April Showers and May Flowers: Vowels, Jokes, and Syllable Stress

 

We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately where I live in the South, and although it makes for some dreary days, the payoff is outstanding: amazing flowers are blooming and filling our yards and parks!

Americans have a rhyming phrase that helps us get through the wet months:

“April showers bring May flowers.”

This phrase reminds us that all this rain has a purpose! I bring it up because it’s also a timely way of getting you to open your mouth wide for a number of vowel sounds as you practice to reduce your accent.

 

 

“April showers bring May flowers” also has the “ing” sound… which you can read more about in this post.

This phrase also has a joke that goes along with it, which leads me to ask you:

 

 

Do you know the difference? And how can that little space between “May” and “flower” make any difference? Hear the difference between them, and how...

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Springtime Challenge: Grow a Speech Garden

People who love gardening often spend all winter planning what they'll grow in the spring. They pore over seed catalogs and websites, plot out their flower or vegetable beds on paper, and put aside money for new plants, mulch, and all the other necessary materials to make their garden beautiful and prosperous.

Have you ever thought about tending to your speech the way you'd tend to a garden?

Well, I'm issuing you a challenge!

 

For Better Hearing and Speech month, we're talking about how your communication takes care... the kind of care that would go into the planning and maintenance of a lush and healthy garden.

What does it look like to “grow a speech garden” with care?

 

 

Any gardener knows that weeds will take over your garden in no time if left to grow! They become harder to uproot as they get bigger. The same is true for your speech: an unhelpful sound left unchecked will make you harder to understand,...

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Take a Deep Breath! Reduce Your Accent by Reducing Your Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month, and we’re continuing this month with ways to improve your accent by bringing down your body’s stress level. In last week’s article, I asked you to loosen up the muscles that control your speech with exercises for your shoulders, neck, and jaw. If you haven’t tried those, take a minute to look back at my previous article and stretch out those muscles.

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with some helpful stretches, let’s move on to an important part of your speech you’ve probably overlooked: your breathing.

 

I’m sure you don’t notice your breathing until you get into a stressful situation: a presentation at work, a tense moment of disagreement with a co­worker, or an important meeting. You probably become aware of the quicker, more shallow breaths as your heart rate and stress level rise.

Let’s explore what causes this, and work to...

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Easter Traditions: Know your Vowels and Vocabulary

This weekend, Americans are once again celebrating another springtime holiday: Easter. For many, Easter is an important holiday in their Christian faith. For others, it’s a welcoming of the spring season and new life.

You’re probably seeing Easter candy in the aisles at all the stores, and hearing friends and co-workers talk about their plans for this weekend. Perhaps they’re having a big family meal after their church service, or attending an Easter egg hunt with their children at a public park.

In this video, I’ll take you through the Easter story and many American Easter traditions, both religious and secular. I’ll also help you with several vowel sounds and how to pronounce the “R” sound, while we explore Easter phrases you should know to be able to talk about the holiday with the Americans in your life.

 

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Relax! Reduce Your Accent by Reducing Your Stress

Improving your speech or reducing your accent takes a lot of self-awareness… it requires listening to yourself and regular practice in order to improve. But today I’m going to ask you to be aware of something other than the sound of your voice.  I’d like you to be aware of your body’s stress.

Since April is Stress Awareness Month, I’d like you to take time this month to notice where you hold stress and tension in your body, as this greatly affects the muscles that control your speech and pronunciation. Let’s take a look at a few exercises that will help you relieve speech muscle tension.

Shoulders and Neck

Controlling your speech begins further down than your tongue and cheek muscles. It starts in the shoulders and neck, a place where many of us carry stress and tension.

 

 

Cheek and Jaw

Many of us clench our teeth or tighten our cheek muscles when stressed. Try to be aware of this, and try the following exercise when you...

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How Do YOU Say Pecan?

April is National Pecan Month, and it’s only natural for Americans to love pecans: The pecan is the only nut tree native to North America. It’s been growing wild and in cultivation from the northeastern United States all the way down to the river valleys of Mexico… so naturally, all these regions from north to south have developed a different way of pronouncing “pecan.”

 

 

In fact, the linguistics department at University of Wisconsin­ Milwaukee identified eight different ways Americans say “pecan”, and plotted them all out on this fun map.

Take a listen to these various pronunciations and learn a little more about the beloved pecan in my latest video.

So, just how do you say it?

More fun than saying “pecans” is eating them. Here’s a tried and true pecan recipe that makes a great snack or gift.

Spicy Glazed Pecans

adapted from Spiced Pecans by Alton Brown

1 lb....

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The Luck of the Irish: Phrases and Sounds for St. Patrick's Day

“Top o' the morning to ya!”

Although that is not a phrase actually used in Ireland, Americans love to say it and embrace all things Irish on St. Patrick's Day, every March 17th. Mythical leprechauns, pots of gold, and the color green are everywhere as everyone becomes a little bit Irish to celebrate the culture of “the Emerald Isle.”

In fact, St. Patrick's Day celebrations as we know them in America only just began around 60 years ago, as Irish immigrants sought to retain their heritage.

What started as small gatherings quickly became parades and festivities all over America and the world! I love that our country is full of customs and celebrations from people groups the world over.

In my latest video, we'll learn some phrases for St. Patrick's Day, practice the sounds in those phrases, and delve into the history of the holiday.

 

With practice, you may not need the “luck of the Irish” to sound like an American! 

If this video...

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Why Spring Training is Important for your American Accent

The days are starting to warm up and spring is just around the corner. In America, this not only means everyone is excited about the weather changes, but many sports fans also get excited for the start of a truly American game: baseball! Right now, major league baseball teams are just starting their practice games – called “Spring Training” – to get themselves ready for the real season.

Training your own speech is just as important as an athlete training his or her body – the big event in your life that requires a great American accent, like a job interview or important presentation.

A few years ago, at the end of baseball spring training, I shared a video about the importance of taking the time to train your speech – and how to pronounce the “ing” sound that is a problem for many non-native English speakers.

 Take a listen to my tips for this sound – and I hope your spring is filled with your own training and practicing...

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Phrases to Know on a Snowy Day

We're still in the month of February, which means winter isn't over yet! There's always a chance we'll encounter more snowy weather before springtime warms us up. Americans are so used to dealing with lots of snow that we have many phrases using it.

In today's video, I'll explain how combining “snowed” with different simple words – like “in,” “out,” or “under” – completely changes the meaning of the phrase:

 

If you found this video helpful, take a look at my other video [link: http://www.losemyaccent.com/2016/02/01/broken-rules-learn-how-to-say-snow-plow/] on how to pronounce “snow.” You can also receive a free accent screening and pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com. Happy winter, and stay warm!

 
 
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Phrases of the HEART

It's probably fair to say that humans will never be able to fully express the emotion of love through our words... but that doesn't keep us from trying! In America, romantic love has its own holiday on February 14th : Valentine's Day.

As we approach that day, you'll see the heart as a symbol of love everywhere you go. We also use the heart as a symbol in our language, to try to communicate the closeness of our love. Today's video takes you through many of the “heart” phrases we use in conversation and in music.

Don't “break my heart”... check it out!

 

 

The English language is also full of “heart” idioms that don't necessarily deal with love. Instead, the heart represents the situation being very important or close to us.

Here are some “heart” phrases you might encounter that have more negative meanings:

And here are some that have a more positive message:

I hope you know I have your “best interest at...

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