Phrases, Pitch & Pauses!

Speak with the right pace using phrases, pitch & pauses

Phrases, pitch & pauses

Why don’t people understand me?

After coaching hundreds of people on the American accent over the the past 7 years…I want to tell you something really important that I’ve learned when it comes to speaking with the right pace.

Anyone who wants to improve the way they communicate in American English can use this technique.

Here’s the technique~

When you speak American English you need to:

  1. Speak using fairly short phrases
  2. Use pitch to emphasize the important word in each phrase
  3. Pause briefly at the end of each phrase

Why should you use phrases, pitch & pauses?

By speaking in shorter phrases you can control the speed of your speech.

You’ll sound more confident and in control when you do this.

When you emphasize the important word in each phrase using pitch emphasis, your listeners will immediately know which words are important.

And when you insert a little pause at the end of a phrase, you’ll give your listener a nice opportunity to process what you said.

Sounds easy, right?

The people I work with in my accent reduction coaching programs have had great success using the phrases, pitch & pauses technique. In fact, they tell me that:

  • Americans understand me much better
  • I feel more in control of my speech
  • using pauses allows me to breathe more during talks & presentations
  • I feel and sound more confident

I’ve taught the PPP technique to founders, managers, Toastmasters and lecturers.  It’s a technique that everyone can use to speak American English in a manner that sounds clear, professional and engaging.


If you speak too quickly, stress every word the same way, and don’t insert pauses,  your speech will sound fast and monotonous. American listeners will quickly become disinterested in what you’re saying.

 You’ve seen this in their faces, right?

Learn to speak using phrases, pitch & pauses

I teach you how to speak American English using stress, pitch & pauses in my iPad book, American Accent Fundamentals.

My iBook is an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of the American accent for anyone who wants  to speak American English with a pace that sounds clear, professional and engaging.


I understand English, the problem is SPEAKING

The problem is speaking

The problem is speaking

The problem is speaking

The people who I work with in my accent reduction coaching program understand English. As they tell me every week~

Susan, I understand English, in fact I understand it really well. The problem is speaking. People don’t always understand me when I speak.

This happens to lots of people

If you first learned to speak English outside the US or Canada you may not SPEAK English in a way that North Americans can understand.

Even if you read and write English at a Masters or PhD level, you may have found that people don’t understand everything you say.

This is normal

It’s extremely rare that anyone who learned English outside the US or Canada  speaks with the syllable stress and melody of American English.


In most cases, those of you who learned English in China, India, Russia, Europe or Latin America never had the opportunity to learn

……from a native speaker.

Instead, you probably learned English from a textbook.  Your teacher was probably not a native speaker.

Maybe you never really spoke English at all in your English classes! Many of my accent reduction coaching clients have told me that.

Spoken & written English are really different

One of the BIG reasons that people speak American English in a way that’s difficult for Americans to understand is that written English and spoken English are very different.

English doesn’t sound like it’s spelled.

You can’t SEE key features of spoken English such as

  • syllable stress
  • the schwa sound
  • the tapped T sound
  • linking

….in the written language. Even though they are critical for clear SPOKEN English.

How I help people to speak American English

In my American accent coaching programs, I teach you to SPEAK English in a way that will allow Americans to understand you.

I teach you how to speak like we natives do.

I’m not saying that you’ll lose your accent. You probably won’t. And that’s not necessary.

However, you CAN learn to speak in a way that sounds clear and engaging to Americans.

Take a look at my American Accent Coaching Programs

If you’re serious about speaking clear, engaging and professional American English, check out my coaching programs. Making changes to the way you speak is an investment in time and an investment in money.

But if spoken English is critical to your career success, it’s absolutely an investment worth making.

My Programs for STEM Professionals

My Basic Programs

Without Credible


How to sound friendly in American English

How to sound friendly in American English

How to sound friendly in American English

How to sound friendly in American English

Have people commented that your American English sounds sort of

  •  flat
  • monotone
  • unfriendly

Many of the people I work with in my accent reduction coaching programs have been told this. Since my clients are for the most part very friendly people, they want to change this perception.

How can you do this?

In order to change sound more friendly when speaking American English, you need to learn how to use American English intonation patterns.

What are intonation patterns? 

Intonation is the melody of spoken language. ♬ It’s the way we use pitch emphasis in phrases and sentences.

The way you use intonation sets the TONE of your message. This can be friendly, bored, uncertain, angry, confident…..

Here’s an example

When I ask someone “Hey Susan, how ARE you?”  ⤵ I use rising falling intonation.

I rise up on ARE …and then glide or fall down on you.  That type of melody makes me sound nice & friendly.☺

If I just say “Hey Susan, how are you?” without a rising falling intonation contour, I don’t sound as friendly.

Listen here to compare the tone of my message


Learn to speak in a friendly manner

I teach you to use rising falling intonation so that you can speak English in a manner that’s friendly and engaging in all my accent reduction programs. I you want to sound more friendly when YOU speak American English, take a look at what I have to offer.

Here is a short QUIZ on American English Intonation Patterns-Give it a try!

American English Intonation Patterns

Choose the best answer for each question about American English intonation.
Congratulations - you have completed American English Intonation Patterns. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.



Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Have you found that your American colleagues don’t always respond right away when you ask questions?

Many of my accent reduction clients have told me that they’ve experienced this.

How to ask questions so that Americans will understand you

If people don’t understand you when you ask questions, it could be because you’ve  never learned the correct intonation patterns for asking questions in American English.

If you don’t know these rules…don’t worry….I’ll explain them now.✔

Here are the rules

In American English we use different intonation patterns when asking questions. Here are the two most common patterns.

Question Intonation Pattern 1

1. We use rising intonation when the question can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.

For example the question; “Are you COMing? ⤴” has rising intonation.

Question Intonation Pattern 2

2. We use rising -falling intonation when the question starts with a “wh” word such as what, when, where, who or how.

For example the question; “When are you COMing? ⤵” has rising falling intonation.

While many people use Pattern 1 above, they don’t use Pattern 2. This can create confusion in the ears of the American listener.

If you want American listeners to understand that you’re asking a question, you must master this rising falling intonation pattern for WH type questions!

Listen Here


Learn to ask questions effectively using the correct intonation

I teach you how to use American style intonation in all of my accent reduction programs. If American English is challenging for you, take action and start learning to speak clear American English today.

Websites for learning the American T sounds

The American T sounds

Websites for learning the American T sounds

Websites for learning the American T sounds

My posts from last week on the American T sounds were very popular. I’m pleased that so many people found that information useful.

If you’re ready to learn more about the American T sounds here are two websites you can use to learn and practice.

1. VOA News

The reasons for the American T sounds

2. Rachel’s English

Articulation of the tapped T sound.

Click here to read my past posts on the American T sounds.  Thanks for visiting!




It’s hard for me to express my ideas

Do you have trouble expressing your ideas when you speak English?

Nobody understands my ideas

Nobody understands my ideas

The wise and super intelligent people who I work with in my accent reduction coaching problem frequently tell me this:

Susan, I often have trouble expressing my thoughts and ideas fluently. This is really frustrating! Sometimes I don’t even say things at meetings because I’m afraid I’ll mess up.

Fluency & Confidence

It seems like fluency in speaking and confidence go hand in hand. If you don’t sound fluent, you don’t feel or sound confident.

  • You hear yourself struggling
  • Others hear you struggling
  • The situation gets uncomfortable

Then you take a back seat, even though your ideas are insightful, money saving and relevant.

How to Speak More Fluently

When I work with people in my online accent reduction class and coaching programs, I teach them to speak more fluently by using THE THREE P’s METHOD for speaking American English.

Here it it⤵

Susan’s THREE P’s METHOD for Fluent American English

  • Phrases ~ Speak in phrases
  • Pitch ~ Use pitch emphasis on the key word in each phrase
  • Pauses ~ Pause slightly at the end of each phrase

Sounds simple, right?

Well, it usually takes most people a few weeks to catch on to this pattern, but once they do….

WOW…they definitely sound more clear and more fluent!

In fact you’ll be speaking with a melody that the American listener enjoys hearing.♬

The American Listener

I’ll tell you right here…if you speak in a manner that sounds choppy, monotone, word by word, with lots of ummz & ahhhz,  people will tune out.☹

Once they tune out, your ideas, no matter how good they are, won’t get heard.

And when your ideas don’t get heard, everyone in your organization loses!

Learn to Express Yourself Fluently

In my online Accent Reduction Class, I teach you to speak more clearly and fluently using my soon to be famous THREE P’s METHOD. Right now it’s only famous with my clients as you can see from the comment below.

I just finished watching your two online courses. And I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you.  The courses are really inspiring! The “phrases, pitch and pauses” method really makes sense and greatly summarizes the key to speak.

Interesting, isn’t it?

A Quote for You to Ponder

As you think more about fluency and pitch, phrases & pauses, I’ll leave you with a quote that I like from Marianne Williamson.

Express your thoughts

Express your thoughts

Thanks for visiting my blog…and do check out my online accent reduction coaching programs. Invest in your communication skills and let your wisdom emerge!

The Dropped T Sound

American T Sounds Quiz

American T Sounds Quiz

The American English T Sounds

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the 4 sounds of the American T * and I explained how Americans often use a tapped T sound

You may wanna read that one if you missed it~ the tapped T sound.

Today, I’ll tell you about the dropped T sound and how using it will make your English sound more American.

The Dropped T Sound

American English speakers frequently drop the /t/ sound when it occurs after the /n/ sound.

This is very common, especially  in everyday conversations!

In fact, last week I was working with one of my Japanese clients on the pronunciation of the words Toronto & center.

He was pronouncing these words with short vowel sounds and very heavy T sounds. The T sounds were louder than the vowel sounds.

That made the words sound choppy.

I told him that his English would sound more clear and natural if he dropped the sound of the letter T in those words.

A Few Examples

Here are some examples of words in which many Americans drop the /t/ sound.

1. winter = winner -It’s too cold here in the winner!

2. twenty = twenny- Thomas is paid twenny dollars an hour.

3. plenty = plenny -Sally has plenny of money in the bank.

4. center = cenner- Jim lives in the city cenner.

5. Toronto=Toronno -Toronno is an interesting city.

There are MANY others!

Some of my accent reduction clients prefer not to drop the /t/ sound and that’s OK. North Americans will understand you if you articulate the /t/.

However, if you want to reduce your accent and sound more natural you may want to drop the /t/ sound in the words above.

American T Sounds Quiz

Here is a short QUIZ you can take to test your knowledge of the American T sounds.

The Sounds of the American T

The letter T makes a variety of sounds in spoken American English. Do you know what these sounds are? Do you know the rules for pronouncing the letter T? Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
Congratulations - you have completed The Sounds of the American T. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.

Why does the T have different sounds in American English?

The American T has many sounds

The American T

The American T

My accent reduction coaching clients often ask me,

“Susan, why does the T have different sounds in American English?”

Here is the answer…

The 4 sounds of the American T

In spoken American English, the letter T makes at least 4 different sounds. These are:

  1. The tapped T
  2. The dropped T
  3. The held T
  4. The aspirated T

Let me give you a few examples of each sound and when it’s used.

The tapped T sound

The tapped T sounds more like a quick /d/ than a /t/.

To make the tapped t sound, let your tongue lightly tap against the gum ridge behind your teeth. Do not release a puff of air when you make this sound.

You’ll hear Americans use a tapped T sound in these situations:

  • When a T is located before  er,  or  & ar  as in the words: later, doctor & dollar.
  • When a T is located before ing & ed as in the words: shouting & shouted.
  • When a T is located before Y as in the words: city & thirty.
  • When linking words in phrases such as: cut it out or put it on.

Your ability to use the tapped t sound will make your accent sound more American. It’ll make your speech sound less choppy. It’ll allow you to lengthen your stressed vowel sounds more effectively!

American listeners LOVE that! ❤

Come back tomorrow to learn about the dropped T sound. This is a sound you don’t wanna miss! ☺

I sound like a robot when I speak English

A brilliant guy

I sound like a robot when I speak English

I sound like a robot when I speak English

Over the past weekend, I met with one of my accent reduction coaching clients. He’s a brilliant guy with an MBA from a top school in the US.

  • His vocabulary is amazing.
  • His grammar is perfect.
  • His articulation of American English vowel & consonant sounds is better than most peoples’.

But he’s still experiencing challenges when it comes to communicating effectively with North Americans.

Can you guess why?

Over pronunciation

Believe it or not, a challenge that many non native speakers have is  over pronouncing American English.

They articulate every vowel and consonant sound clearly. The say every word in a sentence with emphasis. Ouch!

Over pronouncing sounds and words will make your English sound choppy and difficult to listen to.

And this is what’s happening to my client. He pronounces many sounds and words too clearly. It makes his speech sound mechanical.

You may find this hard to believe, but it’s absolutely true!

Native speakers use reduced speech

Native speakers don’t articulate every sound clearly.  We don’t emphasize every single word in a sentence.

For example:

- We use tapped, held and silent T sounds

- We the reduced schwa vowel sound /ə/

- We speak using contractions

- We only emphasize important words in sentences

Smooth & engaging speech

When you speak American English using the tapped, held and silent T sounds, the schwa vowel sound, contractions and focus word emphasis your speech will sound smooth and engaging.

If you articulate every sound and word clearly and distinctly, your English won’t sound natural.

You’ll sound like a robot. People won’t always be able to connect with you.

How Americans really speak

If you want to find out how Americans really speak English, you need to check out my accent reduction coaching programs. Learn to speak the smooth, natural sounding spoken American English you’ll need to enhance your career.

You don’t want to sound like a robot. You want to connect with people and share your ideas. I can teach you to do that!