Category: Pronunciation & Accent

Former Engineer Lands Dream Job in America: The Powerful Impact of English Coaching

Meet Daniel, a Chief Technology Officer in Las Vegas. He is from South Asia but has been working in the United States for more than three years now.

Picture this: You have the skills and the expertise, but your communication skills are putting obstacles in the way of you getting that dream position you have been aspiring to. 

Fortunately, this is not the case for Daniel. His success story started with a simple decision to take control of his destiny.

A simple decision 

A year into his American journey, struggling with communication, he heeded a friend’s advice to explore accent modification. 

Daniel understood the need to improve his speech. “One needs to speak – and speak confidently and clearly—to be listened to and be noticed at work,” he says.

With his persistent desire for personal development, he took to Google and discovered English Coach Nicole’s YouTube channel.

Impressed by the engaging educational videos, Daniel wasted no time enrolling in the Accent Modification Course (VIP Plan). This comprehensive program offered him 12 one-on-one video sessions, along with a rigorous pre-course diagnostic test to pinpoint accent challenges.

Challenges and triumphs

The journey was not a walk in the park. 

“Mastering sounds like “t”, “sh,” and the vowel sounds was challenging for me, as was knowing which parts of words to stress, but with Nicole’s guidance, supplemented by invaluable resources she provided, people around me began noticing my improvements,” says Daniel.

As Daniel delved into the course, a surprising twist unfolded. Midway through his journey, he landed the role of Chief Technology Officer in a cutting-edge company. The newfound ability to communicate confidently and effectively played a pivotal role in this career milestone.

A holistic transformation

“English Coach Nicole’s impact extends beyond accent modification,” Daniel says. He discovered the nuances of voice control, pacing, and more, enriching both his professional and personal life. 

“Nicole also encouraged me to join Toastmasters as a way to further develop my public speaking skills. This has also been a great way to practice my new pronunciation habits. I’ve gained even more confidence this way and am now considered the best speaker in my group, even when competing with native speakers.” 

Now, not only does he speak clearly, but he also forges connections effortlessly, both in and out of the workplace.

Your turn to shine!

If you are finding yourself in Daniel’s original position struggling with communication, take a cue from his success. Don’t let communication barriers hold you back – be the master of your narrative.

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@nwsoar.com to set up a free 30 minute video consultation.

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. Click on +NGSL in the menu on the left side. I suggest using the last list, which organizes the words alphabetically. 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 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. ​

accent neutralization

Why Do People Have Accents?

One of the main causes of a foreign accent when learning another language is interference from our native language. As babies and young children, our brains learn which sounds are and are not important. The young child’s brain quickly learns to dismiss the sounds not included in our mother tongue, and at some point we are no longer able to distinguish them. We do not even notice them, and may have difficulty hearing them, even when they are pointed out to us.

So, English may have sounds that don’t exist in your native language. Therefore, you substitute an incorrect sound for the English sound. For example, you may not have some or all of the short/relaxed vowel sounds in your language. So you pronounce the “i” in the word “it” as “eat” or the “a” in “man” as “mon”.

Or, perhaps you DO have the sound in your language, but you don’t realize the spelling rules from your language don’t apply to English. Let’s take the letter “o” as an example. You may incorrectly assume when you see an “o”, you pronounce it “oh”, when it fact in many cases, it may be an “ah” sound, like the names of these 2 stores: Ross, Costco. You should pronounce the “o” here just like you would in the words “job” or “dog”, with an “ah” sound.

Furthermore, we automatically apply the sound system and intonation patterns we learned for our mother tongue to the new language. So now, we need awareness of what’s important in the new language and we need practice to form new habits. A famous wise man once said, “When you are ready to learn, the teacher will appear”. Are you ready to learn? Join my class “5 Days to a Better Accent” and you will find out about the most important things to focus on to improve your accent and speak more understandably right now. You will also learn fun and easy ways to practice to make your new pronunciation an unconscious part of your speech. ​Join the class

american accent coach

Should I Change my Accent? Which Accent is Best according to American Accent Coach?

It is not necessarily bad to have an accent, and for some people I would not recommend spending time trying to change your speech. If people have trouble understanding you and your oral English is interfering with your life (in work, school, your business or your personal life), then your will likely benefit from improving your speech. The opportunities available to you and your quality of life will improve as a result.

People have many reasons for wanting to change their accent. In my opinion, there are two occasions when you really need to make the effort to change. One, when your accent hinders communication & causes misunderstandings & people ask you to repeat yourself often. Two, when you are losing opportunities in life due to your accent. For example, not getting a job or being promoted, losing potential clients, not speaking because you are embarrassed by your speech. If you experience any of these thing, then, you should make the effort to change.

And last but not least, I’d like to mention that there is no one true and correct accent for English or any other language. Speech is a way for humans to communicate with one another. Whichever speech allows you to communicate successfully with those around you is correct speech. If you consciously want to improve your speech, you should choose to imitate the accent that is most useful for you personally, the easiest for you to learn or the one you prefer. Are you ready to work on your American English accent? Join my “5 Days to a Better Accent” class. Learn to speak clear, understandable English and experience the confidence and success that brings.​