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

When I was in my first year of college, I was given the Book “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck.  The first sentence resounded with me as I struggled with emotions.  I had just lost my mother in the middle of a week of very difficult university tests.  The rest of the paragraph gave me comfort and insight.

“Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth, because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I was determining my direction in life and this helped to move me forward.


On visits home, my father had often invited me to come to one of his Toastmaster’s clubs.  In his downtown club was a gentleman who had been a favorite of mine as a teenager.  Courtney had been to radio announcer for our local city radio station. He had once had a deep resonant voice with a range of pitch and volume that could entertain even the most aloof listener. Now, he had lost his larynx and very nearly his life to cancer of the throat.


Yet, here was Courtney, arduously manipulating the limited electro-larynx, sounding like a robot and working to develop pacing and strategies that would somewhat humanize his speaking. To understand him, the audience had to listen very closely.  Each of us had to analyze, edit and wait as he spoke and closely watched his audience for cues; cues on what he was to change or repeat to be more readily understood.


His audience was a group of patient and supportive Toastmasters. The group was composed of a couple of farmers, two professionals – One a scientist from India and another an Asian engineer that were from the local research division of an international company; three or four local business owners, my father among them, a physician and Courtney.  We all listened raptly.

Please remember that I was a nineteen-year-old, not known for listening.  Like most, I liked to hear the sound of my own voice and have others listen to me.

This group of Toastmasters and Courtney taught me a fascinating lesson.  Listening was an invigorating experience.  I listened with my eyes and ears, watching and discerning each movement and analyzing how Courtney managed to make a robotic voice come alive.  I listened to the sounds and words, finding that I needed to edit and then come back to the speech, working to keep abreast of the story.  I watched Courtney observe his audience. He listened to their sighs, adjusted and repeated as needed, adding gestures and facial movements to illustrate his points. He did all this with a robotic-sounding, battery-powered mechanism he held against his scarred neck.

He worked as hard or even harder at listening and observing as the audience did.

Life, then, was extremely painful and difficult for Courtney.  He had accepted it and was moving on, trying, failing, retrying, learning and excelling.

The lesson gained from Courtney and Toastmasters was to:

  • Listen more intently
  • Observe more thoroughly …..And….
  • Find out how to help individuals of all types to become better speakers.

How to develop an “Articulate Advantage”, no matter what our circumstances.