Ketchup or catch up?

Ketchup or catch up?  

Ketchup or catch up?

Ketchup or catch up?

This past weekend, one of my accent reduction coaching clients said to me~

Susan, I’ve been so busy since the holidays. I’m still trying to ketchup on my work.

Of course I understood that he meant catch up.

Phrasal verbs rules

Catch up is a phrasal verb.

That means that you stress it on the second part when you say it. This is true for all phrasal verbs.

Listen here



I’m still trying to catchUP on my work.

Speak clear American English

In order to speak clear American English you must apply the correct syllable stress. Not doing so can change the meaning of a word.

Here are a few examples:

  • put down ~ to put something down
  • put down ~ an insult
  • stand up ~ to get off your chair
  • stand up~ a type of comedy
  • turn on~ the computer, the stove
  • turn on ~ that’s a sexual term
  • turn over ~ a piece of paper
  • turn over ~ a type of pastry

Learn your phrasal verbs

In my accent reduction coaching programs I teach you to speak clearly using phrasal verb stress and other types of syllable stress that you’re probably unaware of.


University of Iowa Pronunciation App

University of Iowa pronunciation app

University of Iowa Pronunciation App

University of Iowa Pronunciation App

The articulation tool from the University of Iowa is now available as an iPhone & Android app.

This is an excellent app for learning to articulate all of the American English vowel & consonant sounds.

The app features interactive models that show you how to say each sound clearly.

The cost is $2.99 and WELL WORTH it!    Follow this link to download the app.

Articulation is only part of the solutions

Remember that working on articulation alone, won’t teach you to communicate.

But it will give you a chance to practice individual words & sounds.

American English is not articulated like you think

Why do you need more than this app to communicate clearly in American English?

It’s because American English isn’t spoken word by word. In fact, we don’t actually pronounce  every consonant & vowel sound.

Syllable stress, schwa & intonation ♫

The syllable stress, schwa and  intonation patterns that you need to be an effective communicator in American English, simply can’t be learned using an app alone.

Learning to communicate

To make noticeable changes to the way you speak.

To speak with feeling and professionalism.

To learn to communicate in a way that’s engaging, you’ll need personal feedback from an accent reduction coach.

Speak clearly using pitch emphasis

Speak clearly using pitch emphasis

Speak clearly using pitch emphasis

Speak clearly using pitch emphasis

Many people who come to me for American accent coaching don’t have significant problems with their pronunciation….

….but they do need instruction on how to use stress and pitch!

Let me explain…..

Using pitch emphasis

When speaking American English you need to stress the most important words in a sentence or phrase using a slight rise in pitch.

When you use pitch emphasis on important words.  it brings your listeners’ attention to the critical words in your message.

It enables your listener to focus on what’s important.

Stress nouns & verbs more than other words

American speakers usually stress

  • nouns
  • verbs

Sometimes we stress adjectives.

Since nouns & verbs are usually critical to the meaning of a sentence we almost always emphasize them using a slight rise in pitch.

We don’t stress little words such as

  • the
  • it
  • but
  • a
  • to

We don’t say every word with the same emphasis!

So what happens if you don’t use pitch emphasis when you speak?

  1. Your speech will sound monotonous to your listeners because they can’t hear any pitch.
  2. Your listeners won’t know which words in your want them to pay attention to.
  3. Your listeners will have to concentrate extra hard to understand you.
  4. They’ll get tired of listening and sometimes they’ll give up.

Help your listeners to understand you 

If you want to speak American English more clearly you MUST learn to use pitch emphasis correctly. This will help native speakers understand you more easily.

Learn using my iPad book for the American accent

American Accent iPad bookI teach you the rules for speaking American English with the correct stress & pitch in

my iPad book ☆American Accent Fundamentals.

My iPad book is an excellent guide that will help you speak American English more clearly,



American English Everyday Dialogs

American English Everyday Dialogs 

American English Dialogs

American English Dialogs

The people who I work with in my Skype accent reduction coaching program are learning to:

  • Communicate with clarity and confidence in their workplace
  • Improve the way they speak in everyday situations (at the market, at lunch, on the phone)

Small Talk

We often call the latter skill, “small talk”. But really, it’s not small at all.

That’s because speaking clearly when you pick up the phone or chat with your colleagues at lunch is really important.

Small talk allows you to connect with people.

  • Those connections enhance your relationships.
  • Those connections allow you to get things done faster.
  • Those connections allow you to be recognized for your contributions.

Free Dialog Practice Activities

For those of you who want to improve your American English “small talk”, below is a link to some excellent everyday dialogs said with super clear North American accents.

American English Everyday Dialogs

The dialog site has some special accent tips for Russian speakers.

These are great dialogs, so be sure to check them out!


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.



American Accent Intonation Quiz

American Accent Intonation Quiz

Ready to test your listening skills?

Here’s a super short listening quiz you can take to test your ability to hear two common American English intonation patterns.

1. Listen. Which question sounds more friendly, A or B?


2. Listen. Which statement sounds more friendly, A or B?


ANSWERS~ 1. A  2. B


That Was Easy, Right?
Most people don’t find it difficult to recognize friendly intonation.

Even if they don’t know exactly how to use it.

But if your goal is to connect with others and communicate in a style that’s friendly, you absolutely have to learn how to use these patterns.

Learn to Use Intonation & Connect with Others

I teach you to use American intonation patterns in all of my American accent training programs. You’ll learn things about friendly communication that no one has told you before.

Take a look and choose one that’s right for you! Invest in YOUR communication skills today. Because life is all about good communication!

Susan’s American Accent Training Courses

The art copy

Why the Brain Doubts a Foreign Accent

Researchers at the University of Chicago wanted to find out what happens in the brain when people hear a foreign accent. 

This is what they did.worry doubt

Accents & Doubt Experiment

Researchers Shiri Lev-Ari  and Boaz Keysar carried out a simple experiment.

They asked listeners to judge the truthfulness of trivia statements that were were recited by either

  • Native English speakers
  • Non-native English speakers

The non-native speakers had mild to heavy Asian, European, and Middle Eastern accents.

Lev-Ari and Keysar found that listeners tended to doubt the trivia statements more when they were recited with a medium to heavy accent.

And this was true even though the listeners knew that the trivia statements had been written by the researchers.


The findings led Lev-Ari and Keysar to this conclusion.

When listening to accented speech, a listener has to work harder to understand the message. “Cognitive fluency” is reduced.

When the brain has to work harder, it causes the listener to doubt the accuracy of what is said.

Messages were perceived as less believable when delivered by someone with a foreign accent…even if the message was known to come from a native speaker.

Easy Listening

This and similar experiments point out our “preference for the easy”.

Our preference for hassle free listening means that we trust people who we can understand without effort.

We believe people whose speech is easy to process. We may doubt people whose speak is difficult to understand.

Follow the link below to read more about the implications of this study in Scientific American Magazine.

Why the Brain Doubts a Foreign Accent

audio-You can listen to Boaz Keysar explain the implications of his research in this Podcast

What Can You Do About This?

Do you sometimes feel that you don’t get the trust or confidence of your listeners when you speak American English?

One of the very best ways you can get started on your path to clear communication is to get an Accent Assessment.

Accent Assessment

When you sign up for my Accent Assessment you’ll learn:

  • The top 3 reasons people don’t always understand you
  • Detailed analysis and personal examples of the sounds & patterns that are contributing to breakdowns in communication

If your goal is to speak American English in a manner that sounds clear, trustworthy and engaging, find out how an Accent Assessment can help you.

My Accent Assessment is NOT a computer based screening intended to get you to purchase something you may not want.

But it IS a an important step you can take on your path to clear and engaging spoken American English.

See the details here~ Accent Assessment

The price for my Assessment will go up on July 15, so if you’re seriously interested, sign up soon.

Why Do People Always Ask Me Where I’m From?

People always ask me where I’m from….

And I’m tired of it!unhappy face

When I first meet with people to see how I can help them communicate more clearly,  I like to ask them to describe some of their problem situations.

 They often tell me that they’re not aware of any glaring breakdowns in communication, but they do say this:

People always ask me where I’m from and I get so tired of it! Will this ever stop?

Here are my honest thoughts about that question….

People are curious

We’re all curious about other people. We’re nosy. When we meet new people, we like to know more about them.

If you speak with an accent (a way of speaking that’s different than the majority) people will recognize that….and they’ll want to know more about you, including where you’re from.

They’ll have a nagging curiosity to know this.

My advice…. indulge them. Tell them where you’re from.

Get it off the table as soon as possible. Once you’ve answered the (dreaded) “where are you from” question, their curiosity will be satisfied  and the conversation can move forward.

Get it off the table

In 2013 I attended a talk in Miami by entrepreneur and Singularity devotee, Roger James Hamilton. Hamilton speaks with an accent that hails from Hong Kong & Scotland.

His speech is clear, dynamic and interesting. But his accent makes you wonder where he’s from.

Roger knows this and he accepts it. In fact, he started out his presentation by telling us that he speaks with a different type of accent because he’s from Hong Kong and Scotland.

Roger said

“Now that you know where my accent comes from, you can stop wondering about that and we can get started with the important stuff.”

And we did. Once we in the audience understood the source of his accent, we were ready to learn more about Singularity.


Using a similar strategy, aerospace engineer S.K. Gupta says this,

“I use my accent as an ice breaker. I make speeches and presentations all the time and I often start by saying, ‘If some of you detect an accent, please remember that I didn’t have one until I came to this country.’”

It’s OK to Speak with an Accent

We’ve established that speaking with an accent isn’t wrong. In fact it’s completely natural.

But, if you want to learn to communicate more clearly with the people in your workplace or in your community, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

If you want everyday communication to flow naturally, without having to repeat yourself, that’s good for everyone, right?

Communicating clearly simply makes life easier for you and for your listeners.

Communicate More Effectively

Keep reading the posts here on my blog to learn real life TIPS & TECHNIQUES that will allow you to communicate more clearly with Americans.

OR, sign up to get new blog posts via email. You’ll see a place to sign up on the right side of  my Home page.

Thanks for visiting!

How to pronounce woman & women correctly

Woman and women are two words that can be somewhat tricky to pronounce correctly.

womanThat’s because the vowel sounds in these words may NOT be what you expect!

Let’s take a look~

woman~ a two syllable noun that’s stressed on the first syllable*

In the word woman the first vowel sound is /ʊ/ as in Wood. The second vowel sound is schwa.

⼥    wʊ→mən

women~a two syllable noun that’s stressed on the first syllable

In the word women the first vowel sound is /I/ as in Silver. The second vowel sound is schwa.

⼥  wi➝mɛn

You can listen to the correct pronunciation here~


If you’ve been pronouncing these words with the wrong vowel sounds, don’t feel bad.

How could you have known that the sounds of the letter O in these words are different?

* One critical rule for speaking clear American English is that 90% of two syllable nouns are stressed on the first syllable

You can learn MORE American English pronunciation tips for using vowel sounds and syllable stress correctly  in my iBook, American Accent Fundamentals.

Download the first chapter for free at the iBookstore and start improving the way you speak today!

American Accent Fundamentals - Susan M. Ryan