Two, too, and to are all pronounced the same. Which one do you need in your sentence? Use to as a preposition, as in to the place or give it to her. We also use to as part of the infinitive form of a verb, to talk, to think, to go.
Too is an adverb, which means that it modifies an adjective, verb or another adverb. For example, too many, too bright. It can be used to mean also, as in, I’d like that, too.
Two is the number.
There are many words in English which sound the same despite having different spelling and different meaning. Here are a few which are useful to know, and how to pronounce them.
Here are some frequently used words which are homophones. When you are not sure of how to pronounce a word or whether two words are homophones, you can use an online dictionary to listen to the words and check the IPA symbols. I recommend the Oxford Learner's Dictionary.
their there they’re
to too two
by buy bye
for four fore
new knew gnu
cent scent sent
cite site sight
do due dew
In American English, we have 15 vowel sounds but only 5 letters which we call vowels. The way we spell the 15 sounds is not consistent (read more about this here). But there are some simple rules that can help you know what vowel is in a word.
In stressed syllables, there are patterns for how vowel sounds are represented. When you are not sure what vowel is in word, the best method is to use a dictionary which uses IPA symbols to represent the vowels. Try these recommended online dictionaries:
In the stressed syllable of a word, if there is only one vowel letter (a, e, i, o, u), the vowel sound is usually the sound listed in the chart below.
For more help with American vowels, check out our Vowels Playlist on our Videos page.
When the stressed syllable of the word has 2 vowels, they usually say the vowel sounds listed in the chart below.
In today's lesson, we reviewed many of the pronunciation and intonation lessons we learned over the last 30 days, and worked on applying them to the sentence:
It's the last day of the thirty day accent challenge, and I sound really great!
You can view the entire 30 day Accent Challenge materials, view our video playlists, and get even more free practice materials to continue to improve your American Accent using SMART American Accent Training from Speech Modification.
Join our many subscribers to our online courses. Get started with yourfree Mini Course today!
In today's lesson, we looked at the ways to correctly pronounce "ng" /ŋ/, and how to overcome common error patterns for this sound.
Common error patterns for ng are to use an n sound instead, or to add an extra g or k sound. Ng is just one sound, /ŋ/ in most words in English.
Today we looked at advanced practice for American R. For more basic help, go to day 6 of the challenge, or see our American R playlist (below)
if you’ve learned to make the American back R, you might still have some contexts where it’s more difficult to use correctly, like words with “or,” words with both the r and l sounds, or words with both the th and r sounds.
For words with r in the middle or at the end, make sure you’re using the correct vowel. Some words just have "er" /ə˞/, others have an r diphthong sliding from another vowel to "er," like "air, ear, ire, or, are, etc."
You can’t rely on spelling to know whether to say just "er" or an r diphthong.
er: /ə˞/ is often spelled er, as in her, or were, but it can also be spelled as ir, or, ur, or ear, as in : bird, work, sure, learn
In addition, the letters "er" can say "air" or "ear" as in the words there, here.
Use an online dictionary to check for the symbol to know what vowel sounds to use. I like Merriem Webster's Learner's Dictionary
and theOxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
You may find it difficult to produce words with both the r and l sounds, like :
For those ending in rl, be sure to use a schwa between the r and the l. For example, girl sounds like grr-uhl /g ə˞ ə l/.
World sounds like /w ə˞ ə l d/
Check out the videos in the playlist below for help with words like "really."
You may also need practice on words that have both the th and r sounds. You can find video help for these in our American R playlist (below).
In today's lesson, we talked about how to use YouTube and other media to improve your American Accent.
The best way to improve your American accent is to be surrounded as much as possible with American English, and to speak with native speakers. This isn't possible for those of you who don't live in North America, and even people who do don't always have a lot of opportunities to interact or the confidence to try out their American accent when speaking with Americans. In that case, using YouTube, tv and movies to supplement the pronunciation and intonation practice you're doing will help.
Using Media to Improve Pronunciation
For pronunciation, here are some things to try.
First, turn on close-captioning or subtitles in English for whatever you are watching. Research shows that pronunciation actually improves when people follow the written words as they are listening. This is partly because you can see all of the words, which can help you notice the details of how they are being pronounced.
Next, choose a listening target. If you've been working on your z sound on the ends of words, listen to the media with that in mind. Can you hear the z's? This will help you be more aware of when you should use the pattern in your own speech. Or perhaps you are working on the TH sound. Listen for the words with TH and focus on watching the speaker's face. Can you see the tongue placement between the teeth? Or, select a vowel sound you are working on, and try to notice every time you hear a word with that vowel. You can have a list of words with the vowel in front of you as you watch to help you with this.
Lastly, you can slow down the playback speed of YouTube videos. I recommend listening at 75% playback speed, because it's not so slow that it sounds really unnatural, but it's slow enough to hear pronunciation details that you may miss when listening at full speed. (See my video below for instructions on how to slow down a YouTube video.)
Using media to improve intonation
You can also use media for Intonation practice. Choose a character to imitate. Pause the video after each line they say, and try to use the same intonation pattern they did. Are you able to use pitch and vowel length on the stressed word? Did you convey emotion with your intonation pattern?
Use my Real Talk Videos (playlist below) to help you listen for intonation patterns as well as linking and reductions in fluent speech.
When we add s to make a plural, the voicing of the s (whether it says "s" or "z") depends on the voicing of the word. If the word ends with a voiceless sound (p, t, k, f), the s will be voiceless /s/. If the word ends with a voiced sound (b, d, g, v, r, w, m, n ng. l, vowels), the s will be voiced /z/. When the word ends with an s, z, sh, ch or j sound, we add the letters -es and pronounce an extra syllable "-ez"/əz/. Below you will find plurals for the most common nouns, sorted by voiced and voiceless sounds.
Words ending in voiceless sounds p, t, k, f. For these plurals, pronounce /s/.
Words ending in voiced sounds (b, d, g, v, r, w, m, n ng. l, vowels). For these plurals, pronounce/z/.
Words ending in s, z, sh, ch or j. Add -es, and pronounce an extra syllable -ez /əz/.
In today's lesson, we looked at the vowels /i/ and /ɪ/. These vowels are both high front vowels, and many non-native speakers have difficulty distinguishing these two vowels.
This may be because your native language has only one high front vowel, /i/.
The best way to work on these vowel sounds is to practice on the /ɪ/ vowel and establish a strong vowel /ɪ/, then work to make sure your /i/ vowel is distinct.
Vowel /ɪ/ is lax, which means the tongue and facial muscles are more relaxed for this vowel sound than for the tense /i/ vowel. The tongue is also slightly lower in the mouth than for the /i/ vowel, but this difference can be hard to feel.
Use the video below to work on these two vowels.
In day 21, we talked about anchor words for vowel sounds. For /i/, I use green leaf. For /ɪ/, I use pink pig.
To work on these vowels, practice common words for vowel /ɪ/:
Listen to and practice contrasts - minimal pairs, and mixed phrases:
When you are ready, add repeated phrase practice for vowel /ɪ/:
is it _____ ready, time, yours, mine
with the ____ group, computer, weather
did you ____ hear, say, know, talk
Use the videos below for even more practice.
In today's lesson, we looked at the accent error pattern of devoicing final consonants. This is one of the most common accent error patterns, and it affects words ending in the following consonants:
/d/ example, need sounds like neat
/z/ example, was sounds like wass
/g/ example, big sounds like bick
/b/ example, web sounds like wep
/dʒ/ example, edge sounds like etch
/v/ example, have sounds like half
To correct this error pattern, practice 2 word phrases, linking the final voiced consonant to the next word. Keep your voice going through the phrase, with little or no break between the words.
For example, try these phrases:
the edge of
the judge of
a bag of
a leg up
Today in the 30-Day Challenge we talked about American TH. You can use the playlist below to help you work on your TH sounds.
For most people, accent errors on TH result from incorrect placement and manner of articulation.
Your tongue should rest gently between your teeth, not behind them or pushing against them.
The air should flow and there should be a noisy friction sound. If you can't hold your th sound, you probably need to move your tongue and make sure that you are not blocking the air from flowing.
Use a mirror to help you see where you are placing your tongue as you try your TH sounds.
Practice on common words. Voiced TH /ð/:
Voiceless TH /θ/:
If words are too difficult at first., try syllables:
the thee thoo they thah though
eeth ooth ahth ehth ith oth
When you are comfortable using the American TH sound in words, move on to repeated phrase practice, for example:
those people, those shoes, those things, those words, etc.
with me, with him, with them, with the car, with the group, etc.
In today's lesson, we looked at how spelling can affect pronunciation. We talked about letters that can represent multiple sounds, like s (read more about how s say z here), vowel sounds, and letters that have "hidden sounds."
We looked at hidden sounds before final l, between vowels and letter x.
Here's some help with final L:
More Help for L:
Check out this video for hidden sounds between vowels:
In today's lesson, we reviewed the American English vowels. I suggested learning "anchor words," or words to help you remember the vowel sounds and have a basis for comparison for new words.
You can look up any word in the dictionary and see the IPA symbol to know what the vowel is. I recommend Merriam-Webster's Learners' Dictionary.
You might find it helpful to use these similar and minimal pair words to listen for the differences between vowels. Look at the vowel quadrangle below and listen to the recording of these words.
Today we talked about how to help Americans pronounce your name correctly.
Because your name may be unfamiliar to Americans, either in the sounds, the spelling, or both, it can be helpful to learn some ways to make the correct pronunciation clearer to an American.
Firstly, help your listener know where the syllables are in your name. For example, if your name is Beate, say it slowly with the syllables clearly delineated: Be- a -te
Next, make sure your listener understands the sounds in your name. So Beate might say: Bay -ah - tuh or show her listener the name spelled with the sounds in mind. Someone named Nguyen might say their name is like “new win.” Even though this is not exactly correct, it will help Americans approximate your name more accurately.
Lastly, you might try to pair your name with something more familiar to Americans. In the video below, the actress Saoirse Ronan tells Stephen Colbert that her name sounds like “inertia.” Not only does this help people say it correctly, it also will help them remember. People might be able to imitate your name correctly when they hear you say it, and then later they will forget how it sounded.
The video below is a humorous look at the Irish accent and pronouncing Irish names.
Today, we continued our discussion of difficult speaking situations. We talked about how to prepare for a job interview.
Practice what you might have to say ahead of the interview. Don't write it down and memorize it, but answer potential questions several times. Actually say it out loud, so you feel more comfortable when it's time to do so in the interview.
Record yourself practicing. Listen for your accent patterns. What words are difficult to say or to understand? Practice those words separately, and in short phrases.
For example, if you're in marketing, and you're talking about a project where you increased customer engagement, practice "customer" and "customer engagement" and "increased customer engagement," etc.
Come prepared to do some small talk. If you need help with understanding what it is, why you should do it, and how, take a look at the video and links below:
Today we looked at difficult speaking situations. We talked about giving information over the phone.
To learn more about spelling over the phone (eg, giving name, address, or email), view the video below:
To practice giving numbers over the phone, consider writing out the numbers you need to say and looking at the sounds in the words. Check for your accent patterns - are there numbers which might be difficult for you to day because they have a th sound? An R? A vowel error pattern?
Practice saying your number aloud. Record yourself, and listen to the recording. Do you hear any accent error patterns?
Be proactive, by practicing, and by asking for confirmation in the call. After you give your number, ask the person to repeat it back to you to make sure they have the information correct.
In today's lesson, we looked at how to practice using pitch in intonation.
Many speakers tend to use their lowest pitch while speaking, which not a good idea for sounding American and being well understood. Use a medium pitch for your home base.
Rise up in pitch to stress, words, and fall off in pitch to end thought groups.
Try practicing pitch for statements and questions, without using any words. Try it using numbers for pitches:
1 for low, 2 for medium, 3 for high.
In a typical statement - we rise to the stressed word then fall off to end.
For example, try saying "I want it."
I want it is medium, high, low
2 - 3 - 1
Other phrases with this pattern:
I want it.
I like it.
He needs you.
Now try saying "I don't want to do that"
2 -2 -2 -2 -3 - 1
We use the same basic pattern of medium pitch, then rising and falling on the stressed word near the end.
We also speak faster on the unstressed part of the phrase, and stretch out the stressed word.
2222 -3 -1
I don’t want to d o that.
I think I can m a k e it.
I told her to c a l l me.
We need that length on the stressed word, because sometimes it has 2 pitches if it’s the last word in the sentence. For example, try saying "I don’t know."
2 2 3-1
I don’t k n o w.
Know has the both the rise to stress it and the fall to show the thought is finished.
k n o w
Other examples for this pattern:
I can’t g o .
It will h a p p e n.
He’ll c a l l.
If you have difficulty with these pitch changes, try just doing the numbers.
Then add some sentences.
Then listen for what you hear in a sentence. Can you hear the pitch rise and fall? Can you think of another sentence with the same pattern?
In today's lesson, we talked about intonation and how we convey meaning using word stress. The words in a sentence can stay the same, but if we change which word is stressed, we change the meaning. We stress words using pitch and vowel length.
Practice lengthening your stressed word:
I’m going to g - o- .
I w - a - n - t to.
I like the b - l - u - e one.
Where a - r - e you?
You can also use repeated phrase practice for intonation practice, as we typically stress the word we’re filling in:
I was _______, the word we fill in to the blank is stressed.
I was w a l k i n g,
I was l a t e.
I was h a p p y.
I was c a l l i n g.
Those p e o p l e, those s h o e s, those c a l l s, those g r o c e r i e s
Are you _____?
Are you s u r e? Are you c o m i n g? Are you t h e r e? Are you b u s y?
In today's class, we talked about voiceless stops in word-initial position (/p/, /t/ and /k/). A common error pattern for many speakers is to say these sounds as unaspirated sounds, which means saying the sound without the release of air. We see this especially in those speakers whose native languages are Arabic, Indian English (including Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Malayalam), Polish, Czech, Urdu, French, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Tagalog, Vietnamese or Yoruba.
To check if you have this pattern, you can try saying some words with your hand in front of your mouth to see if you feel the air releasing.
people, put, park
table, totally, take
kid, capable, could
To change this accent pattern, try practicing on common words with these sounds:
put, point, past, please, project, program
take, talk, today, try, ten, text
can, come, could, keep, car, call
For even more practice, consider a free trial of one of our online courses.
Today we talked about the low front unrounded vowel, /æ/. This is the vowel in the words have, had, sad, that, etc..
You might find it helpful to see if you have this vowel in your native language. Check the chart on this wikipedia link.
Common error patterns for this vowel are the tongue being too high (sounds like/ɛ/) or the tongue being too far back (sounds like /ɑ/). So "had" would sound like "head" (tongue too high) or "bad" would sound like "bod" (tongue too far back).
Practice this vowel on some common words:
Now, try some repeated phrases:
that man, that time, that thing, that email, that day
have a friend, have a meeting, have a lunch, have a few things
Check your vowel with some minimal pairs:
Today we talked about pronouncing past tense verbs.
When the verb ends in a voiceless sound (p, t, k, s, ch, sh)
"ed" says /t/. For example,
When the verb ends in voiced sounds, in other words a vowel or a voiced consonant
(b, g, v, z, r, w, j, m, n, ng, l)
"ed" says /d. For example,
When the verb ends in t or d,
"-ed" adds a syllable, /ɪd. For example,
Get practice recordings for common past tense words here.
In today's lesson, we looked at 3 examples of accent error patterns which result in problem communication.
First, we talked about the vowel "o." When you use the vowel /o/ from your native language, it is a short sound, and you can sound abrupt, rude or irritated when you are merely saying "no." To avoid this problem, lengthen your o and use the American diphthong /oʊ/. Want more help with this? Check out this video.
Next we talked about the pattern of stopping the "th" sound. This happens when you have your tongue behind your teeth and/or you don't allow the air to flow for a fricative "th" sound. The problem word we identified for this pattern is the word "third." If you stop the "th" in "third," it sounds like you are saying "turd." Find more help for TH on our playlist.
Lastly, we talked about using the correct word stress in phrases (stressing the last content word - noun, verb or adjective.). We used the example "I don't know," and pointed out that if you stress "don't" rather than "know," it sounds like you are correctly someone who said you do know. You can see more about this phrase in the video for that specific phrase, here.
In today's class, we talked about the manner of articulation, which is what we are doing with the shapes of our articulators (tongue, lips) to the airflow to create sound.
Stops: we stop the air, building up pressure,then release
Fricatives: we close off the air enough to make a noisy friction sound
Affricates: we stop, then release with a fricative
Nasals: we close off all the air so it can't release from the mouth, instead it goes through the nose
Liquids: we close off the air without enough to make a friction sound
Glides: we move from one articulation to another quickly, almost like 2 vowels together
Flap: we stop the air briefly but without building up any pressure
Try some words:
Stops: top, dog
Fricatives: fifth, she’s, vision
Affricates: judge, each, edge, chop
Liquids: really, rare,
Glides, why, you
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