**Course updated on May 4th, 2017**
"I created this course with a special focus on Spanish native speakers because: 1) I speak this language and have a deep understanding of the challenges Hispanophones face when learning the sounds and sound patterns of English, and 2) As a therapist, I believe that learning should be individualized for each student, and so I wanted to make the course more targeted by focusing on Spanish speakers.
If you speak another language as your first language and are not sure if this course could be helpful to you, please send me a message and I will be happy to answer any questions and direct to you to parts of the course that would be of most interest to you."
Have you worked hard to learn the English language? Are you frustrated that people sometimes have trouble understanding you when you speak? Would you like to feel more confident speaking English?
In this course, you will learn to how to pronounce the consonant and vowel sounds of English like a native English speaker. You will also learn helpful tips about emphasis patterns in words, which can have a significant impact on your accent. Finally, you will be given concrete ideas for how to apply your new knowledge; how to find practice partners (in person or online) and how to create simple daily habits to solidify what you’ve learned.
This course will take you less than 2 hours to complete, but it is recommended that you break it up into sections and practice the material from each section a few times before moving to the next section to receive the full benefits of what is taught in this course.
Are you ready to improve your English pronunciation so that you can communicate clearly and effectively at work, at school and in your relationships?
This lecture outlines some of the struggles you may face when learning a second language and the reasons for taking this course on English pronunciation.
Curious to know more about your instructor and her qualifications? Let me introduce myself! As students, I encourage you to get to know each other too - feel free to introduce yourselves in the Q&A section of the course by giving your first name, your country/city of origin, and what you hope to get out of this course.
This lecture outlines the different sections of the course.
In this lecture, you'll learn why pronunciation is often one of the hardest parts of a language to master (for second language learners), based on research that has been done with babies.
Even though pronunciation of a new language can be hard to master as an adult, research shows that being exposed to the language for several hours a day can help you improve your pronunciation.
Click on the course links for this lecture for an excellent resource, which is a practical, easy-to-follow guide to the pronunciation of American English.
This video from My Fair Lady illustrates the importance of teaching pronunciation one step at a time, starting with the sound by itself or in a syllable, instead of trying to pronounce the sound correctly in the context of a full sentence. In this lecture, you'll also learn about a few simple ways to train your ear to better hear the sounds of English (for example, by watching TV!).
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a very useful tool; it describes all the sounds of the world's languages with symbols that are transparent (i.e. one symbol = one sound). In written language (especially in English), one sound can be written in a number of different ways (e.g. in the word 'cake', there are two /k/ sounds, one written as 'c' and the other as 'k'), OR one written symbol might be pronounced in several different ways (e.g. the 'a' in 'face', 'bat' and 'hall' is pronounced differently in each word). The IPA removes this confusion. Spend some time watching the videos in the course links for this lecture and familiarize yourself with the consonant chart. As you work through this course, feel free to come back to these links as needed.
S-blends (or the S sound + another consonant) are particularly challenging for Spanish native speakers as the Spanish language does not allow this type of sound combination within a syllable. Learn how to pronounce words with S-blends like a native English speaker (e.g. special, star, skate), instead of how a ESSSpanish speaker might be tempted to pronounce them :)
The TH sounds are problematic for many English-as-a-second-language learners as these sounds do not exist in many of the world's languages (including Spanish, French, Italian, Punjabi, Urdu.. the list goes on!). Learn how to pronounce the voiced TH which appears often in English (e.g. the, they, there, that, them, this), and the voiceless TH (e.g. think, thought, teeth, with).
Spanish speakers will often have difficulties pronouncing the SH sound because it does not occur in native Spanish words. As a result, Spanish speakers will often use the CH sound instead of the SH sound, which can create listener confusion (e.g. did you mean 'cheap' or 'sheep'?', are you trying to say 'chip' or 'ship'?).
In this video example, you'll see Sofia Vergara, the Colombian actress, interacting with Ellen Degeneres, who teases Sofia about her pronunciation of the J sound. Watch carefully as Sofia pronounces the J sound as a Y sound. Do you do the same thing when you speak? Lectures 12 and 13 will be particularly relevant for Spanish speakers from South America, especially Colombia.
Please refer to the description for Lecture 12.
Learn how to correctly pronounce the B and V sounds. Spanish speakers will often confuse these sounds. People of many other backgrounds may have difficulty with the V sound because it does not exist in their native language (e.g. Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines).
The English R is found in a few of the world's languages, but is often difficult for English-as-a-second-language speakers to pronounce because they will often substitute a sound from their own language that most resembles the English R (a flap, a trill, a retroflex, etc.). Feel free to go back to the IPA lecture (Section 2, Lecture 8) for audiovisual demonstrations of what is going on in the mouth when the R sound is made.
Learn how to make the H sound, which is absent from languages like Spanish and French. Feel free to go back to Section 2, Lecture 7 to watch Eliza Doolittle learn to pronounce the H sound (which doesn't exist in her cockney dialect of British English).
In some languages, like Bengali and Hawaiian, consonant clusters (i.e. two or more consonant sounds side-by-side) are forbidden. Other languages, like Japanese, only allow a few types of consonant clusters. Since English allows more consonant cluster types, it is important to pay attention to all the consonants in a word when learning to speak English.
This lecture gives a quick overview of all of the vowel sounds of English (and contrasts them with Spanish vowels). For more practice with English vowels, go back to the IPA resources in Section 2, Lecture 8.
/ ɪ / and / i / are both high front vowels, but are often confused. Pay attention to the difference between these sounds (e.g. the / ɪ / sound is lax, whereas the / i / sound is tense).
/ ɛ / and / e / are both mid front vowels, but are often confused. Pay attention to the difference between these sounds (e.g. the / ɛ / sound is lax, whereas the / e / sound is tense).
Learn how to pronounce these three back vowels in English: / ʌ /, / ʊ / and / u /.
Learn how to pronounce these three low vowels in English: / æ /, / ɑ / and / a /.
Learn about diphthongs, which are made up of two vowel sounds in a row.
Now that you've mastered the consonant and vowel sounds of English, it's time to learn about syllable stress. Putting the right emphasis on each syllable can have a big impact on how well other people understand you when you speak.
Stress can be complicated, but learning a few general rules can go a long way. Click on the course links to test your knowledge of the stress patterns of English.
The video in this lecture shows Benny, the Irish polyglot (one who speaks many languages), explaining how easy it is in today's world to find conversational partners to help you learn a new language from the comfort of your own home. In the course links, you'll find some websites where you can find native English speakers who can help you to perfect your English language and pronunciation skills.
No true change happens without commitment! It is not enough to simply watch this course. If you really want to sound more like a native English speaker, you need to make changes to your daily life - habits that will help you incorporate what you've learned into your daily routine. Feel free to share your practice tips on the Q&A board to inspire others and hold yourself accountable to your goals.
This lecture will give you some ideas about how to improve your vocabulary and grammar skills in English - from the user-friendly app Duolingo to more old-school methods, like reading and carrying around a pocket-sized dictionary)
Some final words to wrap-up this course. Attached, you'll find a PDF version of all the course slides and the bibliography.
TH sound story practice
As a Speech-Language Pathologist (aka Speech Therapist), I work daily to teach people to speak clearly so that they can be easily understood by others. I understand the importance of communication in all aspects of our lives. When it is done well, communication can enrich our relationships with others, so that we can inform, inspire and connect with people on a deeper level.
I love to travel and have a special interest in the Spanish language; my partner is Colombian and I have had wonderful experiences traveling to South America, including a placement in a small village in Peru where I taught English at a local school. Whenever I travel to a new country, I make efforts try to learn some words and expressions in the local language. These experiences have taught me a lot about how we learn a new language, and specifically how to effectively learn the sounds or pronunciation of the language.