Welcome To My Blog

Hi I’m Jonathan, thanks for visiting my website. I’m an American. I speak standard American English with a neutral accent. I teach English to intermediate and advanced students across the world with the convenience of Skype. I can help you practice speaking English to improve your fluency. I correct grammatical mistakes and suggest more natural sounding phrases and vocabulary.

My students often ask for help with pronunciation, so pronunciation and accent reduction have become my specialty.

My lessons are informal, I don’t use a textbook.

I’ve been able to observe my students becoming more fluent and making big improvements in pronunciation. Download my ebook of pronunciation exercises for free, read some blog entries on tips to improve your English, and book a lesson with me.

Free Ebook, Pronunciation Exercises

To book a lesson with me:

English lessons

Intonation and Sentence Stress

English has a melody and a rhythm. To sound like an American and be easily understood, you’ll need to learn the melody and rhythm of English. Also this melody and rhythm changes depending on the situation, for example a statement can be made into a question using intonation, and emotion is often expressed with intonation.

If you sing or play a musical instrument this will be easy for you. I also think it will be easy for speakers of Latin and Germanic languages. But having (supposedly) no musical ability isn’t a reason not to try learning the music of English; there are Americans who think they have no musical abilities, no sense of pitch or rhythm, and in fact they might not be able to carry a tune (sing on pitch); but they speak English with perfect intonation and rhythm. (Most Americans aren’t even aware of how musical spoken English is.)

The important thing to focus on is sentence stress; which words in a sentence or phrase get stressed. Stressed words are louder and higher in pitch.

As would be expected, the words that get stressed are the important words. These are the content words; if you remove a content word from a sentence, you’ll be missing something essential. Nouns, primary verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and negative words (can’t, wouldn’t, don’t) get stress. Think of stressed words as words that need to be heard clearly. Consider, for example, that at least nine out of ten times, numbers get stress. Also, stress is used when clarifying or specifying. For example: “Are the violets red?” “No, the roses are red.” The most stressed word in the second sentence is “roses.” Obviously, intonation can only be heard. But it’s important enough that when writing, bold and italic fonts are used on some words, in addition to emoticons, as ways to communicate what would normally be indicated by intonation.

In a sentence, words vary in stress. For example, consider this sentence: “As you know I flew with this man Striker during the war.” The words that are stressed the most are Striker and war; you, know, and flew also receive stress.

You can listen to that sentence here:


There are usually a couple different ways of saying the intonation of a phrase without a significant change in what is being expressed; so if you say something differently than how you hear a native speaker say it, your intonation might still be correct.

Listen to American speech, and copy it. First, ignore the words, and just say “la” for each syllable, like you’re singing. It might be easier to hear the melody in female voices. Here’s a video to start with, this one has lots of questions:


Flap T

Often in ordinary American speech the T sounds like a D. This happens when the T is after a vowel or an R, and before an unstressed vowel. It also happens in some other cases. It’s optional to use the flap T, but sounds much more natural than a regular T.

These pairs of words sound the same in ordinary American speech:

catty caddy

latter ladder

waiter wader

waited waded

fated faded

Examples of words where the T is usually pronounced like a D:








Sometimes the next word changes a stop T to a flap T, for example:

“What” Here, “what” ends in a stop T

“What about” Here, “what” ends in a flap T, and “about” ends in a stop T

“What about it” Here, “what” ends in a flap T, “about” ends in a flap T and “it” ends in a stop T

See if you can find the flap Ts in this text (The answers are at the bottom):

Ball Lightning, from Wikipedia:

British occultist Aleister Crowley reported witnessing what he referred to as “globular electricity” during a thunderstorm on Lake Pasquaney in New Hampshire in 1916. He was sheltered in a small cottage when he “noticed, with what I can only describe as calm amazement, that a dazzling globe of electric fire, apparently between six and twelve inches (15–30 cm) in diameter, was stationary about six inches below and to the right of my right knee. As I looked at it, it exploded with a sharp report quite impossible to confuse with the continuous turmoil of the lightning, thunder and hail, or that of the lashed water and smashed wood which was creating a pandemonium outside the cottage. I felt a very slight shock in the middle of my right hand, which was closer to the globe than any other part of my body.”

R.C. Jennison

Jennison, of the Electronics Laboratory at the University of Kent, described his own observation of ball lightning:

I was seated near the front of the passenger cabin of an all-metal airliner (Eastern Airlines Flight EA 539) on a late night flight from New York to Washington. The aircraft encountered an electrical storm during which it was enveloped in a sudden bright and loud electrical discharge (0005 h EST, March 19, 1963). Some seconds after this a glowing sphere a little more than 20 cm in diameter emerged from the pilot’s cabin and passed down the aisle of the aircraft approximately 50 cm from me, maintaining the same height and course for the whole distance over which it could be observed.

Here are the words that have a flap T, in the order they appear in the text:

British, reported, electricity, cottage, noticed, what, that, 15, 30, cm, diameter, at, it, quite, that, water, creating, cottage, part

University, seated, metal, 539, Washington, 1963, little, cm, diameter, 50, cm, distance

Words with less syllables than it appears

It’s important to say all the syllables. But there are some words that have less syllables than you’d expect; the spelling of the words is misleading.

Vegetable only has three syllables, not four. You can skip the second E: veg-table
Hear vegetable.

Reference only has two syllables, not three. You can skip the second E: ref-rence
Hear reference

Laboratory only has four syllables, not five. You can skip the first O: lab-ratory
Hear laboratory

Temperature only has three syllables, not four. You can skip the A: temper-ture
Hear temperature

This also applies to the plural forms of each of these words.

Here are some more:

Jewelry only has two syllables, not three. You can skip the second E: jew-lry
Hear jewelry

Comfortable only has three syllables, not four. Pretend comfortable is spelled comfterble.
Hear comfortable

Should Of

The contraction of “should” and “have,” “should’ve,” sounds like “should of.” But remember to spell it “should’ve.” (Native speakers, including me, forget this sometimes and spell it “should of.”) The same thing is true for more contractions with the word “have”: “could’ve,” “would’ve,” and “must’ve” are some examples.

In casual speech these contractions are often further reduced to “shoulda,” “coulda,” and “woulda”; the “V” sound is left off.

Eating food or foot?

In English, Ds are almost always pronounced the same. A D at the end of a word is usually pronounced the same as a D in the middle or at the beginning of a word. For example, the D in “feed” is the same as the D in “feeding” or “feeds.” The D in “head” is pronounced the same as in “heading.” Both Ds in “headed” are pronounced the same. Both Ds in “did” are pronounced the same. The D in “dog” is the same as the D in “food.”

These words all sound different:
oat owed
pat pad
port poured
pot pod
quit quid
route rude
short shored
slight slide
sought sawed
tent tend
tight tied

An exception to this is for some verbs in the past tense, ending in ed, the D sounds like a T. For example diced, tasked, wiped, and watched.

In English, D is a voiced sound:
Voiced and Unvoiced Sounds

Give “The” Some Time

“The” is a very common word, and a good word to practice. Read some text, and focus on “the.” To make “the” sound good, it alway needs to be said slowly. “Th” in any word will sound better if you let it have some time. Also, the vowel in “the” is the most common sound in American English, and in “the” it is a very long sound. So practicing “the” will help you get used to making vowels long.

Usually the vowel in “the” is the same as in “hut”, “luck”, and “but”. If “the” is before a word that starts with a vowel sound, the vowel in “the” is the same as in “heat”, “feel”, and “feet”. Here’s more about that vowel. Both these vowel sounds need to be long; the longer you make them, the more American you will sound.

Here’s some random text to use for practice: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archosaur


Americans and Canadians like vowels. For good pronunciation and accent reduction, often vowels need to be held for a long time. Listen to some Americans talking, and pay attention to the length of the vowels. For example, listen to this scene from “Scary Movie”:

American English has 14 vowel sounds. The following words all have different vowel sounds and clearly sound different:

fall fell fill feel full fool file foul fail foil foal

hat hot hit heat hut hoot height hate

lack lock lick leak luck look Luke like lake

mat met mitt meet mutt moot might mate moat

Here’s a chart showing more lists of words like these: Vowel Chart

Can or Can’t?

Americans usually don’t pronounce the T if it’s at the end of a word. This is called the stop T. But we don’t simply remove the T; we change the way the word is pronounced, and we can usually hear whether someone is saying can or can’t. Here is how to pronounce the stop T:

The sound that comes before the T gets cut short abruptly. The n in can’t is almost not even pronounced. The o sound in boat is very short. The vowel in flight is very short. It’s a tense, short sound. The loudness, or volume, of the sound needs to stay constant until the abrupt ending of the word. For some words it helps to stick your tongue against the roof of your mouth as if you’re going to say the T.


Silent Letters

There are lots of silent letters in English. Some of the silent letters follow patterns. Here are a few of the more common patterns:

If a word starts with k and the next letter is n, the k is silent. For example knee, knit, and knot.

If a word starts with g and the next letter is n, the g is silent. For example gnat, gnaw, and gnome.

If a word starts with p and the next letter is s, the p is silent. For example psalm, psychology, and pseudonym.

If a word ends in mb, the b is silent. For example bomb, comb, and thumb.