Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

Category: ESL

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.

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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 Sets Lingua East Apart

We believe everyone who wants to learn should be able to speak English fluently, without fear. Lingua East delivers in-person accent modification and speech training services to individuals in and around Charlotte, NC. Our speech trainer is a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist. She is fluent in Spanish, so she understands the struggles of communicating and living in a second language, as well as the challenges of being understood by native speakers of that language. Effective communication in a second language is attainable with the right training and practice. However, it’s hard to do on your own.

At Lingua East, we are committed to providing clients with quality speech training services. Our services are designed with a focus on working on the sounds and aspects of English that you need; there is no standard approach. With one-on-one attention and personalized training plans, every client receives a practice plan individualized for their busy schedule, with the aim of maximizing benefit from every training session for improved English communication in a variety of settings and with a variety of listeners.

Speech training services are based on the Compton Pronunciation of English as a Second Language (P-ESL) program, with adjustments made to modernize the outdated material to better suit clients wanting to learn useful English for today’s world. We make use of graphic displays of the speech signal in the form of spectrogram technology so you can see your speech on a screen. Clients often find this much more helpful than simply talking about what we hear. This matters, because sometimes, speakers with different language backgrounds hear sounds differently. At Lingua East, our expert speech trainer takes an individualized approach to each and every client, selecting the methods that will increase their success in speech training.

Learning a second language, especially English, is not an easy task. It takes courage to speak up, especially in uncomfortable situations. At Lingua East, we want to guide you to confident communication in English so you can be understood in a variety of situations. Our one-on-one services are designed with the individual in mind, and maximized for client success. We believe that everyone has something worth communicating. Lose the fear of communicating with native speakers in English, and let them hear your ideas!

If you liked this article, you might also like these:

20 Reasons to Work on Your Accent

Accent Modification Services at Lingua East

8 Confidence-Boosting Tricks for Better Communication

11 Tips for Talking with Teachers

A reader asked for a post of the tips from the Communicating with Teachers in English handout. So, without further ado, here it is!

For a child to get a good education, parents need to have good communication with teachers. Be a good role model for your children – talking with the teacher is the key to your child’s success.

Here are 11 tips for communicating with your child’s school:

  • Communicate with your child’s teacher early in the fall, and throughout the school year. It is easy to write an email, make a phone call, or show up in person, and it will show the teacher that you care about your child’s education. Teachers like to get to know parents.
  • Let the teacher know the best way to contact you. Make sure they have your phone number and know what part of the day you can take phone calls.
  • Find out when parent-teacher conferences will be scheduled so can put it on your calendar well in advance.
  • Arrive on time for meetings. If you are going to be late, call the school to let them know.
  • If you know what you want to say, but are not sure how to say it in English, ask for an interpreter.
  • Minimize noise when you talk with the teacher. It will be easiest for others to understand you in a quiet environment.
  • If you don’t understand what the teacher is telling you, tell them and politely ask for clarification. “I don’t understand. Could you explain that please?”
  • If the teacher does not understand you, or they don’t seem to be following what you’re saying, try to say it another way. Add information, use different words.
  • Ask questions. Ask about how your child approaches tasks at school. Ask about what you can do at home to support your child’s learning. Ask any question that comes to mind. Questions can start conversations that inform teachers about how best to teach your child. When you ask questions it shows the teacher that you are interested in your child’s education.
  • If your child has experienced any big events outside of school (like moving to a new home or the birth of a sibling) share that information with the teacher. Big life events can affect how kids behave at school, so providing context will help the school to teach your child.
  • Volunteer to help out in the classroom for an hour or two. Volunteering is a great way to see what happens in the classroom.

When you get to know your child’s teachers, you are teaching your child about the importance of education. Feel free to share your ideas and to work with the school to make it the best education possible.

If you’re still having trouble communicating with your children’s teachers in English, let us know. We just might be able to help.

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