Speaking rate – How fast is too fast?

Speaking Rate - How fast is too fast?

I’m often asked whether how quickly we speak influences how well others understand us. If you speak clearly, speed shouldn’t be the reason why people misunderstand. But the problem is, as you speed up, it gets harder for you to speak clearly. If you drop your word endings and everything mumbles together, people might have a hard time understanding you. But, if you’re able to maintain crisp enunciation despite your quick pace, your listeners shouldn’t have a problem. More important than your speed is how you choose to group (or ‘chunk’) your words. Make sure that your pauses, no matter how short, are in logical places. You should pause according to your punctuation, after phrases and clauses or in order to emphasize important points. So   Read More


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938LIVE’s A Slice of Life Interview

Heather & Eugene 938LIVE

Today I had the great pleasure of speaking with Eugene Loh on his radio program, A Slice of Life, on Singapore’s talk radio station, 938LIVE. We had a wonderful discussion about a lot of pronunciation issues, including the difference between accent and clarity, why modelling a native accent is illogical, if not impossible, what we should focus on when it comes to speaking English clearly, why your pronunciation matters, plus some real examples of pronunciation gone wrong. It seems like common sense that International English would be used and accepted in international circles, yet still, we strive to achieve a native-English norm. Why is this happening? Click on the link below to hear my thoughts (approx. 23 min). Slice of Life Interview What do you   Read More


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How to Pronounce ‘Purchase’

How to pronounce 'purchase'

‘Purchase’ is a word that is often mispronounced, basically because people like to pronounce it exactly as it’s written. They look at the word, break it into its syllables, PUR and CHASE, and then read them out loud. The word ends up sounding like ‘purr’ (the sound a cat makes), and ‘chase’, as in, “My 2-year-old likes to chase cats” (they aren’t usually purring when she does that).  If you’re in a hurry, here’s the 60-second Quick Fix: // // What people forget when they say ‘purchase’ is the very important tendency for vowel sounds in unstressed syllables to ‘reduce’ (change their sound) to a schwa. Remember that the schwa sound is a bit like ‘uh’. In this case, the first syllable, PUR, is stressed and the   Read More


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How to Pronounce ‘Hippopotamus’

how to say hippopotamus

This is probably one of my favorite mispronunciations ever. I was sitting with one of my Singaporean clients and we were talking about tough English words. She mentioned some words that she recently found out she was mispronouncing and we had a laugh about them. You have to be able to laugh at yourself when it comes to these things! Then she said, “Oh, but the hardest one for me is ‘hippo-puh-TAY-mus.” I let out a giggle thinking she was purposely mispronouncing the word, but then it became clear that she was taught to say the word that way. I couldn’t believe it! “Your teachers pronounced it that way?!” “Yep.” Her whole life she had been saying hippo-puh-TAY-mus, never knowing it was incorrect. Thank goodness   Read More


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How to Pronounce ‘Colleague’

How to Pronounce Colleague

VIDEO BLOG! Colleague is another one of the top 10 words I commonly hear mispronounced in Asia. It tends to sound more like ‘colic’, but with the word stress on the second syllable instead of the first. If you prefer audio only, here’s another recording. Click the play button (it may take a few seconds to load). // // Colleague should be stressed on the first syllable, COL and the second syllable, LEAGUE, should sound the same as the normal word ‘league’ with a long E sound and a G ending. You’ll notice that this goes against the typical word stress characteristic (see Part 6 of the free course) that says stressed syllables normally have a pure vowel sound while unstressed syllables are often reduced.   Read More


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How to Pronounce ‘Pronunciation’

How to pronounce...

It seems fitting to begin a blog on pronunciation with a note on the proper pronunciation of the topic. Click the play button on the player below to hear the 60-second Quick Fix. // // ‘Pronunciation‘ is ironically one of the most commonly mispronounced words I hear. People seem to confuse ‘pronunciation‘ with its root word ‘pronounce‘. In this case, the spelling of the two words should make the pronunciation clear. proNOUNce – proNUNciation Notice that ‘pronunciation‘ is spelled with ‘n-u-n’ in the middle, whereas ‘pronounce‘ is spelled ‘n-o-U-n’. That ‘OU’ creates the ‘ow‘ sound that we hear in ‘pronounce‘. We should not, however, hear an ‘ow‘ sound in ‘pronunciation‘. The spelling ‘n-u-n’ should be pronounced just as it’s spelled, with with an ‘uh‘ sound,   Read More


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Free Pronunciation Course – Part 1

Introduction and Getting Started Welcome to the free Pronunciation Short Course! In Part 1, I’ll be covering a basic introduction to this pronunciation course and how you can get started. We’ll review the tools you need in pronunciation training and some exercises that you can start practicing right away. Remember, changing the way you speak doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, practice and focus to make improvements in your speech. It’s not always an easy journey, but I hope that I can make it fun for you! Listen to the new recordings every three days and spend the time in between segments to practice what you’ve learned. Print out the transcripts for further study if you find that helpful. Participate in the English Pronunciation Lab   Read More

Free Pronunciation Course – Part 2

Vowel Sounds: Short, Long and Schwa Welcome back to the Free Pronunciation Short Course! I hope that you’ve been practicing your tongue twisters and that you’ve gathered all the tools you need to be successful in changing the way you speak. Have you remembered to post any questions you might have had from Part 1 on the Part 1 lesson page? Since each section builds on the last, it’s best to get your questions answered before moving on to the next segment. In Part 2 we’ll be talking about vowel sounds. This is one of the more complicated areas of English pronunciation. We’ll be taking a broad approach by looking at the short and long vowel distinction and the most common English vowel (which you’ve   Read More

Free Pronunciation Course – Part 3

Voiced and Unvoiced Consonant Sounds Since we just looked at some important vowel sound distinctions in Part 2, I’d now like to look at consonant sounds. We’ll be covering voiced and unvoiced sounds and how you should use (or not use) your voice to create these sounds. If you’ve never stopped to think about how you use your voice when you speak, you’ll probably find this segment of the course really interesting. It’s amazing how such a small difference in pronunciation can lead you to saying completely different words than what you really mean. There’s a secret tip at the end of this recording that will help you to instantly improve your pronunciation of voiced word endings, so be sure to listen all the way   Read More

Free Pronunciation Course – Part 4

The Most Challenging Consonant Sounds I hope that you’re beginning to pay more attention to the voiced/unvoiced sounds distinction we covered in Part 3. Now I’d like to look at a handful of specific sounds that cause problems for just about all of my clients, regardless of their backgrounds. This is an area that can be frustrating for many because it’s hard to change the way your mouth moves to make different sounds. Don’t give up! Just keep practicing! The best method I’ve found is to stand in front of the mirror and really watch what your mouth is doing. Then compare what you’re doing to the instructions I give you in the recording. Let’s get started! Click the link below to listen or right   Read More

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