Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

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What’s Holding You Back?

Listen to the audio while you read.

When there is an impediment to getting something done, people say that it is holding them back. A lot of times these impediments are real, but many times, it is all in the mind. Sometimes the former can be changed, and real obstacles to what we want can be removed. The latter can always be changed… but it isn’t always easy.

Sometimes a situation can truly hold you back from doing something. Consider the case of the music lover who wants to drive across the country to see their favorite musician perform. If they do not own or have access to a car, then that holds them back from making it to the show. If they can buy, borrow, or rent a car, then they can get to the concert.

Every once in a while, I’ll meet someone who will say, “I can’t learn a language. I tried in school and I was terrible!” Well, school is not the be-all and end-all of learning. Just because you were unable to learn something in school does not mean that you will never be able to learn that thing. As the great American writer and humorist Mark Twain famously quipped, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

The human brain is hardwired for many things. Among them, learning and communicating. What better way to use your brain that by learning a new language? No matter what sort of experiences you had in school with language learning, other attempts at learning a language can have very different outcomes. Outside of school you are free to learn on your own terms, in a way that works for you.

Don’t let your past experiences hold you back from speaking a second language fluently, with ease. You can do it. With patient, consistent practice, you will do it. Sometimes all it takes to convince your mind that you can do it is to start small. Small successes in the beginning can grow into larger successes, snowballing until you are able to have a basic conversation in a second language.

When you think about those things that you find yourself telling others time and again that you want to do, what are they? Are you doing them? If not, why? What are the things that are holding you back from doing what you want? When it comes to working on a second language, we’ve already covered the common excuses.

So, what’s holding you back?


impediment: obstacle, something that prevents or limits success :: When there is an impediment to getting something done

the former: the first of a list of two or more items :: Sometimes the former can be changed

the latter: the last of a list of two or more items :: The latter can always be changed

to make it to: to go, to arrive :: that holds them back from making it to the show

be-all and end-all: something that is essential or of great importance, the ultimate part of something :: school is not the be-all and end-all of learning

to quip: to make a clever remark or funny observation :: Mark Twain famously quipped, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

on one’s own terms: in one’s own way :: outside of school you are free to learn on your own terms

to snowball: to increase and grow at a rapidly increasing rate :: Small successes in the beginning can grow into larger successes, snowballing until you are able to have a basic conversation in a second language

time and again: frequently, repeatedly :: those things that you find yourself telling others time and again that you want to do

Want to be understood? Listen more.

Listen to this article while you read.

We all want to be understood. We humans are a social species, and being able to understand one another has its benefits. One of the struggles of learning a new language is being sure that native speakers of that language understand you. The more pressing our message, the more important it is that our listeners comprehend our speech.

Careful listening allows us to pick up on cues from a conversation partner about a couple of things. By listening closely to the other speaker, we can glean information about what is important to them. In some cases, we can find out about what they may or may not know. If you listen extra carefully, words and phrases the other speaker uses to refer to the things you are both talking about can be quite informative.

It can be difficult to correct someone’s speech. When the conversation is flowing, it can be distracting and downright annoying to have someone interrupt you to say that you used the wrong word. Consequently, most people try to use subtle corrections, if any at all. A subtle correction may be the same phrase you just said, repeated back to you with a word change, or just a single word.

Listen carefully to the words that people use. Are they the same words that you are using in the conversation? If this is the case, then you and your conversation partner are probably on the same page. However, if the other person is using different vocabulary, then take note. It could be that the words they use are more appropriate than the words you are using in the conversation. Or, the words used by your conversation partner may give you insight into their thoughts and feelings about the topic of conversation.

You can convey the same idea in different tones, depending on the way you say it. For example, when discussing a shared project, there are several ways to talk about taking away components of the project.

Saying you want to cut a component out is a fairly neutral way of saying you want to take it away. Using the phrase pare down indicates a desire to take something away in order to minimize, or simplify the work. A stronger way to communicate the same idea but with greater intensity is to eliminate something, or to rip it out. If someone uses either of these phrases, it is likely they feel strongly about the subtraction of the component being discussed.

Good listening skills are not something that you can acquire overnight. Like most communication skills, listening takes practice. The best way to practice listening in a second language is to talk to people. Having a real-life conversation not only gives us the opportunity to get to know someone, it is also a great source of feedback for our speech. Even if your partner in the conversation does not explicitly correct your speech, by listening carefully to what they say and how they say it, you can learn a lot.


pressing: urgent, important, critical :: The more pressing our message, the more important it is that our listeners comprehend our speech

to pick up on: to notice or recognize something :: listening allows us to pick up on cues from a conversation partner

glean: to get, to find out :: we can glean information

downright: absolutely :: it can be distracting and downright annoying to have someone interrupt you

subtle: hard to notice, not obvious  :: most people try to use subtle corrections

on the same page: having a shared understanding, agreeing about something :: you and your conversation partner are probably on the same page

take note: pay attention :: if the other person is using different vocabulary, then take note

insight: intuitive understanding :: the words used by your conversation partner may give you insight into their thoughts and feelings about the topic

to depend on: to be decided by, to be determined by :: You can convey the same idea in different tones, depending on the way you say it

acquire: get, develop :: something that you can acquire overnight

Facebook Won’t Improve Your English

You can listen to the audio of this article while you read. Words in bold are defined in the glossary below.

People log in to Facebook all over the world to see what their friends are up to, to see what strangers are doing, to skim articles on topics such as thirty ways to use rubber bands or heroic hedghogs, and to participate in various pages and groups. There are countless pages on the site devoted to learning English. But simply visiting those pages will not improve your English.

Sure, you might learn a new word or two, but scrolling through post after post of brief content is no way to learn. Learning takes concentration and work, and social media sites are designed to thwart both those activities. When you are exposed to new information while you are distracted, that information will go in one ear and out the other. And it is impossible not to be distracted while on a social media site. The sites were designed to keep you distracted, with variable rewards (notifications that have the same affect on humans as the levers that dispense food in the classic rat experiments from psychology) and multiple things in your line of vision that serve to pull your attention in multiple directions at once.

The phrase fear of missing out is frequently used to describe the thing that keeps people glued to social media. People often describe their urge to spend vast stretches of time on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and whatever else folks are using these days with, “I’m afraid I might miss something.” In reality, those people are missing out on real life while they are staring at their screens.

Learning English or any other language is a process that requires you to focus your attention on one thing at a time. If you are focusing for 20 seconds, then click over to quickly wish your cousin’s best friend a happy birthday, then you are not really focusing. For real learning to take place, you have to cut out the distractions.

Everyone has their own learning styles. You may find it worth it to take some time to think about how you learn best. Personally, I prefer pen and paper, but maybe you learn better with a keyboard, or repeating the new information out loud. Usually, the more methods of reproducing the information you are trying to learn, the better, because it gives your brain multiple representations of the same piece of information. If you are working on your pronunciation, then getting a native speaker to give you feedback can be helpful. Facebook can’t do that.

If you are serious about improving in a second language, then don’t make social media a part of your learning plan. It will only bombard you with information and muddle your attention. If you truly want to work on your English, then make a plan, find a speech trainer, and concentrate on learning the skills you need to improve.

After that, feel free to log in to your favorite social media site and let them hear your ideas.


up to: doing, engaged in :: People log in to Facebook all over the world to see what their friends are up to

skim: to read quickly:: … to skim articles…

thwart: to prevent, to cause to fail :: …social media sites are designed to thwart both those activities

in one ear and out the other: to be heard but not attended to, when someone does not pay attention :: …that information will go in one ear and out the other

vast: very large or very wide :: …to spend vast stretches of time…

cut out: eliminate::…you have to cut out the distractions

worth it: worth doing, worth the time/effort::You may find it worth it to take some time to think…

the more [X] the better [Y]: when there is more of X, the result Y will be better :: …the more methods of reproducing the information you are trying to learn, the better

bombard: to attack something or someone by directing a stream of objects at them :: It will only bombard you with information…

muddle: to mix up, to confuse :: …muddle your attention

Improve Your Second Language in 15 Minutes Every Day

If you’re like most people who speak a second language, then the thought of working to improve your skills in that language can feel like standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain, wanting to get to the summit. Unfortunately, we can’t fly, so if we want to get to the top of that mountain, we have to start walking, putting one foot in front of the other, until we arrive. If we want to improve our communication in a second language, then we have to start. After a while, just few minutes of study each day adds up. Consistency is key.

Step by step, it all adds up. Consistency is key.

Make working on your second language skills a part of your daily routine. Think about what time during the day your brain is most active, and schedule your language work accordingly. Many people prefer to work on their language skills either in the morning or at night. It doesn’t matter when you get your practice in. The only thing that matters is that you do it every day.

Our lives are busy. Maybe it is out of the question to try to fit in an entire hour of language study every day, but it is entirely possible to fit fifteen minutes of study into each day. Fifteen minutes may not sound like much, but in a week, it adds up to over an hour. In a month: seven hours. And in a year: three entire days. The added bonus of working just a few minutes every day on your second language is that this slow and steady method helps your brain take in, practice, and learn new information more efficiently.

When learning things like languages, it is better to work with smaller chunks of information over a period of time. A lot of information all at once can overwhelm us and distract us from the main concepts that our brains use to organize information. Therefore, if you spend the first three days of the year working on all the language skills you want to learn that year and then you don’t study until December, all that information you tried to learn back in January probably won’t still be in your brain. However, breaking the same amount of information into 365 15-minute chunks (one for every day of the year) will make it easier for your brain to learn and retain that information.

Before you know it, you’re at the top of the mountain. Looking across the valley, you see the next mountain. Now you know: the only way to get there is to start walking, putting one foot in front of the other. .


Every year, at the beginning of January, people make New Year’s resolutions. These are promises that we make to ourselves to be better. To eat better, to exercise more often, to have better relationships with the people around us, and to get better at skills that interest us. To successfully commit to a resolution, you must be motivated to improve and have the patience to stick with your plan, even when it feels difficult.

At Lingua East, our resolution is to provide every person who comes to us for in-person or web-based speech training with the best possible service. We resolve to help you get better at speaking and understanding English.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

Let’s have a great 2019. Make Lingua East a part of your plan for the new year.

Is speech training right for you? Click here to schedule a free consultation.

16 Common Acronyms in English

Ever read an email and come across a series of capital letters that made absolutely no sense? In English we like to make phrases shorter by creating these abbreviations from the first letter of each word. As typed language grew increasingly commonplace over the last twenty years, this list has grown.

Many of these acronyms are used in spoken language. While some of the items on this list (marked with *) are generally used and understood in spoken language, some of the acronyms – especially the ones created since the technological revolution – are only used in a stylized form of English by a subset of the population.

As you already know, internet language parallels spoken language in the real world, so there are levels of politeness on the internet. Therefore, some of the newer acronyms have versions with more profanity. (Stronger versions are noted in parentheses.) However, use of some acronyms containing swear words is considered more polite than actually saying the swear words, and use of these acronyms (especially those marked with ꙳) is allowed in moderately polite speech.

There are many more acronyms in English, and there are several other types of acronyms, including the following:

  • The acronym is pronounced as a single word (GIF, FOMO)
  • The acronym contains numbers, either
    • In its pronunciation only (NCAACP = N-C-double A-C-P) or
    • In the written acronym and its pronunciation (3M)
  • Letters or numbers used in the written acronym sound like words (BBQ = barbecue, IOU = I owe you, B2B = business to business)

Are any of these acronyms new to you? You can learn how to use them by listening for them, doing an internet search for examples, and asking native English speakers.









BTW (by the way)… did you know that Lingua East offers web-based speech training? Improve your pronunciation of American English from anywhere with a stable internet connection. Visit our Services Page to learn more about our methods and to sign up for a free web-based consultation to talk to a speech trainer about getting started.

Web-Based Speech Training Available Now!

Now you can experience the Lingua East method from ANYWHERE with web-based speech training services!

These services work just like in-person speech training. We use a videoconferencing platform for weekly sessions, and clients can access valuable notes from their sessions, along with practice materials and other resources from their personal speech training website.

With web-based services, you don’t have to worry about getting through traffic to make it to your appointment on time. All you need is an internet connection and the desire to take your English skills to the next level.

Now that geography isn’t an obstacle to speech training with Lingua East, are you ready to take your English to the next level?


Click here to learn more about our speech-training services.


Sign up for a web-based consultation below. During this conversation, we can determine if speech training is right for you while you learn more about the Lingua East method.


Everyone Should Be Heard

Think about how you felt the last time you were told not to say something. It feels like a punch in the gut:

Don’t say that word.

You shouldn’t say that.

Many of us have been there, in conversation with one person or maybe in a group. Perhaps you know the person well, perhaps not. But either way, hearing those words has a way of sitting bitterly in the mind. It is the sort of thing you remember.

When we tell others that they shouldn’t communicate, it is a way of telling them that their ideas have no worth. And that simply is not true. Every individual on this planet has ideas, thoughts, and experiences that are worth sharing, however eloquently or crudely they may communicate them.

Stripping the power of language from another human being is an act of abuse. It has a way of demeaning a person and making them feel less than human, while revealing – to those paying attention – just how small the person doing the silencing really is.

It’s like the old advice about bullies: they are mean to others because they are broken inside. The policing of language is a way of projecting one’s own emotional shortcomings onto another human being. If you ever have the urge to tell somebody not to use a particular word or phrase, don’t do it. Instead, reflect on that broken piece within yourself that would make you want to be a bully.

Then work to change it.

If somebody tries to silence your words, don’t let them. Say it again, but louder. Speak up. Speak out. And let them hear your ideas.


Everyone should be heard.

Note: I do not condone language that is intended to cause harm to others. To use language in this way is an abuse, not only to the target of the harmful words, but of language itself. Sometimes people use harmful language ignorantly, with no intent to cause harm. In these cases, education about how their words hurt others can put a salve on their linguistic blunder.

Use Language to Make a Difference

Around the United States and the world, there is discontent. This discontent is particularly strong in the immigrant community. It takes a lot to leave everything you know to move to a new country and culture. For that reason, I have an immense respect for immigrants. They are powerful people.

That discontent, when harnessed, has the power to significantly change the status quo for the better. Whether that be related to policy or cultural ideals doesn’t matter. What I’m talking about is the sheer power of that discontent. However, in order to make a change, some organization is needed.

No matter what you are doing, no matter the size of your organization, it is important to clearly define what you want. When you do this, other people can get behind the thing you’re pushing for, adding power and momentum to your cause. That is how to make a difference.

Define What You Want

There are two approaches to defining what you want. The first is specific. For example, “I want my tap water to be 99.99% free of heavy metals, inorganic compounds, and bacteria.” There is no question here about what you want.

The other approach to definitions uses language that is not so clear, language that is vague. The benefit of vague language is that it has the power to appeal to more people. Compare the specific example above to this: “Clean water.” This does not specify where the water comes from (maybe out of your tap, maybe not), nor does it make clear what “clean” actually means. However, while the people across town may or may not be okay with the water coming out of your tap containing a little bit of this or a trace of that, they are likely to agree across the board that “clean water” is a desirable goal.

Spread Your Message

Once you have defined what it is that you want, telling others about it can help you gain momentum, forward progress toward achieving your goal. Now there are more ways than ever to share your ideas with the world. Social media and messaging platforms, email campaigns, and the traditional low-tech communication mediums (i.e., printed flyers, articles and books, billboards and signs, and talking to people face-to-face) are all effective ways to spread your message.

Even if what you want is to achieve a personal goal, telling someone else about it can increase your accountability and improve your chances of achieving that goal.


Even the most clearly-defined message does not make things happen. People have to hear the message and act on it. As much as I love language, I still agree with the old saying that actions speak louder than words. Once you have defined your message and gotten it out there, it’s up to you to do the things you need to do in order to create the positive change you have already envisioned.

How come I don’t hear a difference between sounds in English?

This is a question I am asked a lot. It seems strange that native English-speakers would be able to hear a difference between two sounds that seem exactly the same to someone speaking English as a second language. The answer goes back to early childhood, when we were learning our native language.

When babies are born, they can identify all the sounds of all the languages of the world. This is pretty remarkable, when you consider the wide range of languages there are, each with its own distinct pattern of sounds. But this ability does not last long.

As the baby grows and is exposed to just one or two languages in their home environment, their ability to hear and distinguish sounds is honed, so that instead of recognizing a wide array of sounds, they become experts at identifying the sounds of their native language(s).

In this process, similar sounds from foreign languages can become one individual sound, in what is often called category collapse. Therefore, a baby growing up in a Spanish-speaking household in Mexico may be able to identify the difference between the English words hot – hut – haute, but that distinction is not so clear for an adult monolingual Spanish speaker.

Do you hear the difference?

Words that are identical except for one sound are called minimal pairs. Can you hear the difference between these minimal pairs?

Share what you hear in the comments!

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