Consonant sounds, the
sounds we produce with a combination of our lips, teeth, and/or tongue (see
figure 1), are typically characterized by several features. Those features
include the way they are produced (often referred to as manner), whether or not the consonant is voiced, and where in the
mouth (and nose) they are produced.
This final feature, which
is often referred to as place, can
differ from language to language for the same sound. The difference we hear
between the /d/ produced by a native Spanish speaker and a /d/ produced by a
native speaker of American English has to do with where in the mouth the sound
b, p, m
d, t, n, ʤ, ʧ, ʒ, ʃ, g, k, l, r, ŋ
d, t, n, ʤ, ʧ, ʒ, ʃ, g, k, l, r, ŋ
Figure 1. American English consonant
sounds produced via interaction between the lips, teeth, tongue, and palate.
The difference between a
consonant produced by a native English speaker and by someone speaking English
as a second language can be subtle, but native listeners can hear the
difference. By placing the tongue in a slightly different place, the sound
Therefore, whereas in
Spanish the /d/ sound is often produced with the tongue at the teeth, in
English this sound is produced further back in the mouth, with the tongue
raised in the front to touch the palate.
It is not always easy for
speakers of English as a second language to identify where they need to move
their tongue to produce a consonant like a native speaker. Luckily, a
knowledgeable speech trainer has the ear to be able to tell you which
consonants are being produced in a different place, and where to make a change
for clearer pronunciation.
If you are interested in talking with a speech trainer to learn about how you can change your accent with one-on-one services, then sign up below for a free consultation, either in person at our Charlotte office or online.
In the corporate world, some of the best talent comes
from far away. Hiring managers often have to choose among excellent candidates
from India, Venezuela, Mexico, and Germany. A great interview leads to an
offer, and soon the new hire is working with native English-speaking
professionals on a team. They have solid technical skills and an intermediate
level of English as a second language, and everyone on the team is looking
forward to the contributions their new colleague will make to the team and the
company as a whole. It is often at this point after the interview that
communication difficulties begin to appear.
Communication difficulties show up as small written
errors in emails and other professional communication. An accent might create a
challenge for team members, users, vendors, or others to understand the employee’s
speech. When the new hire has difficulty understanding spoken language, it can
make for uncomfortable meetings where they fall behind in the flow of ideas and
contribute less than is expected of them. It can also lead to errors and delays
when instructions are given verbally and the employee does not fully
In addition to errors and delays, language problems in
the workplace can lead to wasted resources, costing the company time and money.
These undue costs can lead to stress at the level of management, with repercussions
in projects when the time or cost goals are not achieved.
In order to improve productivity and reduce the stress
and waste associated with language problems in the workplace, corporate speech
pathology has emerged to answer the call. Corporate speech pathologists are
trained experts in speech and language production. Rather than applying their
expertise in the traditional settings such as schools or hospitals, corporate
speech pathologists work with companies and their employees to maximize
communication and enhance the process of employee development.
Lingua East provides corporate speech pathology services to companies looking to bolster the success of employees speaking English as a second language. We understand that when the employee succeeds, the company succeeds. Contact us today to learn more about our speech training packages for employee development. Services may be offered in person or via videochat, and we may be able to travel to your location.
I have written before about the importance of listening. When you are living and interacting with others in a place where your second language is most people’s first language, listening becomes even more important. Listening provides innumerable benefits for everyone, but here I wanted to dive into a few of the ways that regular practice of good listening skills can be beneficial to people living in a second language.
1. You learn regional
words and phrases.
Listening to others gives you the opportunity to hear the words and phrases they typically use. While most of these words and phrases will probably be common to all dialects of the language, every once in a while, you will hear something new that is unique to the region you are in.
Here in the South there are a lot of phrases that no one taking an English class ever learns. Whereas the sentence I’m fixing to get a buggy might not make much sense to the average English speaker, to someone from the South, it clearly means I’m going to get a shopping cart.
2. Phrasal verbs make
When the same verb has different meanings depending on the preposition with which it is paired, it can get confusing. But when you listen carefully, you tend to hear the more common phrasal verbs over and over. Just like a song on the radio, the more you hear it, the more you’ll learn it. When you hear phrasal verbs multiple times throughout the day or week, you are more likely to learn their meanings and how they are used.
Tohang out means to spend time relaxing or
enjoying but hang up means to hang
something from a hook or to end a phone call. My clients find phrasal verbs to
be one of the most challenging areas of the English language.
3. You learn about
When you listen to others speak, it gives you a front row seat to their mind. By paying attention not only to the things they say but to the words and inflection they use to communicate their message, you can often learn a lot about who the person is.
In other words, you learn more by listening than by speaking.
4. Your contributions
to the conversation become more valuable.
For many people it is tempting to interject in a conversation simply to participate, or because they feel they need to keep talking to have people pay attention to them. Maybe you are one of these people. If the other speakers do not find value in your contribution to the conversation, then they may be less likely to pay attention to your words in the future. In these cases, it is better to hold your tongue and listen to the conversation until you have a solid understanding of the issue being discussed. When you have something to add to the conversation, wait for the right moment. If you have listened well, then when you speak up, your listeners will appreciate what you have to say.
You probably know of the painful feeling that comes when you
speak up during a conversation only to find out that your comment is too late.
It would have been relevant a moment earlier, but the conversation has moved on
and your understanding is lagging behind. If you are at this stage in language
learning, practice good listening skills, but don’t be afraid to speak up. Keep
talking. Your comprehension of the language will improve with time, as long as
I get a lot of calls from people who want me to teach them
English. As much as I would like to help them improve their communication
skills in a second language, I almost always refer them to English classes. I
am not an English teacher. Lingua East is not a language institute. Speech
training is more than that.
Speech training is for people who have already learned the
language. You don’t have to have perfect English, but enough English to be able
to have a conversation with a native speaker. Most of my clients use English every
day at work, or they are looking for a job where they will need to use English.
When you take an English class, you learn the grammar and
vocabulary, and how to put words together into a sentence. English classes give
you exposure to the language in its written form, too, so that you can read and
understand signs, newspapers, books, and websites.
Speech training, on the other hand, teaches you how to properly
produce the sounds of the language, how those sounds interact in the spoken
language, and how the voice is used to add meaning to a message. Some of speech
training is learning the relevant words for a given situation, but the focus is
on how to produce those words.
If you want to learn English, then take an English class or hire a private English tutor. Here in Charlotte, there are some great opportunities offered at Independence Regional Library. If you want to speak the language clearly, then sign up for a free consultation below to see if speech training is right for you.
One of the most frustrating aspects of speaking a second
language is when in your mind you know exactly what you want to say, but you
just don’t have the right words to communicate your idea. The words just don’t
come; not in the second language, anyway. Growing your vocabulary is critical
if you want to minimize those frustrating situations.
I have written before about the importance of reading to grow a vocabulary.
Aside from reading, there are several other methods you can use to learn new
words. These methods have been proven to work; they are based off neuroscience
and research about how people learn new information.
One of these methods is to take a common word and learn several of its synonyms. (Synonyms are different words with the same meaning.) For example, the word thing is used all the time, often when we can’t thing of the specific name of the thing we’re referring to. (See? I just used the word thing.) Here are some of the synonyms for thing:
The words listed above will not all work as substitutes for thing in every instance, because each
word has a meaning that is slightly more detailed than the general thing. Look up each word to see some
examples, and compare the word’s definition with that of thing and other words on the list.
You can use this method with words you use often. In fact,
it is most useful with the words that are most frequently used in English (or
any language). This method works because it builds upon information you already
have stored in your brain.
Do you need help improving your vocabulary in English as a
second language? Our speech trainer can help. Not only do we help clients
pronounce American English clearly, we help them grow their vocabulary so they
can be ready for that next big meeting at work or that unexpected conversation
at a party. Our services are individualized, so no matter where you use English
or what you need to say, we can help you learn what you need for success. We
now offer evening and weekend appointments so you can fit Lingua East speech
training into your busy schedule. Sign
up for a free consultation
We shouldn’t judge the way others talk. We don’t want others
to judge the way we talk.
Everyone has their own style. Sometimes we say one thing and
the person we’re speaking with hears something else. It isn‘t until later in
the conversation when they say something that clues us in to the
misunderstanding that we identify what happened.
Our job as communicators is twofold: 1) We have to communicate in the way that is most appropriate
for the situation. Automatically, we take into account several factors of
the other person, and we adjust our communication style to best convey our
message to them. For example, if we note they are hard of hearing, we might –
without thinking too much about it – speak a bit louder, to make it easier for
them to hear us. If we’re talking to a child we might use different vocabulary
than if we were having a discussion with a university professor or another
2) The second part of our job as communicators is to listen
with the intent to understand. That
does not mean making a lot of assumptions about what the other person is
saying, but consider the information they give you before connecting it in intricate ways to what you already know and
believe. In other words, when we listen with the intent to understand, we are
open to the ideas and opinions of others.
Part of being not just a good communicator, but a good person, is to reserve your judgement of
a person. Do not judge people for the way they talk. Don’t judge them based on
the language they speak, their dialect, their accent, or the vocabulary they
Just because you hold a belief does not mean that everyone
holds the same belief of you. That belief may be a positive force in your life;
it might work for you. But that does not mean it will work for everyone.
If you believe that it is wrong to swear, good for you.
However, not everyone holds that belief. (In fact, studies have linked swearing
to longer lives, ability to withstand greater levels of pain, and lower levels
of stress). If you meet someone who in casual conversation, uses a swear word
or two, reserve your judgement of that person. Rather than focusing on the
words they use that you do not like, focus on the message they are trying to
convey. Be open to their ideas.
If you meet someone who speaks your native language with an
accent, do not assume they are less intelligent. Many people who speak with an
accent know two or more languages – an impressive feat of learning! The sound
system and intonation patterns of their first language influence their
pronunciation of their second language. Speech
training can help people communicate more clearly in a second language.
Half of speaking is listening. No two people share exactly the same language history, vocabulary, and speaking style. That is even more reason to listen to others. You might be surprised about what you learn.
Sometimes we have to go back to the beginning in order to
progress. This is true of any skill. If you want to truly master a skill, you
cannot breeze through the beginning and start working on it where it gets hard.
You have to master its basic parts first. Once you have mastered the basics of
a skill, then it will be easier to master the more challenging parts.
Any great musician understands the importance of playing
scales. Being able to produce the correct notes at the right pitch with good
quality is not as easy as it looks. But once a musician masters a scale, they are
much more prepared for a complicated composition.
The same is true of pronunciation.
It is remarkable how just a single sound, produced slightly
less than perfectly, can result in production of a word or a sentence with a
completely different meaning from the one intended by the speaker. We have all
experienced funny situations in which one word sounded like another, changing
the speaker’s message.
The Lingua East method of speech training divides speech
into several levels, beginning with the basics and advancing to the complex.
Many speakers are able to communicate with native listeners using complex
language, but a few small deficiencies in the more basic levels reduce the
effectiveness of their message.
We are able to target individual basic skills that need strengthening in order to maximize the effectiveness of the speaker’s message. This can be frustrating, because it feels like we are working on something we learned years ago. And that is true. But mastering the basics is an important part of communicating well in a second language.
If you are ready to be a better speaker of English as a second language, then sign up for a free consultation to see if speech training is right for you. The consultation can be in person in our Charlotte location or over the web using Zoom. There we will listen to your goals for English communication, and make some helpful suggestions for getting started.
Did you know that in English words, there are two ways
that L can sound? Sometimes the two pronunciations are referred to as dark and light Ls, but I prefer to think of them as schwa (ǝ) + L
and regular L.
+ L – Tongue Placement: Back of Mouth
Sometimes L makes its own syllable. This tends to occur
when words end in an /l/ sound like incredible, careful or magical. In these syllables (-le, -al, and -el), there is a vowel
sound produced before the /l/. This vowel is an unstressed schwa, ǝ. When L
makes an appearance in this syllabic form, it is produced as efficiently as
possible after the previous consonant. For this /l/ sound, the tongue is raised
in the back of the mouth.
There happens to be another time the /l/ sound can be
produced with the tongue placement in the back of the mouth. This occurs when
the L is in the middle of words such as in although, mistletoe, and albeit. This does not mean that
every time there is an L in the middle of a word it is produced at the back of
the mouth; there are exceptions to every rule, and the syllable structure of
the word matters.
L – Tongue Placement: Front of Mouth
The regular L sound occurs when the L is included in a
syllable with other sounds, such as in the words language, cantaloupe, and
love. In this context, the /l/ sound is
formed just as in the above case of the schwa + L, but it can be paired with
consonants to make a blend, or it can be paired with any vowel – either before
or after the /l/.
Typically, the /l/ sound is produced with the tongue
raised and its tip flattened against the bony shelf behind the top front teeth.
With the tongue in the front /l/ position, there should be some space on the
sides of the tongue where the air – and sound – can flow through. This tongue
placement for the /l/ sound is most commonly found at the beginning of words (love, little,
and lose) and in some
words that have an /l/ sound in the middle (allow, yellow, and xylophone).
This kind of L can be in stressed syllables (like in the
word language). In fact, a word that might
typically have a schwa + L (magical) can be pronounced like a regular
L, with the tongue raised in the front of the mouth, when it is stressed or emphasized in a sentence.
You Have Trouble Pronouncing Your Ls Clearly?
Our speech trainer helps clients improve their pronunciation of American English so they can communicate effectively at work and in the community. With easy-to-understand explanations, visuals, and technology, our clients are guided to excellent pronunciation of English that native speakers understand. Sign up for a free consultation below to see if speech training is for you. With evening and weekend hours, we can accommodate any schedule, whether in-person at our Charlotte headquarters or online.
As an adjective, it can be
used to describe a person who is unkind and unpleasant toward others, or a dog
that barks viciously and chases
people. It is the opposite of nice.
In its verb form, mean is used to describe, explain, or
define something. It is related to the noun meaning.
Therefore, when you ask someone, “What do you mean?” You get a response that
describes the intended meaning of
something they said.
But there is another use of
the word mean. This use occurs far
more often than we would like. The word mean
is used in its verb form with another verb, in its infinitive form, added to
-He has been meaning to read more.
-I was meaning to call you.
-They meant to fix the car.
When mean is used with another verb, as in the examples above, the verb
tense is usually present perfect progressive (has been meaning), past
progressive (was meaning), or past tense (meant). While this use of mean can appear in the present tense,
due to the nature of what mean to
communicates, it is most frequently used in one of the three verb tenses listed
Here, meanimplies an
intention. The phrase that follows mean
indicates something the subject – he, I, and they in the examples above –
intends to happen (to read more, to call you, to fix the car). You might be
able to substitute the word want for mean in sentences like these.
But not necessarily.
When you say you mean to do something, you might truly
want to do that thing, intend to do that thing, and eventually you will do that thing. That is the
strongest interpretation of a mean to sentence.
But we as humans can be fickle. We
often say we will do things but never do them, either because we are lazy, we
forget, or we want to put our listener at
Most of the time when we
say we have been meaning to do
something, we never do that thing. But that is no reason not to try the things
that we have been wanting to do. When I found myself telling others that I have
been meaning to run more, I made a mental
note. Then, I laced up my sneakers and hit
the pavement. So far, I have no regrets.
What is on the list of
things you have been meaning to do?
If speech training is on your list, then you’ll need a plan. Send us a message
and we’ll be happy to help.
many uses || Mean is a versatile word.
a violent, dangerous, or cruel manner || a dog that barks viciously
plan or want to do something, to have in mind as a purpose or goal || a
response that describes the intended
meaning of something they said
suggest or express in an indirect way || meanimplies an intention
often, especially of opinion || humans can be fickle
at ease: comfortable
or relaxed || we want to put our listener at
mental note: to
pay attention so you can remember a piece of information later || I made a mental note
hit the pavement: to
walk or run on the streets; to go out in search of something || I laced up my
sneakers and hit the pavement
Here in Charlotte, I meet a lot of people who live their lives in their first language, using English as a second language only rarely. It can be a struggle to keep a second language in your brain when you don’t use it every day. However, you don’t have to use a language every day to remember it. There are many ways to keep your language skills fresh and to keep learning, so that when you do need to use your second language, it will be at the tip of your tongue.
Explore the Community
One of the most common pieces of advice I give to clients is
to get out in the English-speaking community. Step out of your comfort zone on
a regular basis and put yourself in situations where English is the only
choice. Maybe that means shopping at a different store, trying out a new restaurant,
or making conversation with a stranger on the street. These are all great ways
to work on your speaking and listening skills in English, and you might even encounter something new that you never knew
Read a Book
I’ve written before about the benefits of reading. Reading a book in a second language is a great way to keep the grammar and vocabulary in your mind. Different authors have different ways of communicating, so reading can be an excellent way to grow your verbal skills while you learn new words. Plus, during ten-minute moments of boredom, you can accomplish much more by reading a book than by perusing social media.
Listen to Music
There is a special connection between music and language.
You can take advantage of this connection by listening to English language musicians.
Listen to the lyrics of different tunes and choose artists who sing in a
way that you can hear most of the words clearly. Some words may be too fast to decipher by ear; in this case, look up the
lyrics online. The more you hear the song knowing what the lyrics are, the more
words of the song you will remember. Sing along – I like to do this while
driving – and practice your pronunciation.
Watch Some TV
English-language television, especially sitcoms, are one of the best ways to keep your comprehension
abilities sharp. Sitcoms are an excellent source of English grammar and
vocabulary, and they are absolutely brimming
with cultural information. In fact, many sitcoms, such as The Office, Friends, and Seinfeld became so popular, they are
often referred to in conversation among native speakers. By watching sitcoms,
you can learn new idioms, slang, and cultural rules for interactions. Try to
keep the captions turned off if you can. If you must use captions, then be sure they are in English, rather than
your first language.
Google In English
Almost every internet search you perform during the day is
part of an inner monologue, the
conversation you have with yourself in your mind. In order to ensure that you
are still thinking in English part of the time, make a point to perform some of
your internet searches in English. Just by asking that question in English and considering
the possible answers in English, that entire train of thought can occur in English, rather than your first
If you are motivated to become more self-sufficient with
your English, then sign up for a free consultation to find out if speech
training is for you. Our valuable services can provide you with the key information
that no one tells you about speaking English as a second language. Our services
are available in person at our office in Charlotte or via the web wherever you
at the tip of your
tongue: in your mind, ready for you to say :: when you do need to use your second language, it will be at the tip of your tongue
encounter: find ::
you might even encounter something
at, looking through :: you can accomplish much more reading a book than by perusing social media
tunes: songs :: Listen
to the lyrics of different tunes
lyrics: the words
in a song :: Listen to the lyrics of
interpret, understand:: Some words may be too fast to decipher by ear…
comedies :: English-language television, especially sitcoms, can be a great way to keep your comprehension abilities
brimming with: full
of, overflowing with :: they are absolutely brimming with cultural information
speech or conversation where only one person is talking :: Almost every
internet search you perform during the day is part of an inner monologue
train of thought: a
line of reasoning, how someone thinks through something to reach a conclusion ::
…that entire train of thought can
occur in English…