“Oo” vs. “W” – Especially for my Japanese students!

This topic is one that doesn’t seem to be a problem for some people when learning English, but I’ve seen that it can be especially difficult for Japanese learners. Because most Japanese learn with カタカナ(katakana), some of the sounds are not exactly right.

For example,

ウ is the English sound for “oo,”  as in “blue,” “chew,” or “do.”

Unfortunately, sometimes theウ sound is also understood to be the “w” sound as in “would” or “winter.” Actually. these “w” sounds do not exist in the Japanese language. It will take some extra training to learn how to move your mouth to pronounce this sound. You can do it!

oo

Above is a picture of pronouncing “ウ” or “oo,” that most of you know how to do.   Simply make a small circle with your lips when you are pronouncing the sound (find the full lesson here).

w

This picture, however, is more difficult to do. Try to focus on closing your lips a little more, and bringing them in closer to your teeth. Also, the “w” sound is not a whole syllable like the “ウ” sound, it is only the first part of a longer sound. So, say it quickly.

Try to pronounce these words without using the “ウ” sound:

Winter.
Weather.
Where.
Win.
Sweet.
Rewind.
When.
Why.
While.

Did it sound different from the “ウ” sound? If not, try again and listen to the lesson here. Keep trying until you get the sound you want, practice makes a better English speaker!

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Connected Speech

connectedspeech

What is connected speech?

Simply put, connected speech is when a speaker puts words or sounds together in a sentence such as “gonna” (going to) or “wanna” (want to). Usually, this is not understood at all by the English learner!!

Have you ever heard something like “I’m gonna go ta tha store, do ya wanna come?” What does this mean??
When the native English speaker says things like this ^, it is usually just to make their speech easier and more efficient. In fact, the main goal of a native speaker is usually not to be correct, but to be efficient. So, when you are trying to speak perfectly, remember that even native speakers don’t always sound perfect! Elemental English discusses this topic here. 

So, let me explain the sentence “I’m gonna go ta tha store, do ya wanna come?”

Correctly written, it is “I am going to the store, do you want to come?”

“Going to” changes to “gonna,” “to the” changes to “ta tha,” “you” changes to “ya,” and “want to” changes to wanna.” Of course, this is not correct English and should never be in writing… However, if you want to better understand native speakers, I would recommend practicing listening for these connected words.

Below is a great example of connected speech in a scene from the classic movie “Remember the Titans.” Watch the video and see if you can understand what they’re saying. If it is difficult, try reading the text below and notice the connected speech. Does it make sense this time? Great!

Bertier: Aight man. Listen, I’m Gerry, you’re Julius. Let’s just get some particulars and get this over with, alright?

Big Ju: Particulars? Man, no matter what I tell you, you ain’t never gonna know nothin about me.

Bertier: Hey- Listen, I ain’t running any more of these three-a- days, okay?

Big Ju: Well, what I’ve got to say, you really don’t wanna hear ‘cuz honesty ain’t too high upon your people’s priorities list, right?

Bertier: Honesty? You want honesty? Alright, honestly, I think you’re nothing. Nothing but a pure waste of God-given talent. You don’t listen to nobody, man! Not even Doc or Boone! Shiver push on the line everytime and you blow right past ’em! Push ’em, pull ’em, do something! You run over everybody in this league, and everytime you do you leave one of your teammates hanging out to dry, me in particular!

Big Ju: Why should I give a hoot about you, huh? Or anybody else out there? You wanna talk about the ways you’re the captain?

Bertier: Right.

Big Ju: Captains supposed to be the leader, right? Bertier: Right.

Big Ju: You got a job?

Bertier: I have a job.

Big Ju: You been doing your job?

Bertier: I’ve been doing my job.

Big Ju: Then why don’t you tell your white buddies to block for Rev better? ‘Cause they have not blocked for him worth a blood nickel, and you know it! Nobody plays. Yourself included. I’m supposed to wear myself out for the team? What team? No, no, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna look out for myself and I’m gonn get mine.

Bertier: See man, that’s the worst attitude I ever heard. Big Ju: Attitude reflects leadership, captain.

Much or Many?

much and many

Much” and “many” are used so many times in English! It takes much effort to learn the difference between them. Students should spend a lot of time studying if they want to speak fluent English.

There are many great websites that help with this subject. Here are some resources that you can use to learn more:
http://englishlanguagehelp.info/esl/much-vs-many/
http://stickyball.net/esl-grammar.html?id=394

And here is a quiz for practice.

Do you feel confident with using “much” and “many?” Try to describe the following words using either “much” or “many” for practice:

_______ cars
_______ books
_______ rain
_______ snow
_______ love
_______ coffee
_______ people
_______ groups
_______ time
_______ English!

How did you do? If you are still having trouble, try the websites to learn more. I wish you much luck and many good answers!

It’s *only* English… How many accents could there be?

While English has become the most widely used language in the world, the definition of “Standard English” is not always so clear.

This video is one of my favorites for helping English students see the variations between accents and dialects in spoken English. Surprisingly, English accents vary greatly; and if a student has learned American English in school, for example, he/she could have a very hard time understanding someone speaking Australian English.

Because listening to various English accents is “easier said than done,” I recommend learning the fun way- with movies! Here is a great website that can help you learn all kinds of English accents by watching movie trailers and clips. Watch and re-watch until you can understand, and don’t hesitate to ask questions or look up some of the phrases being said. Also, I would advise taking on one accent at a time until you can better understand it, then moving on to the next one. Good luck, and don’t give up!

The Importance of Asking Questions

We all know that asking questions is important when you learn a new language, but how important?

As an ESL teacher, I am always looking for new ways to help my students learn. One of the best ways I can do that is by knowing my student’s interests and any QUESTIONS they may have.

When a student asks a question, it not only gives them good practice and new information, but it allows the teacher to understand what the student needs to learn! So, I encourage you, students, to ask ask ask! It is so important to always be asking questions, no matter how small or silly they may seem.

Here is a link to some good information on how to ask questions in English. I hope it helps, and don’t forget: ASK QUESTIONS!

http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-questions_types.htm

Lets Learn aLL about *L’s*

How difficult was that sentence to say? If you are like most ESL learners, it wasn’t so easy. Below are some of my favorite resources on how to pronounce the English *L*.

Image

Start with this lesson from pronuncian.com. It will explain in detail the mechanics, or step-by-step movements, of how to move your mouth in the sound of an L.

Next- I have a really fun video to watch. This is Amy Walker, who is not an English teacher but a professional actress who has excellent accent skills. In this video she clearly explains how to practice the L sound, and also does a warm-up for the first minute or two. It may seem silly, but warm-ups and practice are the key to mastering English!

*NOW: go back and re-read this blog post using your L skills!!*
(the L’s are highlighted in bold)

What is so difficult about English? 英語の何が難しいですか?