native speaker. Surround yourself with the sounds and intonation of the accent, submerse yourself in the world and culture of the accent and you’ll surprised at the impact that this submersible behaviour has on your learning. – which is, of course, what we did as children.

Essentially it gives you a model, something to base yourself on, to compare yourself to and to use as a source for exploring the accent.

WAIT!

Remember to scroll down leave a comment, give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, either way just give me a reaction, subscribe to my channel, like my page, leave a comment and I’ll speak to you soon.

Want to keep learning?

English Pronunciation Roadmap CRASH COURSE

FREE DOWNLOAD for how to pronounce 850 of the most common, everyday English words that you will definitely be using all day every day.

  1. How to pronounce the words
  2. Over 40 mins of audio for you to imitate and practice with
  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
  4. Pictures illustrating the shape of the lips and position of the tongue for each vowel sound

Head on over to this blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech have a read, scroll down, click on the FREE DOWNLOAD and get started now!

LEARN MORE...

Aug 27

Breaking The Mould – How To Escape The Accent Black Hole

By Ashley | Ease

I’ve worked with a lot of amazing people over the years and at some point in the coaching many of them express how difficult they feel it is for them to transfer their newly found pronunciation skills into their real lives and real conversations.

But there was one particular person I was coaching a number of years ago, who found it almost impossible. Interestingly, she was a Southern American speaker who had lived, worked and raised her family here in England for the past 25 years (over half of her life) and she felt stigmatised by her southern accent and still felt as if she was treated differently as a result.

So, she began sessions with me, and when she told me how she found it almost impossible to use the new pronunciation in live speech, it came as a complete shock to me. Why? Because she was amazing in the sessions. She took on the new sounds with ease, she was able to hear and imitate the use of inflection and change in rhythm immediately and my impression was that she was making huge progress. I tentatively asked what her family thought about it and she said, ‘I haven’t told them’, so I said ‘well, what about your colleagues at work or friends’ to which she replied, ‘I haven’t told them either – I haven’t told anyone Ashley – it’s a secret’.

Turns out, the fear of breaking the identity that she felt others had of her based on her old vocal identify, and the pressure and shame that she felt about keeping the coaching a secret was stoping her from transforming and reinventing herself. In a way she was pigeonholed and stuck! So I asked what it might be like to share this secret about the accent coaching with just one person. She looked horrified and I was sure that she wouldn’t have the confidence to do it.

But, she came back the next week and with a proud, beaming smile she said, ‘I did it Ashley, I told a friend of mine, and I was so surprised because she was fascinated and completely supportive. And since then, I’ve been starting to use some of the coaching in conversations and no-one has looked at me as if I’m weird – I’m was really shocked!’.

So, I would invite you to share with people what you’re doing, even if it’s just one person? And if you can, you might find that you don’t feel so alone in this journey and that it gives you permission somehow to change. It’s a sort of declamation which in someway also makes you accountable to keep going and achieve your goals.

WAIT!

Remember to scroll down leave a comment, give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, either way just give me a reaction, subscribe to my channel, like my page, leave a comment and I’ll speak to you soon.

Want to keep learning?

English Pronunciation Roadmap CRASH COURSE

FREE DOWNLOAD for how to pronounce 850 of the most common, everyday English words that you will definitely be using all day every day.

  1. How to pronounce the words
  2. Over 40 mins of audio for you to imitate and practice with
  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
  4. Pictures illustrating the shape of the lips and position of the tongue for each vowel sound

Head on over to this blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech have a read, scroll down, click on the FREE DOWNLOAD and get started now!

LEARN MORE...

> Want to learn more about pigeonholing?

Here are some links about pigeonholing, labelling and stereotypes.

Aug 27

A Speech Pressure-Cooker – How A Change Of Perspective Led To Super-Fast Progress

By Ashley | Ease

I was coaching someone from Italy who had been speaking English for over 20 years but was tired of being asked ‘where are you from?’ and ‘could you repeat that please?’.

We were at the end of only our third session and he said, ‘so when am I going to start sounding like a native speaker?’ Of course, it’s a question that I’m asked a lot and the story really differs from person to person, so I asked him ‘what would make you feel more like a native’ to which he replied, ‘well, just to have people stop asking me those sort of frustrating questions!’. I said, ‘when would you like that to start happening?’ to which he replied, immediately in a determined tone, ‘NOW, of course’.

But then he said, ‘but, I suppose I wouldn’t dream of taking my driving test after only one driving lesson’. His face softened, his voice relaxed and he went on to have a great session and made loads of discoveries and two months later, in another session, he turned to me at the start and said excitedly, ‘no-one asked me where I was from this week!’.

I’ve come across some amazing people, and interestingly many of them are real ‘go-getters’ and have very expectations of themselves. In this case, it was this perspective or mindset that was stoping him from actually making the progress he was so desperate to make, because you can’t force a habit to change. All you can do is suggest another habit to replace it, and then practice it and use it until it becomes second nature. And just like driving, it just takes the time it takes for all of the bits of the jig-saw to fit in to place.

WAIT!

Remember to scroll down leave a comment, give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, either way just give me a reaction, subscribe to my channel, like my page, leave a comment and I’ll speak to you soon.

Want to keep learning?

English Pronunciation Roadmap CRASH COURSE

FREE DOWNLOAD for how to pronounce 850 of the most common, everyday English words that you will definitely be using all day every day.

  1. How to pronounce the words
  2. Over 40 mins of audio for you to imitate and practice with
  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
  4. Pictures illustrating the shape of the lips and position of the tongue for each vowel sound

Head on over to this blog post 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech have a read, scroll down, click on the FREE DOWNLOAD and get started now!

LEARN MORE...

Aug 24

5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge the Gap Between Spellings and Speech

By Ashley | Clarity

You know that there are some secret spelling rules that unlock the pronunciation of British English, don’t you?

Here are the 5 ‘must-know’ ways to help you speak in a standard British English accent with more confidence and clarity.


It is possible for you to speak British English with fluency and ease, but if you’re hoping that the spelling will help you, chances are that what comes out of your mouth won’t be understood first time.

Here are some quick tips for decoding the spelling and speaking without fear of confusion.

1. Don’t pronounce every written R

This is a MUST! Some languages and accents DO pronounce every written R, but not standard British English. Thankfully, there’s a really simply RULE to follow:

RULE – If a written R is followed by a spoken vowel sound, say the R, and if it doesn’t, then DON’T say it.

So you should say the R in: ‘real’, ‘right’, ‘arrange’, ‘umbrella’ and ‘curious’ but NEVER in ‘weather’, ‘colour’, ‘work’, ‘shirt’ and ‘beer’.

There’s a bit more to this, but let’s keep it simple for now. Remember this rule as it’ll have a big effect on your speech.

2. Don’t pronounce every written G

This is specifically to do with the written G in NG spellings, especially when it’s at the end of a word.

So you’d think that the G in ‘sing’ would be pronounced in exactly the same way as in ‘game’ – I’m afraid not. In a standard British English accent, these specific G’s are often silent.

However, it’s not a simple as taking away the G, because then you might mistakenly pronounce ‘sing’ as ‘sin’, which of course has a very different meaning. So, what should you do?

Essential the NG is a sound all by itself, and is made with the back of your tongue. Unlike an N which is made with the tip of the tongue.

NG

NG sound

N sound in British Pronunciation

N sound

So you get to make the NG sound but don’t add the G sound at the end. So in ‘bring’, ‘rang’, ‘emailing’, ‘working’ and ‘eating’ you pronounce them with a final NG sound, not a G sound.

3. FIVE ‘trustworthy’ spellings for vowel pronunciation

Of all English spellings, vowels ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’ and ‘u’ are the most misleading. For example, ‘pour’, ‘pore’, ‘paw’ and ‘poor’ are all pronounced exactly the same in standard British pronunciation – unbelievable, right?

So, be warned. However, I have found some trustworthy spellings for some vowel sounds – and believe me, you should treat them like gold-dust!

But, REMEMBER THIS – these spellings ONLY work if they are on the primary stressed syllable of the word (the strong, emphasised part of the word).

1. ‘ir’ is pronounced ER as in ‘serve’ and ‘learn’:

virtual     shirt      birth     firm     girl     first     sir     thirty     birthday

2. ‘ue’ is pronounced OO as in ‘food’ and ‘you’:

blue     due     true     clue     glue     cruel     fuel     sued     duel

3. ‘oi’ is pronounced OI as in ‘point’ and ‘boy’:

oil     void     coil     avoid     groin     joist     point     moist     noise

4. ‘oy’ is pronounced OI as in ‘point’ and ‘boy’:

boy     toy     annoy     employ     royal     oyster     destroy     loyal

5. ‘ore’ is pronounced OR as in ‘more’ and ‘your’:

more     sore     before     explore     bore     pore     fore     bored

4. ALWAYS stress the vowels – NEVER the consonants

Quite straightforward really, it should always be the vowel sounds that are stressed in British pronunciation. Putting stress on the vowel sounds essentially means emphasising it, and most speakers do that with a change of pitch or tone. Here are some words to play with and the ‘stressed’ vowel sounds are written in capital letters:

cAR     sERve     sURE     hERE     wORk     lUnch     slEEp     yOUR

When there are more syllables in the word, it doesn’t mean that you should stress all of the vowel sounds, but that’s another story. Here are some words with more than one syllable and the stressed vowel sounds are written in capitals:

arrAnge     prevEnt     collEct     wORking     drIving     evEnt      pOlitics

It’s difficult on paper to but if you were to stress the consonants instead, ‘vase’, ’man’, ‘win’ and ‘these’ they might look for like:

VaSe      MaN      WiN      THeSe

Have a listen to the audio on the video – they sound pretty strange!

5. Lexical Sets and British Pronunciation

The best is always last! So part of the problem, especially in terms of vowel pronunciation is that the same spelling doesn’t mean the same sound, as we found out in tip no. 3 – ‘pour’, ‘pore’, ‘paw’ and ‘poor’. So it’s not like you can just group words together based on their spelling – oh that you could.

However, a wonderful phonetician called John Wells suggests that words can be grouped in terms of their vowel pronunciation.

Essentially, any one accent will group words based on the pronunciation of the vowel sound in the primary stressed syllable. Which means that the stressed vowel sound in all of the words within one group rhyme with one-another! And this is great news for you, because once you’re confident with a certain vowel sound, it’s a matter of building that group of words and making sure that the vowel sounds rhyme.

For example, the vowel sound in all of these words are pronounced exactly the same – ‘crawl’, ‘taught’, ‘board’ and ‘more’. So John Wells say, they belong in one Lexical Set.

But how do I know which words belong in the same group?

I’ve done it for you!

I’ve compiled a huge collection of words – 850 to be accurate – and put them into their lexical sets! The words are also considered to be the most common, basic English words, which no doubt you’ll be using all day long. So in other words, if you can crack these, you’re a huge step closer to clearer and more confident speech. It’s like a British pronunciation treasure trove!

AND, I’ve thrown in some pictures, descriptions of how to make each vowel sound, and over 40 minutes of audio, to help you practice. You might say it’s a sort of CRASH COURSE in British Pronunciation, and it’s FREE. Look at the link below, click ‘LEARN MORE’, download your free copy now and get going!

SEE BELOW…

… and remember to scroll down leave a comment, give me a thumbs up or thumbs down, just give me a reaction, subscribe to my channel, like my page, leave a comment and I’ll speak to you soon.

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  3. Discover which words belong together to help remember their pronunciation
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Do you know something we don’t?

Got additional suggestions about how to bridge the gap between spelling and British pronunciation? Do you know any rules about British  pronunciation? Want to share your experience of learning how to speak in a British English accent? We’d love to hear about it over in our Community!

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