Friday, November 18, 2016


Stop!  Look around you!  How many people do you know who speak English?  Can you do an impression of any of your friends?  Remember that time when you went to Texas, Minnesota, or Oregon and everyone talked a little funny?  I once took classes just to figure out how to communicate with Texans... Ok, not really, but you get the point right? 

you know that there are more than 2 billion people who speak English?  375 million of those are native English speakers! Here comes the problem everyone. Whether you want to learn English better or some other language, you're going to need to choose whose side you're on!  Every region has an accent.  Not only an accent but a dialect, meaning that in the south if you say "give me some sugar" you might just get a big ol kiss on the lips, but if you say the same thing in northern regions they'll probably just pass you some sugar.  Can you imagine the confusion yet?

How many of you have ever taken dancing lessons?  Now, imagine you're trying to learn to dance.  If you want to learn how to break dance, do you study ballet, salsa, and square dancing?  No, of course you don't! 
 Once you've decided which dance you want to learn then you stick with it, right? 
Treat an accent the same way, because otherwise you're going to be juggling a ton of information and trying to teach your mouth to do too many weird things at once.  Muscle memory plays a big part here too, but we'll tackle that subject at a later time.  
Come on guys,  there are 2 billion people speaking the language!  Don't try to sound like all of them.  Don't give yourself more of a headache by listening to English from the U.S., Australia and India... You'll go crazy and people will be very confused when they talk to you.  Choose a region and once you've mastered it, move on to another. 
Now, do any of you guys play guitar?  If you play guitar, leave a comment!  Who is your favorite guitar player?  John mayer is one of my favorite guitar players.  I love getting inspiration from his riffs(guitar melodies).  If I were to try to learn to play like him, do you think it would be good to study the way he plays or would it be better to imitate some random kid doing a cover of his song?  If I try option number two, I'll probably become a boring guitar player who never    
If I imitate the best guitar players in the world though, that's how I'll be a rock star.  Again, accents are the same.  If you're planning to go to New York to do business and you want to fit in, don't imitate someone who lived in California most of his life.  Find people who have genuine New Yorker accents and use them as your model.  I'm going to be honest with you; your accent will probably not sound as extreme as the people you imitate.  That's totally fine though. With this method you'll "aim small miss small" and you'll maximize your potential to be heard clearly.  

Choose a celebrity because they have tons of media to watch and you can listen to the same voice talking about a ton of different topics.  Choose a region because that is where you need people to understand you.  Like I said, you probably won't get 100% to the accent you practice so go as extreme as you can. 
This is just a freebee: I've had many students who spoke a much better general american accent when they tried to copy a southern accent.  This might seem crazy but many of the vowel sounds and intonation nuances that English learners need to master are just more extreme in an extreme accent so you usually end up at the middle ground where you'd like to be anyway.

Personally, I study the Portuguese accent from Brazil and the Spanish accent from Mexico.  I listen to people from only Brazil and in my intense listen and repeat sessions, I almost always choose people from Sao Paulo.  I try to avoid regions that sound very far from the accent I am developing, but I like to dabble in some funny sounding accents here and there. 


Most, if not all, languages have one inflection for questions that is different from the inflection used for statements.  Particularly in English, the British are not afraid to go up at the end of a sentence even though it isn't a question.  Americans tend to f from this unless they're valley girls.  In the U.S. to let your voice go up at the end of a sentence communicates that you aren't really sure about what you're saying or that you are asking a question.  I'll be honest.  I haven't mastered this nuance in Mexican Spanish yet, and I still tend to make people think I'm asking a question when in fact I want to declare something.  "Justin: I am going to the store.  Other person: Yeah, sure, you can go to the store if you want."  Ugh, that gets old.   Take some time to record people asking questions in the accent you're learning and repeat after them. Pay close attention to any pauses and raising or dropping of pitch.  Then do the same for statements.  This will be invaluable practice. 

Don't freak out guys!  This doesn't mean you have to sit around learning charts about verb tenses.  In fact, I'm not a huge advocate of that whole routine. The patterns in pronunciation are just as important as word structure. You know how in your native language a question sounds different than a statement? If you haven't noticed, then wake up and smell the coffee, my friends!  You have to pick up these things in your target language also.  There are inflection patterns for questions, and statements, for surprise and boredom, even pauses mean something so keep your ears perked!  Pauses are important guys!  Don't forget them because they always communicate something. In a neutral american English accent, there are at least five spelling patterns that make the "Oh" sound, like in go, boat, snow, toe and though. I teach this in depth in my Accent course on vowels, so contact me if you want to know more about the course.  For every sound there is a mouth shape and a tongue placement that you will need, so you want to master these as well. Set aside time to learn each group that have the same sound and also try to contrast sounds.  

Thinking about learning multiple languages?  Many people become overly hasty and try to learn tons of languages at once! They get in over their head and have too much on their plate... Redundant? Haha. Check out this youtube video to learn some of the reasons why most people should be very careful about learning more than one language at once.  Check out this video to hear from a language learner who learns more than one language at a time.
Back to accents specifically.  Long story short, I believe that if you're new to the language learning process then you should definitely focus on just one accent in that second language.  Furthermore, if you're an advanced learner in your second language but you still have not acquired a good understandable accent, then you should still only focus on one accent.  You need to develop the skills for accent learning before you can juggle multiple accents.  In order to retain a good accent you need to immerse yourself in it completely.  It's quite possible that after knowing multiple accents you've really nailed down that skill for internalizing it, then you could probably study more than one at once. 

Phrases, Vocabulary, Idioms, Slang Glossary: 
talked a little funny:  a little funny means strange.  It doesn't mean that they told jokes. It means that their pronunciation, intonation and word choice was different than yours. 
get the point:  to understand the purpose or meaning of something that someone said. Note: Get is one of those strange words that's used in many different situations in english.  
Here comes the problem: Here comes means literally: something is approaching. Ex: Move here comes the train!  Figuratively: the speaker will introduce a concept, a question or a declaration.  Here comes the question: Why should we do community service?
Give me some sugar: Give me a kiss(in the southern regions of the U.S.) OR please give me the sugar because I want to put some in my coffee.
stick with it: Persevere. Continue to do something without changing your course of action.  
juggling a ton of information
plays a big part: is a very important element.
we'll tackle that subject: We will accomplish or work on something
some random kid:  A non-specific young person.  The word random is used all over the place.  Some random guy, Some random chick, Some random bar.  
Some random website: This website should give you an idea of what random is. 
That's totally fine though:  I'm putting this one in the list because I want you to learn to say things that are easy to say.  Even though you can understand it, will you actually use it? 
more than one at once: this sounds strange... Search the definition for the word simultaneous. Ex: I like to study more than one language at once, I can't do two things at once.
To fit in: to belong to a group, family, or culture.  To be accepted by any group.  When kids move to new school they often take some time to be accepted there.  They might say, "I don't fit in here, no one talks to me." 
New Yorker: Someone from New York
give yourself more of a headache:  Someone or something can give you a headache. A person can act in an annoying or exasperating way to give you a headache. OR a task can be very difficult or tedious or frustrating which would also give you a headache.  
in over their head: Overwhelmed with too much to do.  
Shy away: To avoid doing something or to avoid something or someone.
To dabble: To do an activity for just a small amount of time every once in a while.  You dabble in something when you aren't fully committed but it's interesting so you do it when you have time.
Keep your ears perked: Listen closely, stay alert, pay close attention. 
Set aside time: Intentionally find time to do something.
Long story short: People say this when they want to tell you only the most important information in a story or they want to summarize information.

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