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

Is it better to speak with a high pitch or a low pitch?

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

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.

Good question!

My response

In order 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.

Pitch emphasis

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?

Stress & reduce

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.

An example

One of my Chinese speaking clients used to say every syllable and every word with the same slightly high pitch. She didn’t emphasize important words.

She didn’t reduce the sounds of less important words.

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

Because 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!

Lively & engaging

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!

I can show you how

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

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

About the author

Susan Ryan is the author of the ConfidentVoice blog and an American English communication and accent reduction coach.

Did you say live or leave?

Did you say live or leave?

live or leave, ship or sheep

live or leave, ship or sheep

Do people get mixed up when you say the words live & leave?

This happens to non native speakers of American English all the time.

Here’s why that happens

Two American English vowel sounds that non-native speakers frequently mispronounce are:

  • /iy/ as in Green
  • /I/ as in Silver

Many of the international professionals who I work with in my accent reduction coaching program over pronounce the /I/ as in Silver.

They use too many facial muscles to make this sound.

When they do that, the /I/ as in Silver sounds like /iy/ as in Green.

A true story

Here’s a funny (true) story that illustrates what I mean:

I was working with a multinational manager in Turkey. We were talking about commodities and I asked him how he got his raw materials.

He told me, “the raw materials come by sheep“.

And I thought, what? By sheep?!

But of course I figured out that what he meant was ship.

We laughed and got to work on that sound

When I told him what I heard, he and I both laughed. Then I told him that he needed to relax his facial muscles in order to say the word ship with the correct vowel sound.

Other words with /I/ as in Silver that my clients usually over pronounce using /iy/ as in Green include:

  • video
  • limited
  • live
  • system
  • Virginia

There are many more!

Learn the American vowel sounds

For an introduction to all the American English vowel sounds check out my iPad book, Fundamentals of the American Accent.

This iBook is available in 50 countries in Europe & the Americas on the iBookstore. If you are an iPad user who working to improve your American accent, take a look at this multi-touch book.

About the author

Susan Ryan is the author of the ConfidentVoice blog and an American English communication and accent reduction coach.

 

Do you use the /ɚ/ sound?

Do you use the /ɚ/ sound?

Do you use the :ɚ: sound?

Do you use the ɚ sound?

If you’re serious about refining your American accent, you need to know when to use the /ɚ/ sound.

Say/ɚ/ with light stress

There’s a good chance that you’re currently either

  • over-pronouncing this sound  (Spanish speakers)
  • dropping this sound  (Chinese speakers)

If you do that, your speech will sound unfamiliar to American listeners.

You should always say the /ɚ/ sound with light stress.

When to use the /ɚ/ sound

The unstressed /ɚ/sound is found in words including:

  1. Stanfɚd
  2. doctɚ
  3. sectɚ
  4. investɚ
  5. membɚ
  6. dollɚ
  7. infɚmation
  8. neighbɚhood

Listen here

 

Dropping this sound

Dropping this sound will make your words sound incomplete.

This often happens to Chinese speakers.

Over pronouncing this sound

Over pronouncing this sound will make your speech sound choppy.

This often happens to Spanish speakers.

Get some American accent coaching

If you’re a career minded professional who wants to refine your American accent, you may want to check out my accent reduction coaching program.

In my Skype based program, I work with you one on one to bring your communication skills up to the next level.

About the author

Susan Ryan is the author of the ConfidentVoice blog and an American English communication and accent reduction coach.

 

 

Common Words Ending With /z/

Common Words Ending With /z/

Common Words Ending With /z/

Common Words Ending With /z/

In spoken American English many words end with a /z/ sound. 

The letter at the end of the word may be S, but the sound of the letter is often /z/.

Say these common words ending with a /z/ sound.

  1. these
  2. those
  3. is 
  4. was 
  5. says
  6. does

Listen here.

 

There are many more!

Why is this important?

One key reason that using a /z/ sound is important is because vowels that occur before the voiced /z/ sound are nice and long.

And if you know anything about clear spoken American English, you understand how we love to hear long, clear vowel sounds.

Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Arabic speakers often fail to use the /z/ sound correctly.

Use focus word pitch for clarity

Use focus word pitch for clarity

Use focus word pitch for clarity

Use focus word pitch for clarity

One of the most useful American English communication tips I give my accent reduction coaching clients is this-

When a conversation breaks down ☹…. think about the most important word in your message.

This is called the focus word.

Use pitch emphasis

Repeat that focus word again.

But this time, be careful to emphasize that word using a slight rise in pitch.

Lengthen the vowel sound → a little bit.

Insert a pause

Then pause briefly. This will give your listener time to “get it”.

Here’s an example:

I’ll meet with the ma→nager⤼ on Tue→sday.

Listen here

To say this sentence clearly:

  • stress the word manager
  • pause briefly
  • then stress the word Tuesday

Don’t give the same emphasis to every word.

There is an excellent chance that using this pitch emphasis strategy will clear up the misunderstanding.

 Learn the rules for clear American speech

I teach you the rules for using focus words and pitch emphasis in my iPad book for the American accent.

American Accent Fundamentals - Susan M. Ryan

Click the button above to download the first chapter for free at the iBookstore.

How to pronounce loose & lose

How to pronounce loose & lose

How to pronounce loose & lose

How to pronounce loose & lose

Sometimes pronouncing American English words correctly can drive you crazy.

That’s because the same letter, (in this case the letter S) can have more than one sound.

If you’re a non native speaker who learned English through reading instead of listening, you’re probably not aware of all the spoken patterns.

The sounds of the letter S

To explain what I mean about the letter S having more than one sound, let’s use the words loose & lose.

The adjective loose is pronounced with a /s/ sound. It sounds like luʷse.

The verb to lose is pronounced with a /z/ sound. It sounds like luʷ→ze.

Longer vowel sound

Notice that the /uʷ/ sound is much longer➝ in the word lose.

That’s because it occurs before a voiced /z/ sound.

Using the correct vowel length here is very, very important, especially if you want to speak with a clear American accent!

Here are two sentences you can use to practice the /s/ & /z/ sounds:

1. Did you lose some weight? (luʷ→ze)

2. Yes, and now my pants are too loose! (luʷse)

Listen here

 

Learn to use the correct sound

Just this week, I taught the sounds of the letter S to three of my accent reduction coaching clients (a Russian speaker, a Hindi speaker and a Spanish speaker).

All three were very surprised to learn that the S frequently has a /z/ sound.

No one has taught you the rules

There’s no need  to feel bad about not knowing all the rules for spoken English.

Only people who’ve taken some accent reduction training would be aware of this.

If clear American English communication is critical for your career success, find out how accent reduction coaching will help you!

 

 

 

 

Do you use contractions when you speak English?

Do you use contractions when you speak English?

Many non native speakers don’t use contractions when they speak American English.

Instead, they speak word by word, saying phrases such as can not, do not, they will, that is and they are.

Contracted forms

Instead, you should be saying these contracted forms in conversations.

  • can’t
  • don’t
  • they’ll
  • that’s
  • they’re

I know it’s hard to believe, but when you don’t use contractions, it contributes to your accent!

Contractions help you speak with a better rhythm   

Using contractions help you speak using the correct rhythm of spoken English.

When you speak using contractions you’re able to:

  • reduce the sounds of function words
  • use more schwa vowel sounds
  • blend words together more smoothly
  • use American T sounds more effectively

Friendly, melodic & natural

Since you’re not giving equal emphasis to every word, your speech sounds more friendly, melodic and natural to the American listener.

I teach you how to use contractions and many other strategies you can use to reduce your accent in my Skype accent reduction coaching program.

☆My programs are guaranteed to help you speak American English with clarity and confidence!☆

 

 

How to pronounce suggestions

How to pronounce suggestions

How to pronounce suggestions

How to pronounce suggestions

One word that my accent reduction coaching clients often mispronounce is suggestions.

It’s tricky!

Let me tell you why suggestions is such a tricky word to pronounce.

The first g has a /g/ sound

The second g has a /ʤ/ sound

The ti also has a /ʤ/ sound

The s has a /z/ sound

Listen & practice

Try to say the word using the audio and my special spelling.

sug ʤes→ ʤenz

Similar words

The ti in the word questions also has a /ʤ/ sound, making it sound like this~

ques→ʤenz

Unlock the code

I help you unlock the code for saying words like suggestions, questions and hundreds of other difficult to pronounce words in my Skype accent reduction coaching program.

If speaking American English clearly and correctly is important to YOU, find out how my ☛ coaching program can work for you.

 

Why You Need to Use Syllable Stress Correctly

Why You Need to Use Syllable Stress Correctly

Use syllable stress correctly

Use syllable stress correctly

When you’re speaking American English it’s very important for you to use syllable stress correctly.

One reason is because English has many heteronyms.

Heteronyms are two words that are spelled identically. The way the words are pronounced determines their meaning.

Example #1

One good example of this is the word: ADDRESS.

When you say the word ‘address’ the way you use syllable stress changes the meaning of the word.

When you place stress is on the first syllable, address is a noun as in this sentence:
Susan’s a→ddress is 2010 Pine Street.

When you place stress on the second syllable, address becomes a verb.
Susan will əddre→ss the meeting tomorrow.

Example #2

Another example is the word PRESENT.

When you stress the first syllable, the word pre→sənt means a gift.

When you stress the second syllable prəse→nt becomes a verb that means ‘to give’.

Listen here

 

Schwa

Note that the reduced syllable in the verb form has a schwa /ə/ vowel sound. This is the reduced vowel sound found in unstressed syllables.

The vowel sounds in stressed syllables are lengthened and pronounced with a slightly higher pitch.

The vowel sounds in reduced syllables often have a schwa sound.

Again, note how the vowel sound in the unstressed syllable is reduced to schwa. The vowel in each stressed syllable is lengthened and pronounced with a slightly higher pitch.

Learn more

To learn more about how to use syllable stress and the schwa vowel sound, check out my iBook, American Accent Fundamentals.

American Accent Fundamentals - Susan M. Ryan

It’s informative, affordable and so easy to use on your iPad.

The first chapter is free in the iBookstore at the link above.