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Confident Speech Tips

“Too soon” and “good book” vowels

Here are two vowel sounds that are often confused by people whose first language is not English:  the too soon vowel (as in “moon,” “tooth,” and “blue”) and the good book vowel (as in “look,” “foot,” and “put.”).

Most people can easily hear the difference, but it can be difficult sometimes to know when and how to pronounce the two sounds correctly.

Do you want to learn more?  Take 4 minutes to watch the video!

4-minute lesson

Information questions in English.

Information questions often begin with words like who, what, where, why, how, and when. For information questions, the voice begins and ends low. The voice jumps higher on a key word in the question.

Short video on information questions

Yes/No questions in English

For yes/no questions, the voice rises at the end of the question.

Watch the video tutorial

English voice pattern for lists and series

In English, we need to use a special voice pattern when we say a list or series. The voice rises on each item, until the final item. On the final item, the voice rises, than falls.

Watch the video

Tag questions in English

“You could use some help, couldn’t you?”  The sentence ends with a tag question. Both the form and the voice intonation of a tag question need to follow certain patterns. See the 2-minute video on tag questions! 

Correct pronunciation of mortgage

Like many words in English, mortgage is not pronounced the way you might expect. Learn how to pronounce this word correctly. You might be surprised!

Watch the short video!

Initialisms: Use the right voice

Initialisms are abbreviations in which we say the first letter of each word.  Examples are:  NPR, the AMA, and M.D. 

Learn the English voice pattern for saying initialisms!.

Watch the brief video

More than one pronunciation

You sometimes have a choice! Many words have more than one accepted pronunciation. Sometimes, pronunciation varies from region to region. Other times, it’s simply a personal preference. Do you pronounce the first syllable of data as "date," or does it rhyme with "cat?" Do you pronounce finance with the stress on the first syllable or on the second syllable?

See the 3-minute video: "Words with More than One Pronunciation"

The "Black Cat" vowel

The vowel sound in "black cat" is a singularly English sound. (We often also call it the "fat cat" vowel.) When we say this sound, the body of the tongue is flat, low, and forward in the mouth. If you take a Confident Speech accent program, you’ll master this sound! Your English pronunciation will be clearer and easier to understand

Watch the 90-second video

Diphthongs: The right vowel for a “Great Day!”

As all our trainees know, we use nicknames for each of the vowel sounds. “Great Day” is the nickname we use for one of the English vowels. It is a diphthong, and English is a language with many diphthongs. A diphthong is a single gliding sound consisting of two vowels. Both words of the expression "great day" are said with the diphthong [ei]. The vowel in each word glides from [e] to [i].

Mastering your diphthong pronunciations is one of the keys to clear English speech!

Watch the 90-second video

Pointers for “value,” “valuation,” and “evaluation”

These three words are difficult for many of our clients to pronounce. But they are easy…once you know the 5 secrets of pronouncing value, valuation, and evaluation.

Watch the video on value, valuation, and evaluation

Mastering the various pronunciations of “use”

The pronunciation of “use” differs, depending on whether it is a noun or a verb. The idiom “used to” has its own special pronunciation. Make sure you know the right pronunciations.

Watch the video tutorial on “use”.

How should you say vacation?

July and August are months when many people take a vacation. How do you pronounce the word vacation? Here's the answer...

Place names to pronounce correctly

You may be surprised! English speakers frequently pronounce names of places in ways you might not expect. For example, the first syllable of Greenwich rhymes with "ten." The "w" is not pronounced at all!

Click to hear 22 place names you should never mispronounce.

Two vowels: "Lucky Mother" and "Honest Father"

"Lucky Mother" and "Honest Father" are nicknames for two very important vowel sounds in English!  The "Lucky Mother" vowel is in words like "cut," "bump," and "month." The "Honest Father" vowel is in words like "pot," "shock," “palm,” and "mop."  Master the correct pronunciation these vowels!

Watch the video on "Lucky Mother" and "Honest Father" vowels.

Perfect “L” in English

The /l/ sound is often difficult for speakers mastering English pronunciation. Some speakers confuse /l/ with /r/. The key to pronouncing /l/ correctly is in the positioning of the tongue and lips.

Watch the 2-minute tutorial!

How to pronounce “what,” “when,” “where,” “why”

Do you ever wonder how to pronounce words like “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why?” Watch our video to find out how most speakers in the 21st century pronounce these words! 

3-minute video on “what,” “when,” “where”         

It starts with the letter “H”

With almost all words that begin with the letter “h,” we should clearly hear the sound [h].  However, there are some exceptions.  Sometimes, the letter “h” must not be pronounced at all.  What are these exceptions? What are the mainstream regional variations? See the brief video.

There’s no “express” in “espresso”

Espresso is not spelled with the letter x. Nor should the first two syllables sound like the English word “express.” Hear the correct pronunciation of espresso and two similar words.

Watch the 90-second video! 

Correct pronunciation of iron

Many people are surprised to discover the correct pronunciation of iron.  If you have been saying this word the way it is written, you are likely pronouncing it incorrectly!

30-second lesson on pronouncing "iron". 

[v] vs. [w]

If English is not your mother tongue, you may need to make a clearer difference between the two sounds [v] and [w].

  • [v] is a fricative.
  • [w] is a semivowel.

There are similarities and differences between these two sounds. How can you make sure you are saying them correctly?

Watch 3-minute video on v and w

Why do people speak with an accent?

What is an accent? Accent refers to differences we notice in how people speak. We notice differences in the way people speak a language that is not their native language.  We also hear differences among native speakers.  Why do people speak with different accents? Watch the brief video!

Varying voice pitch in English

English speakers have a special way of going up and down with their voices. At Confident Speech, we have found that this is one of the easiest improvements that can be made by people who learned English as a second language. What a tremendous difference it makes in the way you sound!

What is the key to varying pitch in English? Click to find out!

Unexpected pronunciation patterns

If you learned English as a second language you may have learned many new words by reading them. You may or may not know how to say the words correctly.

These words follow an expected pattern of pronunciation:
stove, drove, cove, clove, grove

The words below, however, do not follow that pattern:
love, above, dove, move

Learn about these and other unexpected pronunciations that you will want to be aware of.

Watch the 3-minute video.

Maintaining a healthy voice

Your voice is crucial in communicating. Use your voice to your best advantage, and take good care of it, so it will last a lifetime! Click on each of the following links for a wealth of practical suggestions!

3-minute video: Healthy voice

Why is the English /r/ so difficult?

The /r/ sound, as we say it in English, can be a challenge to pronounce correctly.  Here is the secret to mastering /r/ in English. In English, the /r/ is much more like a vowel. You should not feel any contact of the tongue with top of your mouth.

3-minute video on English /r/.

Know your allophones!

What are allophones? They are all the variants of a particular sound or phoneme. Native speakers of a language use the correct ones automatically in just the right places!

Click to see our 3-minute video on allophones!

Effective speakers are like good hosts

When you speak, think of it as a party.  You are the host.  Your listeners are the “guests.”  Try to make the “party” an informative experience that is comfortable for your guests.

10 ways to be a "good host" when you speak

Speaking too fast?

Do you speak too rapidly? Is it hard for people to understand you?

A lot of people are afraid that they will sound unnatural if they slow down. Others simply don’t know how to do it!

Slowing down: 2-minute video

How do you pronounce often?

Is it better to pronounce often with or without the t-sound?  You will hear it pronounced both ways, but one pronunciation still predominates.  Are you wondering which pronunciation is better?  Click to watch our 3-minute video about often.