Accent Coach Nicole Kaup

When Life Gives you Lemons…

4 things to do to make the best of things: 1. Count your blessings. 2. Set your intention. 3. Be the epicenter for something good. 4 Use this time wisely.

improve English speaking accent

Improve your English Speaking Accent Learn When to use “Bored” vs “Boring”

Adjectives with ED endings describe feelings, whereas adjectives with ING endings describe a quality or characteristic of a thing or person.

improve English pronunciation of Homophones

Improve English Pronunciation of Homophones: Words with Same Pronunciation, but Different Meaning

My students often ask me the difference in pronunciation of words like son & sun, meet & meat, write & right, and which & which. And do you know what? Each of those pairs is pronounced exactly the same, even though they’re spelled differently. It’s important to not let your eyes fool you. English spelling can sometimes be unusual. While there are many rules to help you pronounce words based on their spelling, there are also exceptions to the rules. And those exceptions tend to occur in our most common words. Train your ears to tell you the pronunciation of words, not your eyes.

Prefer to see this as a video, rather than read it? Just click here: Homophones video.

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improve English pronunciation of T in American English

How to Improve Pronunciation of T in American English

Did you know that there are 6 ways to pronounce the letter T in American English? I get more questions on how to pronounce T than any other sound in American English. And it’s no wonder. The pronunciation of the letter T varies quite a bit depending upon its location in the word and other sounds around it.

The first pronunciation of T is what most people think of if I say T. It’s the T sound we use at the beginning of words, like “talk” and “today”, or when T begins a stressed syllable like: “container” or “attend”. What stands out with this sound is the aspiration, or puff of air, heard with this hard T. You can easily feel it if you put your hand in front of your mouth. Try putting your hand in front of your mouth and saying the words above.

Second, we have the held T at the end of words like “wet” or “eat”, or before a consonant sound, like “lightning” or in the phrase “wait for me”. It has the same mouth position as the standard hard T, but it does not have the puff of air. Try it now. Say “eat”. Make sure your tongue moves to the T position. The tip of your tongue touches the roof of your mouth just behind your upper front teeth. By the way, this area is called the “alveolar ridge”.

The third T variation is the flap T, sometimes spelled TT. This is the T that sounds like an English D. You will generally find it in the middle of words, since it occurs between vowel sounds, in words like city or community. Do you hear the D sound? A vowel followed by R (R controlled vowel) is also considered a vowel sound. So consider ER, OR, AR and similar sounds vowels. You’ll find the flap T before or after R controlled vowels, in words like “artist”, “daughter” and “forty”. The flap T also occurs before “LE” endings because of the syllabic L. Listen for it in words like “little” or “Seattle”.

The fourth T variation is an infrequent sound in American English, but it occurs in a few common words. It’s the glottal stop, and it occurs before vowel+n. Examples include button, mountain and sentence . It’s similar to the held T, but the sound is stopped in the throat. Think of it as a held T, but then move straight to the N sound. Do not pronounce the vowel sound between the T and N.

The fifth way to pronounce T is to not pronounce it. T’s can be silent after the letter N, like in the words “international” or “Atlanta”. Just pretend the T is not there.

And the sixth possible T pronunciation is a ch sound. A “tu” spelling in the middle of words produces a “ch” sound, like in “future”, “situation” or “congratulations”.

Take a look at my video lesson “6 ways to pronounce T in American English” to see more examples of these T variations: https://youtu.be/gx1ydqokb0Y. Each of the sounds I mentioned in this article has its own video. If you want a more detailed lesson on any T variation, take a look at the corresponding video. You can find a link to each below in the description.

Held T:https://youtu.be/E8L6ROP9KaQ
Silent T: https://youtu.be/IFUgheV0wRY
Glottal T: https://youtu.be/z9VA2_egKgg
Flap T: https://youtu.be/wWiLLfX2mHw
T = Ch: https://youtu.be/zTu5zRHhVe0

how to improve English speaking skills

How to Improve My English Speaking Skills?

What do you have in common with Cristiano Ronaldo & LeBron James?

Like them, you were born to be great, but you need guidance and support to reach your full potential.  None of the world’s most successful people could have achieved so much without the assistance of a great coach.  Do you have that in your life?  Coaches exist for many different things.  There are sports coaches, business coaches and life coaches.  But what about an English Language Coach?  That’s who I am.  I help people overcome English language challenges, so they can be their very best and achieve all their goals and dreams.

Are you frustrated because you’ve been trying to improve your English for a long time and don’t see results?  Maybe you’re just not focusing on the correct things.  Maybe you don’t know how or what needs to change.  Maybe it’s time to consult an English Language Coach.  With a few coaching sessions, you can make a lot more progress than trying to do it alone.  The coach can pinpoint exactly what you need to work on to make the largest gain in the shortest time.  The coach also knows which resources are best for your needs and can help you determine the most efficient and effective ways to practice to make the progress you have been seeking.

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Is Coaching Expensive?

You may think coaching is expensive, but when you consider the amount of time and effort you save and the speed you progress with a coach, it really ends up saving you a lot of time and you’ll regret not hiring one sooner.  The sooner you get to where you want to be with your English, the sooner opportunities will open up for you.  And as we say, time is money.

Imagine this: you have 3 hours per week to improve your English.  If you do it yourself, you probably spend the 3 hours doing things that do not necessarily help you reach your goals.  With a coach, you know exactly what to work on to make progress fast. The coach helps you clarify that and gives you a plan to follow, and you spend those 3 hours productively, advancing toward your goals.

If you wanted to improve your tennis game or swim in a triathlon, you’d hire a coach, right?  If you wanted to learn to play the piano or guitar, you’d hire a private teacher.  The coach sees what you can’t see.  The coach is an expert in their field. He/she helps people improve and reach their goals every day. You could never become a world-class athlete without a great coach to support and guide you. The super-elites of the world have all had that kind of support – a coach, teacher or a partner that puts them on track to greatness.  If you want to achieve greatness, you need to invest in yourself.  Your career is worth it.  You are worth it.  It’s time to invest in you.  Don’t let your dreams pass you by.

Have questions? Want to find out if accent coaching is the best option for you? Email me at nicole@nicolekaup.com to set up a free 30-minute video consultation.

improve English writing with a personal English teacher

It’s Like Your Own Personal English Teacher to Improve your English Writing

Picture ​Be Just Like Harry Potter: Free Grammar Correction Wand Below

Usually I talk about ways to improve your English pronunciation, but today I want to address a writing issue and a quick way to solve it. Many non-native English speakers working in the U.S. have told me that they are often afraid to send emails. They know that their writing is not perfect, but as hard as they try, they are unable to see their own grammar mistakes. They send their message, only to hear negative comments from their supervisor and coworkers about their English. How frustrating and embarrassing!

Sending emails with errors really sends the wrong message. People assume you don’t speak English well, that you’re not competent in your work, that you’re not very educated or that you’re sloppy. This is not the impression you want to make. And it is even worse if you are looking for work. You certainly don’t want to have any grammar errors in your resume and cover letters.

I want to share with you a great free resource that can solve your writing problem: Grammarly. You just download the extension in your Chrome browser and it will suggest corrections to your grammar, spelling and punctuation in everything you write. The free edition will catch most of your basic mistakes. The premium version will catch all your mistakes. It’s like you’re Harry Potter and you have a magic wand you can just wave and have perfect writing. Writing is not an easy skill, especially in a second language. Whether you’re a native English speaker or English is your second, third or tenth language, you need this. Imagine never being afraid to send an email again. Correct all those embarrassing mistakes before anyone sees them. This awesome tool works everywhere you write. It corrects your emails, Facebook posts, Twitter messages, resumes, job applications, essays, articles, blog posts, anything you write.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO & TO DOWNLOAD GRAMMARLY

Improve English Speaking with 722 words you must know!

Improve English Speaking with 2,800 words you must know!

In order to be functional in any language, it is important to be able to correctly use the most common words in that language. ​Knowing these words in English will allow you to understand and speak Standard American English well. In addition to knowing the meaning of each word and its usage in sentences, make sure you take the time to learn the correct pronunciation of each word, including word stress. And note that words often have multiple meanings.​ Make sure you’re familiar with the different definitions of each word.

If you are reading this blog, you probably already know English well. You may be functioning in English at a high level. Even so, there may be common words you are mispronouncing. A good way to improve your speech is by making sure you can correctly pronounce the words you use most frequently. To help you do this, I have some free resources I’d like to share with you.

  • New General Service List of Most Useful English Words
  • Oxford Learner’s Dictionary online

New General Service Word List

This is a list of the most useful words in spoken English. The approximately 2800 words on this list account for more than 92% of spoken English. I would recommend downloading and perhaps printing the list, so you can easily work with it. You can find a link to this free resource on this page. Use the “NGSL 1.2 list with definitions in easy English.” You might also find some of the other formats useful.

I want to encourage you to go through the New General Service Word List. Make sure you are familiar with each of the words on the list, including its pronunciation, paying particular attention to word stress. Since these are some of our highest frequency words, chances are you use them on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s really important you are correctly pronouncing them if you want to speak understandable English.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary Online

It’s important to use a dictionary to check the pronunciation of words if you’re in doubt. This is the easiest way to get confirmation of correct pronunciation. You also may think you know a word, but if you check in the dictionary, you may find you have been pronouncing it incorrectly. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary is my favorite online dictionary for pronunciation use. Click here to visit the OLD. I always prefer a learner’s dictionary to a regular one, even for very advanced English speakers. Learner’s dictionaries give a lot more useful information about words, and their definitions are generally easier to understand and their sample sentences use more typical usage of the word. Regular dictionaries often give such unusual sample sentences, and therefore, are not so helpful for non-native English speakers. The main reason I like the Oxford Dictionary is that you can set it to hear and see only American English. If you do this, you will not be confused by having different pronunciations in front of you at the same time. And this dictionary also lets you hear the pronunciation of all the related forms of the word, like –ed, -ing and –s endings.

Word Stress

Before using the dictionary, please learn how to use the pronunciation symbols. You will find this information in the “Other Links” section on the right side of the page, click on “pronunciation”. If you’re already familiar with the IPA, then this will be helpful for you. If not, don’t worry too much about the special symbols. What I want you to understand is the part about stress. Primary stress (strong stress) is marked with a ‘ before a syllable. If a word has a secondary stressed syllable, it will be marked with a , before the syllable.

One of the most important things to focus on for understandable pronunciation is word stress. It is more important than correctly pronouncing the sounds in words. If you are not familiar with this concept, please watch my free “Word Stress” video on Youtube. Just click here to see the video: https://youtu.be/67PLa8mMAio

Are there any words on the New General Service List you are not familiar with? Which words on this list do you find difficult to pronounce? Please let me know in the comments section below. I am looking for more difficult words to feature in my videos.

10 American English pronunciations that are used incorrectly

10 American English Pronunciations Words that are Pronounced Incorrectly

If English is not your native language, you may be pronouncing some of our really common words incorrectly. If you want to speak English so that everyone understands what you say the first time, it’s important to pronounce these super common words correctly. In this article and the accompanying videos, I will be giving you the American English pronunciation for these words. Note that in several of them, you’ll find the British pronunciation to be different. I have chosen the following words based on my experience working with non-native English speakers over the years.

For each of the ten words listed, I have created a detailed Youtube video to teach you exactly how to pronounce the word and each of its difficult sounds. To see a video, just click on the link next to the word. And please subscribe to my Youtube Channel and click on the little bell icon to receive notifications of when new videos are posted. I post new lessons each week, and you won’t want to miss any of them.

First, here are three relatively easy to pronounce words. The issue many people have is that they have silent letters.

1. Island – silent S. Pronounce it like this: AI lənd. The A in land is pronounced as a schwa since land is a weak syllable. If you’re not familiar with the schwa, check out my video on that as well: https://youtu.be/YcRiskgHjek Island: https://youtu.be/fO5zqFADJOc

2. Would – silent L. In addition, the OU is pronounced like the OO in “book” or “good”. This word sounds identical to the word “wood”. https://youtu.be/-ZB3uF8oXYk

3. Whole – silent W. This word is pronounced exactly the same as “hole”. In addition, there is one other tricky part: the pronunciation of the L. It is both a dark L and a syllabic L. A dark L is used after vowel sounds in English. For this L variety, the back of your tongue, as well as the tip, needs to touch the roof of your mouth. The easiest way to do this is to just close your mouth when you say the L sound, so your whole tongue touches the roof of your mouth. In addition, the L here forms an extra syllable by itself, so “whole” and “hole” sound like two syllables: HO əl. https://youtu.be/rr0nMxzM3zU The following two words look a lot more difficult than they are to pronounce:

4. Pizza – How do you pronounce a double Z in English? That’s something you don’t see very often. This word really isn’t too hard. The first syllable sounds like the name “Pete”, and the second syllable is pronounced like the “su” in sun. It sounds like this: PETE su. There are no Z sounds at all. https://youtu.be/pSZ7erHNc8c

5. Clothes – This word is much more difficult in British English. But lucky for you, we’re talking about American English today. The pronunciation is super easy. It’s exactly the same as “close” as in “Close the door”. Please not that in both “close” and “clothes”, the final S is voiced. It’s pronounced like a Z. https://youtu.be/QoFYSwuDmbA

The words in the next group are probably truly hard to pronounce for you because they contain sounds that are usually problematic for people whose native language is not English. And sometimes there are even two or three problem sounds in a word. With a little instruction and a lot of practice, you can learn to say each of these correctly.

6. Water – Several non-native speakers living in the U.S. have asked me how to pronounce this. They tell me that when they ask for water in a restaurant, their server never understands what they want. If you’re in North America, make sure not to use the British pronunciation with hard T and missing R. The middle T is pronounced as a d and make sure to fully pronounce the ER. This very American sound is so fundamental to correct pronunciation. If you are not pronouncing it correctly, it will give you a heavy accent, or worse, make many words unintelligible. Note that all the words 6-10 in this list include this common sound. Spend some time to master it. Check out my ER video here: https://youtu.be/HByKhq6s95Y Water: https://youtu.be/oOtQzbnK8rQ

7. Tired – This is a weird one. Similar to #3 above, it contains a syllabic consonant. The R here forms a syllable by itself with no vowel sound. And don’t be fooled by the ED ending. We usually don’t pronounce the E in that ending. Pronounce this word as TAI erd. There’s that ER again, and it’s followed immediately by a D. Make sure you don’t forget to pronounce both sounds. Blend them smoothly together.  https://youtu.be/-geqNWyTPMI  

8. Theater – You may think the TH is the most difficult sound in this word, but it’s more complicated than that. This word has 3 syllables. Make sure the first syllable is stressed. Say it longer and longer than the others. Reduce the A in the middle to a fast, quiet schwa and fully pronounce the ER sound. There it is again! And one more thing: the T is a flap – pronounce it as a D. Say it like this: THE ə der https://youtu.be/0oF_fPSZ748  

9. Girl – What gives a lot of people trouble here is the ER and L right next to each other. Another thing to note is the dark L which is also a syllabic L, just “whole/hole” in #3. To pronounce it, put your entire tongue to the roof of your mouth, and make the word two syllables instead of one. GER əl. https://youtu.be/klRDWaieRMA  

10. World – This may be the hardest common word for many non-native speakers. It is really similar to “girl”. It has exactly the same two issues with ER and L, but adds another issue. You need to add another consonant sound to the end of the word. And ending consonants, especially clusters, can be a big challenge for many non-native English speakers. Fortunately, adding a D sound to an L sound is not so difficult, since your tongue tip is in the same place for both L and D. Just make sure to smoothly blend those two sounds together. Pronounce it like this: WER əld. https://youtu.be/yc1lKDIdXjg

Are the above words difficult for you to pronounce? What common English words would you add to the list of the most difficult to pronounce? Please let me know in the comments section below, so I can make a video for you.

improve english speaking

Are you a Morning Person? I’ve Got News for you in Improve your English Speaking

Do you hate mornings? Is it hard for you to get out of bed and get your day started? I must confess – I am not a morning person. I like to stay up late at night, sometimes watching TV or reading, sometimes working (by choice). I am not lazy. I enjoy nighttime more and feel that I get my best work done later in the day, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I do want to share with you, however, a book I came across a couple of years ago while I was living in China. No, it’s not a Chinese book. It’s a book written in English. It’s called “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Enrod (https://amzn.to/2LraOTX)Well, I have to confess, that’s not exactly what the book is about, but it is has changed my life in other unexpected ways.

This book is powerful! It’s all about investing in you. It’s about putting you first, being your best self, analyzing your life, setting goals and being awesome. It’s so motivational. And it really gets you thinking. There are a series of preliminary exercises first where you rate your life, breaking it down into its various areas, like work, home, relationships, leisure time, etc. Then you determine where you want to be in each area, creating short and long term goals, and strategies for reaching those goals. This in itself is a really powerful exercise.

Then you do a 30 day challenge. Don’t you just love challenges? The whole idea of the Miracle Morning is that each and every day, you put yourself first. The first hour of your day is dedicated to you. That right there will make you a morning person! Imagine starting your morning every day gently, doing things you enjoy and working on your own inner peace and personal growth and excellence. That’s a great feeling and something to really get out of bed for. In this 30 day challenge, you get the opportunity to make huge changes in your life and create a new routine and new habits.

I have to say that I faithfully did my Miracle Morning (MM) routine for quite a while. I did it when I was working a regular schedule, doing my “me” time in the morning before teaching my classes. It had a big impact on my life. At this point, I no longer do the MM things in the morning, but have incorporated a lot of the new habits into my life, such as meditating, practicing gratitude, etc. And every time I’m reminded of “The Miracle Morning”, I think “I should do another 30 day challenge”. It really helps set you on track for a new positive morning routine. Actually, it’s probably time for another formal analysis of my short and long term goals and a creation of strategies to achieve them too.

And if you’re wondering, I’m still not a morning person. I still find the quiet, dark stillness of the night hours to be so peaceful and it sparks my creativity. And I practice the various parts of the Miracle Morning at different times of the day and week, but I continue to do most of them on a regular basis. I encourage everyone to read this powerful little book, and do it now! https://amzn.to/2LraOTX Time flies! Before you know it, another month has passed, and then another year, and so on. It’s time to invest in you, so you can live the life of your dreams.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with improving your English. Well, let me explain. As in anything, if we don’t have clear goals and schedule time to work toward achieving those goals, we find that time passes very quickly and we haven’t accomplished anything. So, I want to stress the importance of goal setting and scheduling daily time for practice. And studies show that when we program time into our morning routine, whether it be for language learning, exercise or whatever, we tend to stick with it better. We often find too many distractions later in the day, and it’s easy to let our practice slip. So, therefore, I think your own personal Miracle Morning practice is so valuable. And you don’t need to buy a book to work on yourself if you don’t want to. You just need to set goals and establish strategies for reaching them.

However, if you are interested in reading this cool book, click here to get it right now on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2LraOTX

Here’s wishing you a dream life full of blessings.

Nicole

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Although you won’t pay any more for any purchases you make, the commissions will enable me to continue to provide free content to readers.

Improve English Pronunciation

Why are U.S. City & State Names so Weird? Improve your English Pronunciation of City Names

Place names can be confusing to pronounce in English. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the names of cities, states, rivers, etc. are often derived from words in other languages, like Native American languages, Spanish or French depending on who lived in these areas before they became part of the United States. So their spelling and pronunciation can seem unpredictable, even to native speakers.

Let me give you some examples. I grew up in Southern California, where lots of place names are Spanish. This is common in California and the Southwestern part of the United States, such as in Nevada, Arizona, Texas, etc. You have probably heard of the following cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. But, how do you pronounce the smaller cities you haven’t heard like “La Jolla” and “Mission Viejo”? Here’s a hint for you: in Spanish, J is pronounced like an English H and LL is pronounced like Y, so Viejo is Vee A ho, and Jolla is Ho ya. Locals all know the pronunciation and never even think about it, since they hear these words all the time, but newcomers are bewildered.

Now I live in Seattle, Washington. Washington is full of Native American (Indian) names. The city of Seattle was even named for a local Indian chief. When I moved here, I had no idea how to pronounce words like Puyallup and Mukilteo. I had to ask the locals to say these words for me, so I could pronounce them correctly.

If English is not your native language, there may also be another reason American place names are problematic for you. You may be using your native language’s pronunciation for these names. In your language, these names may have been modified to fit your language’s sound system, and are not necessarily understandable when said the same way in English. So, it’s a good idea to learn the pronunciation of American places names where you live, work, travel and do business, even if you think you already know how to pronounce them. You may be surprised that you’ve been saying them wrong.
Last week, I visited Chicago, Illinois where I found more Native American names and also French names. Check out my Youtube video on how to pronounce Chicago, Illinois. And don’t forget to click on the red “subscribe” button to subscribe to my channel, so you receive notifications whenever a new video is posted. You can expect to see a new one each Friday. Next Friday, I’ll talk about Seattle. You won’t want to miss that one. ​