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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. ​

english accent coach

How English Accent Coach can make your English Sound Sophisticated

Part of being a truly proficient user of a language is having a wide-ranging vocabulary. English in particular has a very large lexicon compared to many languages. There is very often more than one word or way to express the same idea in English. English also has many words that are similar, but express subtle differences. Learning to vary your word usage instead of repeating the same simple words again and again will enrich your language, making you sound more sophisticated and more educated. It will also give your English a more native feel.

Here’s an example of a word that even natives tend to overuse: beautiful. Instead of saying, “She’s a beautiful woman”, how about saying, “She’s a gorgeous woman”. Other good choices include stunning, ravishing, elegant, breathtaking, dazzling, radiant, striking, and captivating. And there are so many more. Aren’t these so much more interesting than just saying the plain and overused “beautiful”?

When you hear these less frequently used and more colorful words, your mind immediately begins to paint a vivid picture. So it’s a good idea to learn some synonyms for words you tend to use frequently. Synonyms are words that have the same or a similar meaning. You can easily find lists of them on the internet.

Here are a couple more to think about. What could you say instead of using the words “big” or “small”?Another great way to improve your vocabulary is to check out the word of the week and other great tips and articles on my LinkedIn Page.

dscn3200

My Amazing 2017

Both personally and professionally, 2017 was an exciting and productive year. In fact, I’d have to say it was one of the best, or maybe even the best year of my life. It was a year full of fabulous travels, visiting family and friends, lots of fun times and the year I dedicated myself exclusively to developing my online English school. I am really happy to be able to follow my passion full time and help more and more people speak clear, understandable English. If you’d like to see more of my adventures, check out the slide show I’ve created.

speak English better

Speak English better- Remember a Smile goes a long way in American Culture

I want to talk to you a little about one of the reasons you may be losing opportunities in the American world. Surprisingly, it may not be your accent. Sometimes, people who speak English really clearly and have only a minor accent tell me they need to improve their English. When this happens, I am reminded that there may be an issue that goes beyond the spoken word. People automatically gravitate towards others who are like them. They feel comfortable with similar people and they trust them, since they share common values.

To be more readily accepted into the American workplace and social circles, you may have to adopt new behaviors that allow you to be perceived as similar to the main culture. For example, in conversation, Americans generally smile and make eye contact and are somewhat animated when they speak, speaking in a loud voice and showing some emotion. If your speech is monotone or flat and lacking emotion, you may seem unfriendly, uninterested and unapproachable.

But the good news is, you can make your speech sound friendlier by adding more pitch variation and smiling. Act professionally, but don’t appear too serious. You should include more ups and downs in the melody of your speech. You should learn to make small talk. Asking someone how they are, talking about the weather, discussing the weekend can help you build a friendly rapport. You don’t have to turn into an American, but you may need to modify things a bit so that Americans feel comfortable with you and see you as someone they can trust.

Americans are generally light-hearted and friendly. Some outsiders describe this as fake, but really, it’s our culture. Just because an American smiles and chats with you doesn’t mean they are your friend. Don’t be fooled. We just treat everyone this way.

Rule of thumb: treat everyone you meet like they’re a friend and you’re happy to see them. See if this doesn’t change things for you. It really may not be your accent getting in the way at all. The good news is that the solution is probably a lot easier than changing your accent. You just need to appear friendly and trustworthy. Don’t forget to smile!

improve English pronunciation

Keys to Improve your English Pronunciation

I feel lucky because English is my first language. I have never had to struggle with pronunciation and spelling or grammar rules and exceptions. But as an English teacher, I have worked with people from all over the world who have learned or are currently learning English. I have assisted and guided many through the process of improving their spoken English. I have seen how they struggle.

Although I have not had to experience the pain of learning English, the experiences of my clients and students made me think back to how I learned Spanish and Chinese. Like many of you, I studied Spanish throughout junior and senior high school. I learned a lot of vocabulary and grammar, could read and write some, but had almost no occasion to speak Spanish. Then I went to Mexico on an intensive study program. That’s where I truly learned to speak. I lived with a Mexican family, watched Mexican soap operas, listened to Mexican music and interacted with the town’s people as I went about daily life. However, upon returning home and continuing my studies, my Spanish teacher commented that my pronunciation “left a lot to be desired”, meaning that it was terrible! Well, that hurt, but I had no idea what to do about it. So, I just kept doing what I was doing and I didn’t give up, since I loved learning the language and about the culture. The trip I took to Mexico introduced me to Mexican rock music, which I loved. Every day, I sang along to my favorite songs and continued taking classes in college. I also made more Spanish-speaking friends. Years later, I went back to Mexico, and this time, things were different. People actually thought I was a native speaker.

As I think back on that experience, it seems I accidentally stumbled upon a couple of the keys to effortlessly improving accent in any language. Want to know more? Join my class “5 Days to a Better Accent”. If you are wondering about the Chinese, I have a completely different experience that I’ll share another time.  Join the class