Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

Author: Gwendolyn (page 1 of 9)

Where Are Your Consonants?

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 is produced.

  lips teeth tongue palate
lips b, p, m v, f
teeth v, f ð, θ
tongue ð, θ d, t, n, ʤ, ʧ, ʒ, ʃ, g, k, l, r, ŋ
palate 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 changes significantly.

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.

The Cost of Language Problems in the Workplace

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 understand.

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.

4 Benefits of Listening

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 more sense.

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.

To hang 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 other people.

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 you listen.

More great articles:

How is speech training different from English classes?

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.

Improving Your Vocabulary with Synonyms

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:

  • object
  • item
  • device
  • apparatus
  • element
  • article
  • mechan ism
  • subject
  • matter
  • gadget

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 today.

Don’t Judge Others Based on Their Speech

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 adult.

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 use.

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.

The Basics Matter

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.

The Two L Sounds

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.

Schwa + 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.

Regular 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.

Do 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.

What Do You Mean (To Do)?

Mean is a versatile word.

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 it.

-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 above.

Here, mean implies 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 ease.

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.

Glossary

versatile: having many uses || Mean is a versatile word.

viciously: in a violent, dangerous, or cruel manner || a dog that barks viciously

intend: to 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

imply: to suggest or express in an indirect way || mean implies an intention

fickle: changing often, especially of opinion || humans can be fickle

at ease: comfortable or relaxed || we want to put our listener at ease

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

Don’t Lose Your Second Language

Listen to the audio as you follow along.

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 you liked.

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 language.

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 are.

Glossary

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 new

perusing: looking 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 different tunes

decipher: decode, interpret, understand:: Some words may be too fast to decipher by ear…

sitcoms: situation comedies :: English-language television, especially sitcoms, can be a great way to keep your comprehension abilities sharp

brimming with: full of, overflowing with :: they are absolutely brimming with cultural information

monologue: a 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…

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