Featured

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

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:

Metal

Whatever

Butter

Party

Seventy

Eighty

City

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

Vowels

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.

 

 

Voiced and Unvoiced Sounds

Many pronunciation problems can be solved by learning about voiced and unvoiced sounds.

Voiced sounds use your vocal chords, unvoiced sounds don’t. All vowels in English are voiced. Unvoiced sounds are not very loud. If you put your hand against your throat while talking, you’ll feel the vibrations from your vocal chords when you’re saying voiced sounds, but you’ll feel no vibrations when saying unvoiced sounds. When you whisper, the sound you make is unvoiced.

The difference between the Z and S sounds is that the Z is voiced, the S is unvoiced. (In written English, sometimes the S makes the S sound, and sometimes it makes the Z sound.) Here are some examples:

Z, S:
zip, sip, zoo, sue, razor, racer, rays, race, phase, face

Similarly, the main difference between the D and T in English is that the D is voiced, the T is unvoiced:
drip, trip, dry, try, fried, fright, feed, feet, seed, seat

Often students make mistakes if a word ends in a voiced sound. For example, if a word ends in D, the D should not be pronounced like a T; a D at the end of a word should be pronounced the same as a D at the beginning or in the middle of a word.

Here are more pairs of letters where the main, or only, difference is that one is voiced and the other is unvoiced:

B, voiced, P, unvoiced
blob, plop, beer, peer, back, pack, robe, rope, mob, mop

G, voiced, K, unvoiced
grab, crab, god, cod, mug, muck, lug, luck, rag, rack

V, voiced, F, unvoiced
view, few, vine, fine, invest, infest, save, safe, wave, waif

J,voiced, CH, unvoiced
gin, chin, jive, chive, jello, cello, edge, etch, ridge, rich, badge, batch

TH: th is used for two sounds, one that is voiced, and one that is unvoiced.

Some examples of words with voiced TH: this, that, other, the, and bathe

Some examples of words with unvoiced TH: theory, thorn, with, month, and bath