Monday, December 26, 2011

Pronunciation -- Short "a" In Sentences

The English short a sound does not exist in Korean. As a result, Koreans pronounce words like  "sand" and "send" identically. In English, however, they are different sounds.


To pronounce the short "a" sound correctly, use the diagram below. Slide back and forth slowly between "Den" and "Dawn." The correct pronunciation for "Dan" is in the middle. You'll probably need to drop your jaw and tongue down a little bit to get it just right. Practice using the sentences that follow.


Where is my hat?

He sat down.

I met Matt today.

He said he's sad.

Dan slept in a bad bed.

Jim is a man among men.

That house has a fancy fence.

Pat fed his fat pet rat.

Ned had said that Fred's red backpack is heavy.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pronunciation Practice -- TH In Sentences

TH is another sound that is not found in Korean. To make a proper TH sound:

  • Your tongue should go between your teeth.
  • You should NOT stop your air.
  • Do not make an S sound or a D sound.


The following sentences will help you develop your TH pronunciation. As always:

1. Practice them until they are easy.
2. Don't practice them wrong; make corrections as you go.
3. Apply what you learn to English Every Day.


Who are they?

What is this?

I think so.

I thought about you.

"What is this thing?" he thought.

They saw more than we did.

Does the path go through the tunnel?

They bothered the teacher.

At three-thirty they will go to the theater.

They'll do the deal this month.

They thought of those three things themselves last Thursday.

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Pronunciation Practice -- V And F In Sentences

V and F are not natural sounds for Koreans. They are actually not hard to pronounce all by themselves. (See this post for a review of V and some others.)  The problem is even harder when V and F are mixed with B and P in a sentence. People get confused and start switching B for V and P for F.

The only solution to this is to practice it (with frequent correction) until it's natural. The following drills will help. Remember:

1. Practice them until they are easy.
2. Don't practice them wrong; make corrections as you go.
3. Apply what you learn to English Every Day.


Bill is a very big guy.

I'm tired of Peter.

First let's find Pamela's father.

Paul's feet are bigger than Victor's feet.

Are Park family vacations fun or boring?

Veronica Brown's favorite person is Peter Finkle.

Pam Foster carved fifteen pumpkins for the Halloween party.

Bobby Vick yelled, "Bravo!" for Valerie Beck's fantastic performance.

Fivprivate, very valuable banks failed in November.

Ben Farve caught a five-pound bass in Frank Porter's fish pond.

The brave pilot flew very fast, fearlessly veering past the volcano's fireballs to save his friends.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Understanding Pronunciation

In English every child learns the saying, "Practice makes perfect." We hear it during piano lessons and baseball practice. There's a problem, though: it's not true!

Years ago I heard the founder of Franklin-Covey say it differently. "Practice makes permanent," he said. If you practice something incorrectly enough times, it will become a bad habit. (This is why I quit playing golf.)

Many Koreans have this problem. They have used Konglish pronunciation thousands of times. They have permanently bad pronunciation.

The solution is to stop repeating and start thinking. To improve your pronunciation, you have to understand what your mouth is doing. It is a little weird at first, but it will actually help you fix your pronunciation.

Do NOT memorize this material. Explore what your tongue, teeth, lips, and your voice do when you speak. You'll gain understanding. It will enable you to solve your own pronunciation problems. The best English speakers don't memorize--they think.

(This lesson will only cover consonants. You can find more pronunciation posts here.)


You make consonants by blocking your air, using:

  • your teeth
  • your tongue
  • your lips
  • a combination of the above

Your job is to figure out which. You also need to figure out whether the consonant uses voice, uses no voice, or is nasal.

Hint: Start with consonants formed by your lips.

Good luck! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Use the consonants here:

to fill in the blanks here:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 4S Rule: Double Your Speaking Ability Instantly

By following the 4S rule, you can double your speaking ability right now. You don't need any new vocabulary. You don't need to fix pronunciation. You don't need better grammar. All you need to do is follow the 4S rule, which we'll now describe. First, try to understand this sentence.
Confusing, isn't it? Well, your English might sound like that. Let's take a closer look at the sentence. We'll see how to double our speaking ability without learning any new English:

1. Slow

Let's slow down a bit:
Speaking English um too fast makes um it hard um for people to um understand you.
See how we made it cleaner just by separating the words clearly? The same thing happens when you speak. Already you have improved. Why does this work?

It has to do with how we hear language. When you hear a foreign language, you don't know when one word ends and the next word starts. It just sounds like noise. The same thing may happen when you speak English. People will have a hard time hearing the boundaries between your words. You can make this much easier by just slowing down!

2. Short

The next way to improve your speaking is to keep it short. How do you do that? By splitting a sentence into phrases that you can handle:
Speaking English too fast um
makes it hard um
for people to understand you.
Now we have three small phrases. Each phrase by itself is easy for you. Notice that there is still one problem. Between the phrases we still have "um." "Um" is very distracting. It takes all the attention from the real words. Replace it with silence. This might feel strange to you, but a 2-second pause is absolutely fine. It sounds intelligent, unlike "um." In fact, broadcasters use pauses frequently. (The also talk much more slowly!) Try saying the sentence this way:

Speaking English too fast
makes it hard
for people to understand you.
This sentence will sound much better to the listener.

3. Stress

Look at the sentence again:
Speaking English too fast makes it hard for people to understand you.
The bold words are the important words in the sentence. If you only say, "Speak English fast hard understand," people will probably know what you mean. So what should you do? Stress those words. Make them strong, slow, and clear. Make them stand out from the other words.

4. Simple

In most cases, you can probably find a short cut to make the sentence simpler. One way is to cut it into two sentences. This reduces the grammatical complexity of the sentence. For example, we can simplify
Speaking English too fast makes it hard for people to understand you.
by doing this:
Don't speak English fast. People can't understand you.
We eliminated 33% of the words. We also eliminated "makes it," "for," and "to," which means we don't have to think as hard. The second version is much simpler. You will speak more comfortably as a result. People will be able to understand you better.

So that is the 4S rule. If you follow it, your clarity will improve by 100% instantly. Give it a try!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Moment Mentoring

Academies and tutors have 3 common problems:
  • They do not directly apply to your real-life situations.
  • The time between class and actual situations is too long.
  • Scheduling conflicts cause you to miss your classes.
Moment mentoring improves on this by focusing on what's happening in real time. Simply stated, before you start a conversation, or immediately after finishing one, you call your coach and discuss what happened.

These Moment Mentoring situations should last about 5-10 minutes. They should only cover 1 topic (or in some situations, maybe 2). The purpose is to resolve something that you can immediately commit to memory because it is important to you right now.

This is an important aspect of your English Every Day plan, and should be done in conjunction with a journal or other note taking.

While your Critical Focus will not change much in the short term, your English Every Day plan should be flexible and adapt to today's situations. This is part of the customization that will empower you to succeed. It should not become a repetitive exercise.

Providing you with Moment Mentoring is an important key to success. It is a core piece of our Executive English Coaching mission.

English Every Day Plan

The most important piece of a plan to learn English is speaking every day. Meeting with a tutor, attending an academy, and reading books will not work as well as speaking every day. The ideal situation would be to live abroad for a year or two. If that isn't possible, then you have to find a way to speak English as part of your daily routine.

Some components of an English Every Day plan include:
  • meetings with foreigners
  • role playing with peers
  • listening to English media
  • keeping a journal of questions, ideas, vocabulary, and lessons learned
Your goal should be to spend at least 1-2 hours each weekday conversing in English. These conversations should support your Critical Focus. You should have a few goals for each conversation, including:
  • implementing things that you learned recently
  • learning something new
  • documenting the conversation for review and improvement
  • when possible, having Moment Mentoring
By doing this every day, your English ability will improve much faster than by simply repeating the words of an instructor or by having random "free talking."

Helping you to create and maintain an English Every Day plan is a core part of our Executive English Coaching mission.

Critical Focus

To be effective in your English practice, you must focus your efforts. Learning how to order food, how to talk to a taxi driver, or how to book a hotel room is unnecessary. These things always work out.

Instead, you must narrow your focus. Your goal should be to practice the 1% of English that will help you to accomplish your objective. (If you don't have an objective, maybe you should not be learning English. See "How can I learn English: 5 Dos and 5 Don'ts.")

That 1% of English will determine whether you succeed or fail. We call it your "Critical Focus."

The concept of Critical Focus helps explain why so many people don't benefit from academies and tutors. The material does not apply to their objective. It's irrelevant.

Your Critical Focus will only include the people or scenarios that you deal with most often--daily if possible. Finding your Critical Focus will help you succeed in the following ways:

1. It will enable you to use what you practice.
2. It will allow you naturally to repeat and improve what you learn.
3. It will help you maintain context.
4. It will be relevant and interesting.

How do you define your critical focus? Here are some guidelines:

1. If you regularly deal with only two or three important native speakers, focus on conversations with them.
2. If you deal with many people, but usually about the same topics, focus on those topics.
3. If your pronunciation is not good, focus on fixing it quickly. Fix one pronunciation at a time.
4. If your objective is presentations or performances (not conversation) then don't practice conversation--focus on pronunciation, intonation, and body language.

Of course, helping you develop your Critical Focus is a core feature of our Executive English Coaching mission.

Friday, November 4, 2011

4 Ways to Focus Your English Study

One fantastic way to improve your English learning is to focus your efforts. Don't to be fluent; try to be effective. You can be effective by carefully selecting what you will study. Doing so will increase the benefit of every study hour. At an academy, people with different goals learn the same material. That is not effective. A student, a lawyer, a vocalist, and a CEO have different reasons to study. Their approaches should be different, too.

Here are some focusing tips to make your study time more valuable:

1. Identify your goal. Why are you trying to learn English? Are you going to move to California? Do you need to give presentations to foreign executives? Are you an actor or singer with a few lines of English to record? Decide what your specific need is. Tailor your program accordingly.

2. Practice only what you need. If you are going to act in a scene with a few English lines, spend your time perfecting pronunciation for those lines. If you are going to do a Power Point presentation, focus on the most important words and phrases. Don't waste time learning how to order food or to buy train tickets.

3. Find materials that match your goal. If you're a defense attorney, watch American TV shows that focus on trials and negotiations. If you're a business man, watch YouTube videos about public speaking. If you're a actor with an English-speaking scene, find similar scenes from American TV shows or movies.

4. Keep it short. Focus on getting your point across in the fewest words possible. Get rid of any unnecessary words and sentences so that you don't have to waste time practicing them. This is considered a valuable skill even for native speakers.

By focusing your efforts, you will improve your communication and your image. Even if your goal is fluency, you still have to start somewhere. Start with the most useful things, and do them well. Be effective.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2 Birds With One Stone: Z and V

Some English consonants come in pairs and are formed identically. A good example is "s" and "z." These consonants are both formed by touching top and bottom teeth together.

What's the difference then?

The difference is whether the consonant is voiced (유음) or unvoiced (무음). Let's see how this works for S and Z, as well as for F and V.

S and Z

Koreans usually pronounce the "z" sound like a "j." For instance, you might see the word "zoo" and say "주," which would sound like "joo." To a native English speaker, this would not make sense.

To overcome this habit, try these steps:

  • Pronounce the letter "s" for 3 seconds.
  • After the first second, add your voice.
  • Be sure that you don't add a "ㅈ."
  • Be sure that you don't stop making the "s" sound when you add your voice.

If you did that right, you're making the "z" sound. Now experiment with words like zoo, cozy, and fuzz. Try them 20 times each per day until you can pronounce them perfectly.

F and V

Of course you need to be able to pronounce F before you can pronounce V. It's actually really simple. While exhaling, pull your bottom lip back until it touches your (top) teeth. Don't let it touch your top lip! Once you can say "fine fan" easily, you're ready to try V.

To pronounce the "v" sound, do the same exercise you did with S and Z:

  • Pronounce the letter "f" for 3 seconds.
  • After the first second, add your voice.
  • Be sure that you don't add a "ㅍ" or a "ㅂ."
  • Be sure that you don't stop making the "f" sound when you add your voice.
Now try saying "fine face" and "vine vase," making small adjustments until it's just right.


If you're ambitious, you should know that "th" has an unvoiced sound (like in "think") and a voiced sound (like in "this").  If you can pronounce the word "think" correctly, then the exercises above will help you figure out how to pronounce "this."