Listening is the Key

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Listening is the Key

accentsavvy-american-english-pronunciation

Is it easy to learn an accent?  No, definitely not. Otherwise, everyone would sound the same. It takes a lot of motivation and determination to overcome the natural pronunciation patterns hard-wired in your brain, ear, and tongue.

Many of my clients have been living in the United States for years, and yet, they still have difficulties being understood. A lot of this comes down to listening. If you are not discriminating the American sounds correctly, you will not be able to produce it correctly. Therefore, the first step to improving pronunciation is to simply listen. Pick a sound that you often say incorrectly. Study the differences between how you produce that sound, and how the sound is made by native speakers. Listen to the contrasts between them. 

For example, many languages do not have the English 'TH' sounds. Due to this, many speakers use a /d/, /z/, or /s/ sound in place of the 'TH' sounds. Doing so leads to an accent because you are deviating from the correct way to produce the 'TH' sound. Listen to the difference between saying a /d/ on 'the' and saying it correctly. Are you taking 'duh' time or 'the' time to listen?

Listening to the sound differences is the first step to learning an accent. Without that, you will not become aware, leaving you with your native accent when you speak English. You also must get comfortable listening to yourself. If you don't like how you sound, and you don't want to listen to yourself, how will you improve your speech when others hear you talk? 

Changing your accent takes time and practice. It will not happen overnight. But if you are motivated to learn and listen to yourself, it's an enlightening experience which will only benefit your speaking skills, and hopefully some other aspects of your life. 

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Why Foreigners Sing in American Accents

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Why Foreigners Sing in American Accents

I often find myself wondering, why is the American accent so often used by foreign singers? We often hear British singers like Adele, Bono, and Eric Clapton, or Australian singers like Keith Urban and Iggy Azalea, Americanizing their songs. Is it simply to gain larger audiences and sell albums?

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Why Americans are Obsessed with Time

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Why Americans are Obsessed with Time

Americans are so obsessed with time that The Free Dictionary lists over 300 ‘time’ idioms; many of which are found in the previous paragraph. And in the U.S. business world, it’s essential to be on time. Lateness to work or to meetings is considered rude, disrespectful, and an indication of poor time-management skills.

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                                              How To Pronounce 'The'

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How To Pronounce 'The'

Did you know there are two ways to pronounce the word ‘the’? It comes as no surprise since ‘the’ is the most used word in the English language. Americans use the word so often that we’d become verbally incapacitated if we could not use it. 

During accent modification trainings, I notice many clients forget to add this definite article before their nouns; but just as often I notice that they don’t use the correct form of ‘the’ when they speak either. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty (the details). 

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The Best Oscar Nominated Accents

In honor of Oscar night, let's looks at the actors who spent much time and effort perfecting their learned accents to fit their Oscar-nominated roles.  Often times actors work with dialect coaches to learn their character's new voice. Dialect coaches are named as such because they not only work on pronunciation and prosody (accent), but they also target the grammar and vocabulary a character would use.

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Holy Cow! More Than an American Outcry

Commonly used by American baseball players as early as 1913. They used “Holy cow!” in place of obscene words in order to avoid penalties during the game. Famous Chicago Cubs sports broadcaster, Harry Caray, used the term often to prevent himself from using vulgar language on-air. Popular New York Yankee shortstop and later announcer, Phil Rizzuto, was also famous for using the term. (Cont)

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What Does "Cloak and Dagger" Really Mean?

So literally, a cloak is a type of long, loose coat and a dagger is a small sharp knife used as a weapon. But figuratively, 'cloak and dagger' has the same feel as the expression 'smoke and mirrors' in that they both conjure up images of espionage, secrecy, and deceit. There are a couple different theories as to how this expression came to be (cont.)

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How to pronounce "Gorilla" vs. "Guerrilla

Hi guys!  Today we are talking about how to pronounce "gorilla" and "guerrilla". Just looking at these two words we know they are spelled differently, and they have different meanings. A lot of people have also pronounced these differently as well. However, they are pronounced exactly the same! So, you will have to decipher the context of the conversation to figure out which gorilla/guerrilla a person is talking about. Listen to the sound clip below to hear these words being pronounced and used in a sentence. And don't hesitate to ask a question in the comments section if I can help any further. 

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The Most Pinterest-Worthy Celebrity Quotes about Accents

Getting work as an actor, public figure, or entertainer is hard enough given the normal challenges one must overcome. Add to this an unconventional accent, and these celebrities show they have the determination it takes to succeed in Hollywood. Here we've put together a Pinterest-worthy montage of various celebrities discussing their accents in relation to their work. These stars prove we can embrace our individual uniquenesses while also conquering our dreams. Enjoy! 

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Take One Minute to Listen to an Accent Tour of the British Isles

I love listening to different dialects and this video is a great example about how accents differ depending on our origins. Although, the U.K. has more varying English dialects than the United States, it's only a third of the size of Texas! It's believed to be like this because U.K. communities were more isolated before the phone was invented in the 1930's, therefore there was less outside influence on each dialect. And similar to the general American accent that broadcasters use in the states, the U.K. has a parallel accent called Received Pronunciation (R.P.) that you will hear from U.K. broadcasters. So take a short listen to this video and tell me which is your favorite British Isles accent?

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Is There One Way to Speak American?

When you’re in the South, don’t call the cops if you hear someone say, “Looks like the devil’s beating his wife.”  Instead, look for a rainbow!  Much like how Southerners coin a sun shower, in the U.S. I find it intriguing how many different word and pronunciations are used for the same thing...(cont.)

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When Your Accent Embarrasses You

The beginning of the year is a time for renewal, celebration, and time to watch our favorite celebs walk the red carpet to vie for gold-enameled dust collectors...I mean awards!  One foreign director caught my attention this season when he won the Golden Globe Best Director Award for the film "Gravity". Alfonso Cuarón knew how to give a relatable and humorous acceptance speech when he poked fun at his heavy accent. “Because of my thick accent, they ended up doing what they thought I said, not what I really said"....(cont.)

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