Speaking English is so different from reading English! Even English students who are 100% fluent need help in speaking English because of the linking of sounds that’s involved. In this English lesson you get to watch me teach one of my students how to move toward being completely understandable when he’s speaking English. You’ll learn several tricks and tips that can almost instantly change your English accent. American accent training is my specialty, and you’ll see me at my best here in this video. Improving your English speaking is a tough task, but if you know how to study you can make a big improvement. That’s what this video is all about. I hope you love it!
When you’re speaking a foreign language, you want to be 100% understandable, right? No one wants to constantly hear “what?” “Excuse me?” or “what did you say?” Today I’m going to show you how I work with my students who are speaking English as a foreign language on how to be 100% understandable.
I’m going to show you a clip of me working with a student. Working with him, I said, if you do this, you go from 85% understandable to 100% understandable. It has to do with linking, that’s smoothness between words, and longer stressed syllables with a bigger pitch change.
Okay. Uh, well, it’s, it’s very interesting. Because, uhm, I’m an accountant.
Okay, hold on. I didn’t actually, it took, I had to think. I had to say. Wait, what did he say? What you said was, ‘It’s very interesting,’ is that right?
Okay. So, my mind did not hear ‘very,’ it took me a second. I had to think. Wait, ‘what did he say?’ Oh, he said ‘very.’ And, the reason for that was, it’s very interesting. I need, it’s ve-ry, not ‘It’s very,’ it’s very, I need more of that clarity of your stressed syllables. That’s how my mind goes, oh, very, it’s very, if I hear, it’s very, it’s very interesting. It’s really hard for me to get that. It’s all too flat. I need those, boom, boom, boom. It’s very interesting. Because you know, even if all of your sounds were right, which they were. You had /v/, you had /ɛ/, you had /r/, you had /i/. You had all the sounds. But I didn’t have the rhythm that I needed to immediately recognize the word. So, I had to think about it a little bit. I had to sort it out. What did he say? He said, it’s very interesting. And this is something that I want all my students to know and I think you probably do. The sounds are only part of it. You have to also give me the rhythm that I’m expecting or it gets harder to understand. Okay, so, it’s very. Just say that.
Okay. It’s very interesting.
Okay, just it’s very, not interesting. We’re going to, we’ll deal with that later. it’s very.
Okay, It’s very.
M-hmm. Now, let me just hear you say ve.
It’s a v though…
I know, that’s, the Spanish. It’s like, it’s all the same.
Yeah. It’s, it’s tricky.
Yes, exactly. I needed a little bit more opening in your mouth. It was a little bit ver. Very.
Right. That, that’s, those sounds are a little bit more clear to me. It’s very.
Yes. Good. It’s very.
Yes. So, now I understand it right away. The first time I didn’t. It’s very, it’s very. Ohh, that’s kind of hard. It’s very. Okay, now we’re going to take, interesting.
It’s very interesting.
Okay, that’s better. It’s very interesting. So now I have, uh-ahhh, and the first time it was sort of it’s very interesting. I got a little bit on /ɛ/. But now we’re, we’re, I’m getting more of that pitch modulation, that clarity and this is exactly what I work on with Spanish speakers often, is give me more contrast. Stretch out your long syllables. Give me that melody. Okay.
The first time I heard ‘very’, I had to try to figure out what he was saying. But when he said it VER-y, with that clear, long stressed syllable, the up-down melody, I understood it right away without having to think. I want to show you another time I didn’t understand him, and we talk about a way to practice to help him naturally add more smoothness and pitch change to his English.
We have deadlines for companies and then June.
Okay, deadlines was hard for me to understand. I only understood after you said it and I figured out what you must have said. Not because I understood it. Deadlines, deadlines… That’s easy for me to catch. Deadlines, that’s easy for me to catch, right? So deadlines, it’s a noun, it’s the, the focus of what you’re talking about. Businesses have deadlines in March, right? What month did you say?
What month do they have deadlines?
Ahh, Okay. Yeah, in March, in March.
Okay. So, businesses have deadlines in March. If those are the most important things that you’re trying to tell me, right? If you just said business and March then I’m like, well, what happens in March, but if you say deadline, then I get it. So, because that’s one of, those most important words that’s why it needs that length. Businesses have deadlines in March, let me hear you do that.
Business have deadlines in March.
Right? Exactly. And I can tell it feels a little bit, like effort to do that and the more you do it, the easier I think it will become. Businesses have deadlines in March. And, I have worked with so many students where they actually use their arm when they’re practicing, on their stressed syllables. It helps that body Connection, it helps them remember to go higher than they want to. And, it also helps them not be choppy with it or with effort. Right? It’s like, the hand kind of guides them. So, don’t be afraid, to use your hand, when you’re practicing.
Okay, got you. Yeah, it’s ah, it’s, it’s more intonation is ah, intention.
Intention with the conversation? Yeah.
I love how he talks about the intention of speaking with this new technique in mind. You may be wondering about this guy. He’s a student in my Academy and once a month I do live classes where I work with students, and record them with their permission. Everyone else in the Academy can attend the live class, watch, and ask questions. All classes are recorded and put in the Academy so when students join, right away they can go to that course, search on their own native language, and watch all the clips of me working with students from their same language background. It’s really helpful for students on their journey towards more natural and easy-to-understand English. If you have any questions about the Academy please post them here or shoot us an email, or simply visit RachelsEnglishAcademy.com. Now here we talk about this change in the voice, these characteristics about ENGLISH that make ENGLISH clear and natural, but might feel strange if your native language isn’t English.
Yesterday was one of those days, that I have to, sort things out.
Okay, hold on. And yesterday, I needed a little bit more there. And yesterday, was one of those days. The one was good. Yes– I need a little bit more length there. And yesterday was one of those days. Let me hear that.
And yesterday, and yesterday, one, yesterday…
So, let’s hear the whole phrase, and yesterday was one of those days.
And yesterday, uh one. And yesterday was one of those days.
Right, exactly, one of those days. Okay, what? What happened yesterday?
Well, it was one of those days that all my clients called me and try to get their results as soon as possible. So, yeah, it was…
Okay, that was pretty good.
It was very busy.
It’s very busy. Okay, so, all my clients called me. A little bit more, So, where all my clients called me– That’s a little unclear. Where all my clients called me. That’s more clear. So, you can have the one up and then everything come down. But I, I just, I want that up to be higher. And all my clients called me.
Okay, and all my clients called me.
Yeah, I totally get it. That’s very clear to me. So, it’s sort of just freeing yourself up. To like, take your range and make it bigger. You know, we want you maxing that out because it, just for a native speaker listening, it makes it so much clearer. Now, I think if you and I were talking, and I was not an accent teacher and I was just listening to what you were saying? I would understand most of what you were saying. I might have to ask you a couple of times. Uhm, but if you just make your pitch modulations higher, I would probably always understand. Everything you were saying.
Your way is clear, okay thank you, yeah.
And that’s a big difference guys. If all he has to do is make his high syllables higher. Which, will in turn make them a little bit longer. That’s the only change he has to do. To go from being like eighty-five percent understandable to probably a hundred percent understandable. And, it feels weird because your language doesn’t have that. So, it feels uncomfortable to do this. It’s like if this is my language and all of a sudden I had to do this. This would feel very uncomfortable to me. So, I understand. But we just have to give ourselves that mental permission. You don’t sound weird, you know, you sound clearer.
Okay, thank you. Yeah.
So, all your clients called you? Now, I want you to really exaggerate, do something.
Make it too much. I’ll tell you if it’s too much.
Yeah, becau– because you know, this is, this is the thing. Sometimes for some reason, I don’t want to tell you alright? Because, I don’t want to sound weird. But at the same time now, we realize that I need it.
Exactly, and I think that’s such a good lesson for everyone. It sounds weird, because we don’t use, we’re not used to doing it. So, we kind of shy away from it. Right? But it’s, it’s actually what would be clearer. So, even though it’s not your habit, breaking that habit can feel strange. Which is what holds some people back from doing it, right? So, I’m here to give you the feedback, that it doesn’t sound strange. And, that I want you to do it. Okay.
Yeah, for sure, yeah, thank you.
For sure, did you guys hear that? For sure, for sure. Exactly. Give me some more of that height.
He doesn’t want to sound weird. And for some students, this is the number one reason they’re hard to understand. Because they want to be comfortable, they speak English with the habits of their own native language rather than really embracing the characteristics of English. And I get that. It’s like trying on and developing a completely different voice. And it’s hard to break habits. Even though this student gets it, and wants to do it, it just takes some reminding.
let’s take that phrase, ‘It isn’t clear,’ and I want to hear. ‘It isn’t clear.’ So, I want to hear even more pitch change. Not clear, but clear, it isn’t clear.
It isn’t clear.
Right? Exactly. We want that kind of pitch change on, not every stressed syllable. But, to emphasize, if it’s, if it’s, all too much the same. It becomes kind of flat and it’s a little bit hard to pick out those stressed words and to get that clarity. I just said to get that clarity. So, my voice went geeet. It wasn’t ge, but get. More of that pitch change from eve… to go, even higher and then even lower.
This student’s native language is Spanish, but really the smoothness, the pitch change, and the rhythm is something that I work on with every single one of my students.
and I’ve noticed that my Spanish speakers, sometimes it’s all ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta. It’s really fast and staccato, and I have to get them to stretch out the stressed syllables a little bit. And, on the phrase, ‘I’m not sure,’ I heard from you a little bit, ‘I’m not sure,’ sure. But I would definitely want, ‘I’m not sure.’ ‘I’m not sure.’ Like it’s all part of this wave. I’m not sure. Versus, I’m not sure. Uh-uhhh-uh. That constant flow of sound with nothing breaking it up. And, a little bit more length on the stressed word. So, can I hear you just say ‘Sure?’
Right, I want to get you to even exaggerate your melody change a little bit more. Sure.
Right, I think bring your tongue a little bit more forward. Sure.
Good, does that feel weird?
Uhm, a little bit, yeah.
A little bit. Yeah, when people, when I ask people to change their pitch more, sometimes, it feels really, like, pretend. Like a cartoon or something.
We just keep going with that clarity. It might feel like too much pitch change, but it’s just right.
Well, I’m an accountant and, and I’ve been working in taxes. Okay, now hold on. So, I’ve been working in taxes. I just want a little bit more of the I–‘ve been working in.
I’ve been working in.
Yes, that, that’s clear to me Dad-da-da-da. I think, I think the main thing to think about is higher pitches and your stressed syllables, that’s going to force you to take a little bit more time, bring it up and out a little bit. Otherwise, it’s too much within the same range, and it’s a little bit harder for my ear to get. So, rather than coming here. You’re going to going all the way up here, for those stressed syllables. I’ve been working on, I’ve been working in taxes. I’ve been working in taxes. Yes, that is cleaner, clearer. Okay, so think about that as you keep talking, think about, a little uncomfortable. It’s going to feel weird to go up that high.
I just want to shout-out this student, Andres. I feel that everyone who lets me work with them like this, in the public eye, is so brave. They know I’m going to stop them and say, “that isn’t clear.” And they let me work with them in this way because they’re ready for real change and they’re willing to be vulnerable to help other students also, who are watching, who are learning.
Okay, I’m afraid I have to work in this weekend and I’m trying to do, to deal with uh, some things.
Uh-huh, I’m trying to deal, not deal.
I’m trying to deal with that.
I’m trying to deal with that.
Uh-huh, and also, I’m afraid, I’m going to have to work this weekend, I’m afraid.
Exactly, so you’re probably making it twice as long as you did the first time. And that, it, you know, it’s if we’re talking in seconds, it’s probably like, point two seconds. It, you know, it doesn’t seem like it’s that much, but it’s enough, to make me right away be like, that was the word afraid, whereas, afraid. It’s not quite long enough to get the real sense of the stress, to get the real full vowel. You know, we reduce our vowels so often, but not in stressed syllables. Stressed syllables always give us the full, clear, vowel. Afraid.
Okay, afraid, okay.
Okay, you sound great. I love this. So, I feel like it’s one tweak. It’s a mindset thing, right? Like you said, it’s the intention of that. And, if you apply it, in general, it’s going to make everything fall into place. It’s not like we’re working on something super specific like, this one reduction, or this one vowel sound. It’s an overall concept that if you, like, get comfortable with it in your head and you get comfortable with that change, then every sentence you say is going to be wow, a lot, right away, easier to understand immediately. So, I challenge you to change your mind, about what is an appropriate pitch change for a stressed syllable. And, and, push the boundary, like, whoa, is this too high? So, mindset change. It’s okay. Embrace it feeling silly and different, because we do want it to be different. Right? So, it should feel different. Yeah. Okay, excellent job. Do you have any other questions?
Okay, Andres, I feel like.
Oh, thank you.
You’ve given so many students here a really clear idea of what that change can do for their voice. So, thank you so much for working with me in this class.
No, thank you. Thank you for having me.
You’re so welcome, and I’ll see you in the… post in the community group, okay? Okay. Okay, alright, thank you.
Massive thank-you Andres. You are an inspiration. I wish I could speak Spanish as well as you can speak English. Again, if you’re interested in courses that can help you understand what is natural spoken English, courses that will help your listening skills, please visit RachelsEnglishAcademy.com or keep your learning going now here on YouTube now with this video. Don’t forget to subscribe with notifications on, I love being your English teacher and accent coach. That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.