The basketball season has finished and many are now watching baseball.

The “three strikes rule” in baseball can also be applied to speaking-clarity and a listener’s tolerance of confusion.   If the listener is still confused after three attempts to understand the speaker, the listener will start to “tune out” the speaker.

How do we keep our listeners’ attention?

Let’s review the first of the top three issues for ESOL speakers from “The Articulate Advantage” March ‘15 article.


Speaking Speed:

Speaking too fast often causes the speaker to eliminate key syllables within words, make sound substitutions and use incorrect linking or stress patterns.

The listener must have time to make “edits” or they will often quit trying to understand.

How do you slow down? On the website, Baseball Mental Game Tips, the author Patrick Cohn quoted Brad Holman, pitching coach for Triple-A Round Rock Express, “Don’t be too quick. Step back and take a breath.” The same holds true for speaking. Here are three strategies to slow down so that the listener may understand you better.

1. Choose an article from an online news source. An article about baseball might work. Or find another easy article. Find a paragraph that has 100 to 125 words.

  • Highlight and copy this paragraph to a word document. Do a word count to confirm the number of words.
  • Record your speaking while you read this article aloud.
  • Go back and check your time. Did you do it in less than 60 seconds? If so, you spoke too fast. Do it again until you can slow down your speaking speed enough to say it in the full 60 to 70 seconds. It feels too slow, yet this makes you very aware of your own pronunciation and your audience’s response.
  1. Next, Listen again.
  • How long were your pauses between sentences? Where did you put the pauses?
  • Using pauses between sentences allows the listener to edit and understand your content better.
  • Try for .5 to 1 second pauses between sentences. Remember, this helps the listener “edit”.
  1. Did you find words with more than two syllables in the paragraph?
  • Three, four and five+ syllable words often are mispronounced. Underline these words.
  • Use an online dictionary to determine how they are said correctly. Even if you don’t say the vowels or consonants correctly, you must be able to say the right amount of syllables. English spelling often does not give you the correct pronunciation.
  • Record the target word three times. Make certain that you are correct. If not, do it again, until you can pronounce the correct number of syllables correctly. Then record each sentence with the target word.


Do you need more help? Contact me for a free initial consultation. If you are a member of a Toastmaster’s Club, check out my article in the July 2014, Toastmasters magazine. “Sound Strategies To Make Sure Your English Is Understood”

You’ve worked hard, earned the degrees and certifications, acquired a position at a successful corporation, developed and contributed to successful projects, yet the significant promotions are elusive.

Your manager has asked you to:

  • Do Contribute more in meetings,
  • Be more assertive,
  • Do speak up.

It’s a constant question. What does one do or say to contribute more, to be more assertive, or speak up? Some get frustrated thinking that they have really tried multiple times, and still were not really understood.

And here is what you have:
A variable awareness of the issues without adequate transformational knowledge
or the strategies for change across increasingly demanding communicative situations.


Using Clear, Effective Leadership Phrases

Think of a stool. It must have at least 3 legs to be stable. Likewise, we must stabilize a new skill at all three (3) levels of practice to habitually have access to new skills.

Here’s how you can harness the Power of (3) Three within this series.

In the coming months, read each article, note the targets. Then write each of them on your Smartphone, a Post-It note or somewhere that you will see the targets daily.

  • Three (3) executive level words/ phrases of NAE (North American English)
  • Three (3) target pronunciation goals within these phrases.
  • Three (3) example situations in which to use these new phrases.


Practice and implement:

  • These specific pronunciation targets within the words and phrases.
  • The examples that are given or Executive Communication situations, while also developing and expanding your own Executive Communication responses in sentences through multiple sentence responses
  • Three (3) times per day, everyday, for (3) three weeks.

The top three issues for most English Speakers as an Other Language (ESOL).

Why? When these issues are intertwined most native English listeners will not be able to clearly understand the ESOL speaker no matter how much the listener tries.

  1. Speaking Speed:
    Speaking too fast often causes the speaker to eliminate key syllables within words, make sound substitutions and use incorrect linking or stress patterns.
    If the speaker is speaking too quickly, the listener also has less time to make “edits” and will often quit trying to understand after two or three requests for clarification.
  2. Rhythm:
    The two rhythm aspects of NAE are: Linking – NAE words often link the ending sound of words with the beginning sound of the following word. Example: “Sound of = soun-duv”
    NAE is a “stress-timed” language. High content words, such as nouns, active verbs, adjectives and adverbs. having longer duration than “function” words, such as prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verb [is,].
  3. Vowel Substitutions: In most languages, vowels carry much of the meaning of a word.
    NA English has many more, as well as some very different, vowel sounds [18] than Spanish [5], Mandarin [~5], And different uses of vowels than French [12 pure & 7 total semi & nasal vowels], Tamil [13]; Persian [8].


The First Step :   Listening Differentiation to understand the differences between different sounds or pronunciations. If one cannot hear differences from one individual speech sound to another then they will not be able to make their own attempts at a target sound correctly:

Best: English Talk Shop has an excellent Listening component / “Listen and Choose”/ to their different versions of the American Speechsounds online software ($75.00 -$150.00). One must attain a 90% on their first choice of each task to be considered “proficient”.

It also will list the all the target pronunciation segments (Rhythm and stress patterns, consonants, all vowels sounds) for multiple background languages.

Purchase through Accent Management Group, LLC /, for a significant discount.

Good: American English Pronunciation Practice – Many-Things: Free: This has short lists and a small listening component of only consonants and vowels. However, does not give as much information for languages sound differences.


The Second Step:   Get an Accountability Partner. It must be someone who speaks NA English proficiently; A Canadian or American with whom you are comfortable. This could be someone at work, or in the community. If you belong to a Toastmasters club in your community, ask another member to be your accountability partner for only specific pronunciation targets.


The Third Step:   Record your efforts and redo each effort until you and your accountability partner agree that you have achieved 90% on your three targets.

Upcoming Resource Lists for Practice: Executive Leadership Phrase Examples:

  • Target Vowel – Long /I/: “I would like your advice.”
  • Target Vowel – Long /A/: “Negotiate in good faith”
  • Target Vowel – Long /O/: “Focus on our goal”
  • Target Vowel – Long /E/: “ Acquire by a feasible means ”
  • Target – /Split Vowels/: “Establish our Pri-orities”; “Good exper-i-ence”

What happened?  How did you respond?

Notice – I did not say “react”.  Responding is a more careful planned action or set of actions.  It takes thought, reviewing one’s expectations and making changes to effect a more positive outcome.

Here is how my life changed.

In June, my husband was offered an exceptional opportunity to work with an outstanding company. It meant moving from Wisconsin to Nebraska.  Selling our house and moving to another, as well as moving my office.

Although, everything was planned and scheduled, the moves did not go according to the timetables.  My trip to the Toastmasters’ Conference in Malaysia was cancelled.  Meetings rescheduled or held via phone, while I was sitting in airports or on the side of a road.  I begged forgiveness, asked for advice and thankfully all participants graciously shared similar stories as well as successful strategies.

Clients and colleagues have offered feedback on how to navigate specific situations.  However, they would not have offered if I had not asked.

So, Let me ask you…..

  • What has changed in your professional life?
  • What expectations do you have of yourself for this change?
  • What expectations do your colleagues have?  Who have you asked?
  • What communication expectations do others have of you now?
  • What are your planned responses?
  • How can I help you find the resources that you want?

While you are thinking these through, here is an interview that I had with Helen Fu of HealthFactor, Massachusetts. Helen recently moved from Kansas to Massachusetts because her husband found his ideal job.  She then created her own television show and started a program to increase her speaking skills. All to increase her professional influence in her new arena.

Health Factor Speech Coach with Helen Fu:




Are you working on getting your great ideas understood?  You have worked hard to develop these ideas.  Now is your time to shine.  Here is how.

With all that we are asked to do, it is often difficult to recall the sequences of steps necessary to add the American accent.  Here is a quick “review”.

The Review from October 1, 2013: In order of importance:

  • Resolution: Realize that it takes lots of practice to gain a new skill.  Resolve to do what it takes.
  • Professional Software: The best interactive software that I’ve found in the last twenty years is English Talk Shop.   Start with the “LISTEN & CHOOSE” segment.  You can’t say a sound that you can’t hear!
    Contact me for a discount code on each program. 
  • Find a Mentor:  It’s best to have a native North American English speaker as a mentor to help when there are questions.
  • Toastmasters International clubs: are good place to find and use mentors. Look up “Find a Club” on the upper right or on the Left sidebar to find clubs near you.  Visit those that say: “Open to all.
  • Decrease your Speaking Rate to 100-110 WPM [Words Per Minute]: Often, your listeners must “edit” what you are saying. That means that it will take them extra time to determine the words.  If they have to edit more than 2 or 3 times in a couple of sentences, they often stop listening.

The “Rest of the Story” May, 2014

  • Listening Discrimination: Can you hear the differences between two words with the two different sounds in single words or short phrases? If we cannot hear the differences in the speech of someone else, then how would we be able to detect if we are pronouncing it correctly or incorrectly?  Your ability to hear the differences in all of your accent targets must be at 90% accuracy across ten sets of ten lists (100 trials). “English Talk Shop” has an excellent tool to help a student accomplish this.
  • Speaking:  Single Words: Basically, one cannot run correctly if they are not walking correctly.  We must start with single words.  One sound at a time –

EXAMPLE: *Target three (3) words with the sound that you want to change

*Practice these initially, at three sets of each target sound in single words. Do this with your mentor.

*Attain a 90% correct on each of three successive sets of each of the sounds.

*Choose 3 more. And continue the process until you have 20-30 words with that target sound in the beginning, middle or final positions of words. Example: “Those: mother: bathe”

  • Phrases: Use the “English Talk Shop” phrases or something similar. Record, listen and assess yourself 20 to 30 times.  Listen and assess.
    Are you at 9 of 10 correct?  If not, ask a mentor to listen and grade you until you are at 90% for each set of 10 phrases.
  • Sentence Reading: Use the sentences in English Talk Shop. Listen and score your efforts.
    Did you make the correct sound/stress pattern/linking 9 out of 10 times? If not, again, use your mentor.
  • Responses in Sentences & Phrases: EXAMPLE:
    *Create your own sentences and phrases with the words with target sound. Or you can type the target word into “Google”.   There you will find multiple sentences from articles or websites.
    *Read and Record these and play each on back.  Does it sound correct? If not, do NOT proceed until you can make the sound correctly.
    *Next:  Pull out a word or phrase and design a new sentence without writing or reading it. Record this.  Does it sound better or worse? Say 90% correctly.
  • Cannot determine this as yet?  Record a “memo” on your phone and text or email it to your mentor.  What do they say?
  • Paragraph Reading:
    *Choose a paragraph from a favorite newspaper or professional publication.  Even better, a white paper related to your industry.  You want to increase your clarity in your industry to increase your prospects of advancing.
    *Hi-light one target sound in all of the words of a paragraph with yellow. For example:  For all of the /th/ sounds throughout the paper.
    *Read, Record, Replay and Assess: Did you produce 90% of them correctly?  If not, do it again until you can do it three (3) times in a row.
  • Still uncertain if it is correct or not?  Record a “memo” on your phone and text or email it to your mentor or to me at: I will be happy to listen and give you a free analysis.
  • Finally!    Multiple Sentences: 60 Second Reply: Most of what we do throughout our workday is respond to questions from colleagues and clients on the phone or in meetings.  These are usually “extemporaneous”. This means that we often know what we are talking about, yet it is not a “prepared” speech.  However, these situations often cause individuals to speak less clearly.
  • To practice, have a mentor at your work ask you questions and have you record your responses.  Again, Record, Replay and Assess. How did you do?  If it is not 90% across three successive tries….Try again.  You must be able to have control at an “automatic” level.


I’m traveling again this summer.  If you are in any of these places, too, Contact me!  Let’s have a cup of tea or coffee.

May 30, 2014 – June 15, 2014: Clients in Massachusetts at

June 5, 2014 – TV Guest of Helen Fu: Your Health Compass:

June 5, 2014:  9am – 10:30am Toastmasters at

August 20  – 27, 2014: Malaysia:  Toastmasters International World Conference


This is the second in the continuing series giving you tips and strategies how to help you ADD the English accent to your speaking style.

English Clarity Basic Strategies: Here is the set of strategies and an interactive software program, “English Talk Shop” that can help you attain better English clarity.   In the following segments, we will address the primary consonants, vowels and other segments that differing languages differ from the North American English [NAE] “Accent”.

Three Things You Need to Know:

  1. The letters in English words do NOT have the same sound rule system as Spanish.
  2. English has many different sounds, rhythm and stress patterns rules that are different than Spanish.
  3. Spanish only shares 20 sounds of the 41 English sounds. And 12 of the 25 rhythm-stress rules.

Sound Components You Need to Know:  All language sound-systems have muscle movement components that make up how each sound is made in a very rapid tiny muscle movement sequences.

Consonants have three components. Place: Manner and Voicing

  • PlaceWhere is the sound made in the mouth? For English Consonants, there are seven (7) possible places.
  • Manner: How is it made?
    • With friction (Fricative):
    • With friction + stopped. (Affricate):
    • With a exPlosion feature? (Plosive);
    • As a gliding sound / (Glide):
    • Or as a liquid free flowing sound? (Liquid)
  • Voicing: Ask yourself – For each consonant in English – Is the larynx (voice box) turned on when the sound is said or is it off?

Vowels of English are made using the voice moving across different select tense or relaxed movements of the tongue and openness of the mouth and jaw.  Other English vowels are blended combination of two single vowels – called diphthongs. For example: /Bet/ (Single vowel sound) versus /Bait/ (a Diphthong )

Differences:  With Consonants, we often see that most substitutions are because of voicing and / or a difference in place (where the tongue goes to make a sound).    Vowel differences between languages are usually in response to:

  • Not having the sound within your first language sound system (“mother tongue”)
  • Difficulty forming the sound around consonants that are not usual sound combinations within the your first language.

Yet, with differing versions/dialects of many languages, it can be most of the components are involved in the substitutions or omissions.  When tired or stressed, muscle groups tend to revert to old learned sequenced sound patterns of movements of the first languageEven though the vocabulary may be English. It may not sound like it.

Although Latin American Spanish has many variances across countries, it is mutually understood in many of the countries.  Spain has some larger variances, yet Latin American Spanish is usually understood in Spain.

The NAE / English sounds that differ:  NOTE-Spellings are often different.    Phonemes in NAE – English that are not found in Spanish include the following vowels and consonants:

Vowels: Spanish has only 5 vowels: English as 17+: Spanish vowels are much shorter in duration than English vowels, so the word will sound “ cut-off” to an English listener

* /ae/ sound as in “ pack” – Common substitution may be an /eh/ as in “peck”

* /ai:/ diphthong – long “I” sound as in “pie” — Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /ei:/ diphthong – long “A” sound as in “ pay;” — Common substitution may be an /e/

* /eh/ short “e” sound as in “pet” — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /ah/ sound as in “pot” — Common substitution may be an /e-/

* /uah/ diphthong – sound as in “foot”  — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /ih/ sound as in “pit” — Common substitution may be an /ee/

* /ow/ diphthong – sound as in “Brown” — Common substitution may be an /uh/

Consonants: There be either final consonant deletions or these substitutions; Many consonant blends may have one sound dropped OT with /s/ blends – There is usually an added /eh/ as in “estreet”

* /v/ sound as in “various; river, love”  — Common substitution may sound like  /b/ or /f/

* /z/ sound as in “ zoo; easy; knees” – Common substitution may be an /s/

* /sh/ sound as in “sheet; social; quiche” — Common substitution may be an /s/

* /zh/ sound as in “ vision; beige” – Common substitution may be an /s/ or /z/

* /ch/ sound as in “ chair; nature; watch” — Common substitutions may be an /sh/:

* /J/ sound as in “jeans; logic; package” — Common substitution may be /ch/

* /th/ voiceless – sound as in “ thick; healthy; with” — Common substitution may be a /t/ or /f/

* /th/ voiced – sound as in “these; either, smooth” — Common substitution may be a /d/ or /z/

Listen to each word on a pronunciation website such as the Merriam Webster Dictionary You can see the spelling, the simplified pronunciation, the IPA spelling as well as Hear the pronunciation of the sound in the word.    Record your effort – Have Mentor listen – Then record each word correctly 9 out of 10 times.

Next continue to follow the steps as listed in the English Clarity Basic Strategies from a single word

A Socio-Economic Activity for Building Business Relationships

“The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.” – Claude Levi-Strauss.

We grow up with our parents telling us to Not to talk to strangers. We study hard, talk to the folks in the next cubicle or in our study groups and then want to find a job. That is when we are usually first exposed to the “socio-economic activity” called Networking. And, it’s absolutely fear-inducing…

A few years go by and we want to advance our careers. Networking is again necessary.

Networking, when done well, offers great rewards. Doing it well is really a scientific activity. And, since scientists work well with a strategic plan and process, here is one to help you. Note that it is best to have someone help with this.

Continue reading →

In my flexible editorial planning calendar, I had wanted to talk about how to dress for summer business events….then, I spotted Kare Anderson’s June 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review.

It reminded me that most folks won’t care what we are wearing when we listen to them attentively. When we do, these folks think we are the most interesting person in the world…. Ms. Anderson stated that the value of giving undivided attention is as beneficial to the giver as the receiver.

As a child, I spent many hours in an Andrew Carnegie library; the kind of library with granite steps leading up to solid doors that opened into a world of ideas, experiences and wondrous stories. I also spent time at my father’s real estate office. His office was often the gathering place of business people. They spoke about their own world of ideas, experiences, wondrous stories and life’s learning.

In my mind, the people I met at my dad’s office were each like libraries – I needed to learn their content too. It was easy: all I had to do was sit back and be enlightened, educated and entertained.

Learning how to listen, how ask the right questions, how to empathize and still contribute meaningfully is a life-long endeavor. However, attempting to be the center of attention is so much more work and, more importantly, ineffective. Our audience gets bored with us.

There’s a professional association with chapters around the world where people go to learn how to listen well and speak well: Toastmasters International. Visit a club near you; you can get invited as a guest (for free).

I’ve belonged to clubs in several US cities as well as China. By participating, I’ve benefited from many fascinating stories and a wealth of knowledge.

The world is full of walking libraries that come in all sizes and shapes. Two-year-old to 102 year-old folks are equally fascinating. Especially when you actively listen.