Six steps to help you speak English clearly

Worldwide, non-native speakers of English outnumber native English speakers by a ratio of 3:1.

Just think about that!  More people speak English as a second language then there are native English speakers.

In Vancouver alone, which is where I live and work, more than 50{a3c87b1e05b299119f1d4bbd64cf458c711a7ad1f544f81d95701a267500b8d7} of the population speaks a language other than English as their first language.


And here’s the truth. It is difficult to significantly reduce an accent on your own.

Here is why. A person’s ability to listen, perceive and recognize sounds is influenced by their native language.

Our brain “expects” to hear the sounds it is familiar with based on our own personal experiences with language.  We make “guesses” about what we hear based on information stored in our brains. 

When we look at optical illusions, such as the Kanizsa Triangle, our brains behave similarly. Although there is no actual triangle in the image, your brain believes that you see a familiar image, a triangle. Likewise, when listening to spoken English, your brain expects to hear the sounds from your native language, familiar sounds based on your experience.

As a result, when you hear a word with a sound that does not exist in your native sound inventory,  you may “mis-hear” the sound.  And then you will likely say it as you mis-heard it.

My Online Accent Reduction Course is a unique and comprehensive training program for accent modification. The course is a synthesis of listening practice, pronunciation training, and instruction in those features of spoken English that contribute most to speech clarity and naturalness.


My new Clear English Speech Guide is a free tool to get you started making noticeable changes to your accent. The guide can be downloaded from my website and contains six of the best strategies you can implement to soften your accent.

In November I will be presenting an “Improve your English Pronunciation” workshop to clients of Dress For Success. This is an organization that supports women to achieve economic success. I plan to share tips, strategies and training that these women can use to enhance their English speaking skills for job interviews.

Spoken English is regularly used in education, business, medicine and friendly conversation. Remember, more people speak English as a second language then there are native English speakers.

In our global economy, a heavy accent can get in the way of being understood and putting your listeners at ease. This can prove especially challenging in the workplace where communication efficiency is highly valued.

Do other people regularly ask you to repeat yourself?  Have you suspected your spoken English skills are holding you back professionally?  Are you wanting to share your expertise with clarity and ease?  Would you like to increase your confidence in speaking situations?

Working on your accent with an experienced accent reduction trainer will yield noticeable lasting results in your oral English skills.

Accent Reduction Part II: Why I talk about Coconuts in Accent Reduction Training 

For non-native English speakers, it can be extremely difficult to reduce their accents on their own using accent reduction tools. The main reason for this is that it’s hard to hear the difference between the sound they are trying to make and the sound they actually make.

Before you can practice English sounds and speech patterns, you must be able to hear them.

Accent reduction training therefore begins with a focus on your listening skills.

Years ago, when my daughter was only 3 years old, we hosted a hockey playoff party. I don’t consider myself a big hockey fan, but I watch the playoffs. And that’s when it happened.

As we were all cheering “Go Canucks”, my daughter threw her little fist up in the air and cheered with us. Listening more closely I realized she was shouting “Coconuts”!

It made perfect sense, the expression was unfamiliar, and so she hadn’t heard it correctly. What she heard was influenced by her limited experience with the English language, combined with the instinct to make sense of what we said.

Once she was familiar with the name of the team, the cheer and the correct sequence of sounds, she was able to say it correctly.

I share this story with my accent reduction students to make a point. If you hear the word or the sounds incorrectly, you will say it incorrectly. 

When it comes to listening to English, second language learners face a unique challenge. They hear English through the filter of their own language.  The result being, what they hear is influenced by their own experiences, much like my daughter.

In Japanese for example, there are only open syllables (all words end in vowel sounds). Japanese speakers accustomed to and anticipating open syllables may not hear the word-final consonants of English words and are unlikely to produce them.

Identifying the differences between the sounds and word structures of a person’s native language and English is the starting point for successful accent reduction training.

A  three year old may get away with shouting “coconuts” at a Canucks game. But, in the business world employers, colleagues and clients desire accuracy and clarity in their communications. And it all starts with focused listening.

Learn more about my online 60-Day Accent Reduction Training Course here.

Accent Reduction Part I: Why I talk about starfish in Accent Reduction Training

One of the benefits for non-native English speakers who participate in Accent Reduction Training is gaining a greater confidence in speaking situations. For instance in an interview, a presentation, a phone call or a meeting. 

An often overlooked factor in accent improvement is the impact that body language can have on your communicative effectiveness. Certainly, your posture influences the way you are perceived by others. However, a lesser known concept is that your posture shapes how you perceive yourself; perceptions which are then reinforced through your behaviours and interactions.

Your body shapes your mind. Your mind shapes your behaviour. And your behaviour shapes your future.” – Amy Cuddy

In her book, Presence (2015), Amy Cuddy describes the practice of using high-power poses to facilitate our ability to become more present, confident, willing to face challenges and connect with others. Presence helps you stay focused on the actual communication exchange. Without presence you may be distracted by thoughts, like thinking about the judgements others might be making.

High-power poses are expansive postures that take up more space. This brings us to the starfish, who embodies expansion and claiming the maximum space available. That is to say, the starfish is a powerful cue, serving as a reminder to prepare for challenging situations with BIG POSES.

Your voice naturally takes on the movement of your body. For example, if you move quickly, you will speak quickly. And if you hold a nervous posture, your voice will sound nervous. An angry facial expression and your voice will sound angry. Likewise, if you take on a powerful pose, your voice will sound powerful and confident.

I encourage my accent reduction students to prepare for speaking situations that trigger their anxiety by using BIG POSES. This can be accomplished either physically or imaginary. By boosting presence and confidence, the powerful poses result in a slower speech rate, greater voice projection and more focused listening. Behaviours that promote clear speech.

May is National Speech and Hearing Month.  And… I am thrilled to celebrate with the launch of my 60 Day Online Accent Reduction Course.

The 60 Day Course begins with an online assessment of spoken English, followed by weekly training sessions. Training starts with an emphasis on focused listening to the sounds you personally find most challenging. Listening is followed by pronunciation training and a review of the rhythmic features of English. The result is clearer and more natural sounding speech.

Do you personally know anyone who has expressed a desire to reduce their foreign accent?  If so, I would be happy to be of service.