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

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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.

Conclusions

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.

Brilliant!

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

 

A Super Fun Syllable Stress Game

I’m a syllable stress evangelist. I talk about syllable stress all the time. I teach my accent reduction coaching clients to use it every day.

I’m sure that some people are sick ‘n tired of my ranting & raving about syllable stress!

So….WHY am I such a strong proponent of syllable stress?

Because using syllable stress correctly is a powerful technique that non native speakers can use to speak clear and comprehensible American English.

It’s a very powerful technique!

In fact, just this week during a consultation, a new client said to me~

Eureka! Syllable stress really makes me sound more clear, Susan.

Another client said to me~

Susan, you’ve discovered the root cause of my heavy accent. It’s because I don’t use syllable stress.

Maybe you don’t know what syllable stress is. That’s OKAY. Most people (even native speakers) aren’t familiar with the term.

Syllable stress means this.

In each word, one syllable is stressed more than the others. The vowel in the stressed syllable is long and clear.

The vowel in the stressed syllable is longer in duration and said with a slightly higher pitch than the vowels in other syllables.

If you don’t use syllable stress, native listeners won’t understand your words right away. They’ll need a bit of time to figure out what you said.

If you do use syllable stress correctly, most listeners will understand your words right away.

There are many, many posts on this blog about syllable stress. Choose the category below to read more about it.

Now for the syllable stress game…..you can play that here.

Oxford University Press, Stress Monsters Game

Thanks for visiting!

 

Do you know all the soundz of the American S?

Do YOU know all the soundz of the American S?

how to pronounce the letter S

The sounds of the letter S.

If you don’t, there’z a good chance that you’re saying many wordz with a little bit of an accent.

The Letter S Has Many Sounds

I had a really great response to yesterday’z post, When S soundz like /z/.

So I’ll continue with this theme by sharing  some wordz in which S sounds like /ʒ/.

Ready?…..Here we go!

The letter S has a /ʒ/ sound in these words:

  1. pleasure
  2. measure
  3. treasure
  4. vision
  5. version
  6. Asian
  7. conclusion
  8. division

 

Listen Here

 

There’s a Pattern

Can you pick out the pattern? Look closely at the spellings of these words…..

Here’s the pattern:

When the letter S occurs before a U or I, the sound often becomes /ʒ/.

Interesting, izn’t it? ☝

Letters Have More Than One Sound

When you take one of my American accent programz, you’ll learn that many letterz have more than one sound.

This happenz with both vowel soundz and consonant soundz.

The Letter S Haz 4 Soundz

  • /s/
  • /z/
  • /ʒ/
  • /ʃ/

The Letter A Haz 5 Soundz

  • /ey/ as in Gray
  • /æ/ as in Black
  • /ǝ/ schwa
  • /ɑ/ as in Olive
  • /ɛ/ as in Red

You can follow this link to learn more about all the American Vowel sounds.

Learn the Soundz and Patternz

Once you can learn to hear….. and  then uze the correct soundz and patternz, you’ll be able to speak English more clearly.

You’ll be able so speak more professionally!

American Accent Training Programz

Check out my American accent training programs so that YOU can learn to speak more clearly in your area of expertise.

And thanks for visiting my blog!

 

 

Advice for making small talk~Use open ended questions

Making Small Talk Can Be a Challengechat balloon people

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, making small talk can be a challenge for non native speakers.

 

Fitting In

My accent reduction coaching clients often tell me;

Susan, I want to fit in more with my colleagues. But I don’t always know what to say at lunches or business dinners.

They want “fit in” and they know that making small talk will help them to do that.

They’re just not sure what to say…or how to speak in a manner that’s not about business.

 

Open Ended Questions

One tip that I tell my clients is to ask open ended questions.

Open ended questions begin with the words:

  • what
  • where
  • why
  • when
  • how

 

Why Ask Open Ended Questions?

Why do I advise my clients to ask open ended questions instead of questions that’ll be answered withhttp://www.dreamstime.com/-image21143444 a simple yes or no?

It’s because when you use open-ended questions, you’re  inviting the other person to talk.

And people love to talk about themselves!

 

Listen & Gather Information

While they’re talking….you can listen and learn more about them. You’ll get information:

  • about their kids
  • about their weekend
  • about the movies, food, sports they like

So that you can interact with them more on different topics.

 

Your Tone for Small Talk

Now, when asking open ended questions, you must be sure to use a rising falling tone.⤵

This is critical!!

If you don’t use a rising falling tone when asking open ended questions, you won’t sound inviting at all.

In fact you may sound rather abrupt….which will undermine your attempts at friendly small talk right away.☹

 

How to Use a Rising Falling Tone

Below are 4 examples. Note the rising falling tone at the end of each question.

  1. What did you do on the weekend? ⤵
  2. Where do you like to shop?⤵
  3. How did you like that movie?⤵
  4. When did you move to Texas? ⤵

You’ll sound super friendly and interested in your listener if you can use this pattern.

 

Friendly Small Talk Summary

If you want to make friendly small talk, invite others to talk about themselves using open ended questions.

Use a nice rising falling intonation when you ask these questions….. and people will love to engage in small talk with you! ❤

 

Learn to Do This!

I teach you to make friendly small talk using open ended questions in my accent reduction programs. You’ll learn the patterns and you’ll practice them in sentences and dialogs.

 

Small Talk Video

Take a minute to listen to Bob Digen, author of Communicating in Business English talk about the importance of small talk.

Bob Digen on the German vs American Style Small Talk

Thanks for visiting!

Is it Better to Speak with a High Pitch or a Low Pitch?

My accent reduction coaching clients often ask me if it’s better to speak with a high pitch or a low pitch.♬

My answer is this~

☆ To be a clear, effective and engaging speaker of American English, you need to vary your pitch.☆

You can’t speak using the same pitch all the time.☝

Important words and syllables need to be emphasized when you speak. You should use vowel length and a slightly higher pitch to do this.

Less important words and syllables need to be reduced when you speak. You should say these with a lower pitch. Maybe you’ve read about reduced speech?

Using a combination of stressed + unstressed sounds, stressed words + unstressed words, is a critical component of spoken American English.

It’s a formula for sounding clear and engaging when you speak.

Here’s an example~

One of my Chinese speaking clients used to say every syllable and every word with the same slightly high pitch. She placed no emphasis on important words. She didn’t reduce the sounds of less important words.

~~~This made her speech sound monotonous.~~~

When she spoke with a consistent pitch, her listeners (myself included) got tired of listening to her. They started to tune her out. Which was unfortunate because she had great ideas to share.

Once she began to vary her pitch, stressing some words and reducing others, her spoken English sounded much more lively.

Listening to her was much more fun and engaging!

Speaking of pitch, are you familiar with Roger Love?

Roger’s 2 minute video called Speaking: The proper use of pitch for your speaking voice explains how to use a variety of pitch levels when you speak.

Listen to what Roger has to say at the link below if you want your speech to sound more interesting!

The video is not about accent reduction per se…but you can apply some of Roger’s principals to make your speech sound more lively and less monotonous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdVgXMQq2Qg

If you’re a non native English speaker, who’s ready to take your communication skills to the next level, check out my learning programs by following the link below.

Learn American Accent Online

My programs will teach you how speak using the pitch patterns and melodies of American English!

 

University of Iowa Pronunciation App

The University of Iowa Pronunciation site, an excellent site for learning the articulation of American English vowel and consonant sounds, is now available as an Android app.

Both the website and the app use interactive models to show you how to say the sounds of American English clearly.

No, it’s not free….the cost is $2.99 and WELL WORTH it!

Remember, using software won’t enable you to lose your accent, but it will give you a chance to practice individual words and sounds.

If you want to make noticeable changes to the way you speak, you’ll need personal feedback from an accent reduction coach or trainer.

Why?……because American English isn’t spoken word by word or sound by sound. The syllable stress and  intonation patterns can’t be learned using software alone.♬

Copy & paste the link below into your URL bar to see this new app.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=edu.uiowa.uirf.soundsofspeech