Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hi everybody! Here is a new call widget! Now you can click on the call widget and Google will connect you with me for nothing! (Your cell carrier may charge you for time, though).

Try it! Give me a call! Schedule some lessons for Christmas, Diwali, or for the New Year! Improve your English! Make yourself better than what you were--better positioned in America to do business, interact with customers, talk to clients, make presentations, get along at work, live comfortably in America! You CAN do it! I believe in you! Give me a call!

Happy Christmas,


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hi everybody! There's a great new podcast up over on the right hand side of this blog. The podcast deals with intonation. Intonation refers to the way American English native speakers indicate emotion when they speak. It's a very important part of understanding and expressing yourself with American English.

Essentially, American speakers indicate emotion by stressing certain words within a sentence and changing the musical pitch of parts of a given sentence. Sometimes an American will speak part of a sentence in a higher pitched voice than other parts. Unlike Mandarin Chinese speakers, who change pitch to change the word used, an American speaker changes pitch to change conveyed emotion. It's the difference between what is said directly in words and what is said "between the lines" or indicated without using words.

The podcast explains a basic rule of intonation, which is to emphasize the important words in a sentence. There are some examples. Give it a listen, and remember, if you have any questions or want to call me for your free phone consult and to set up a free trial lesson, give me a call at (732) 618-4135. Hope everyone is enjoying this moody, rainy day!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hi all! Got a replacement phone. My new, permanent phone number is 732-618-4135.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lost my cell phone...

Hi everybody. It's Wednesday, December 1, 2010. I seem to have lost my cell phone; I think it slipped out of my pocket when I was getting out of a taxi. That'll teach me to use a holster!

If you need to reach me in the next couple of days, you can do so at (732) 841-2969. I will be reachable at that number until Thursday night, December 2nd, around 8 PM or so. Since I am off contract with my old cell carrier, I now have to decide what I want to do for a phone and cell service. I'll post my new number sometime over the course of the next week, as this issue gets resolved.

Other than that, email communications are best. My email address is david.berlin.esl@gmail.com. Thank you for your understanding of this matter.

Onward! Life goes on!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in America. It is a day when we give thanks to God and to each other for the blessings we've had throughout the year. Thanksgiving is a day when we focus on the positive, what we *do* have, not what we don't have.

Most people on Thanksgiving have a huge dinner with family and loved ones. The dinner usually includes a roast turkey, although in some areas of the country it has become popular to deep fry the turkey in peanut oil in a large deep fryer. A deep fried 20 lb turkey is a sight to behold and is delicious in every way, but it is also what we in America jokingly call "A heart attack waiting to happen." What that means is that deep fried turkey fried in peanut oil is not a "light, healthy" snack--it's not good for your heart or for your arteries.

But on Thanksgiving we don't worry so much about things like that. We feast on turkey, cranberry relish, gravy, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, pudding, pumpkin pie, cranberry bread, green beans, leek soup. Even vegetarians have a Thanksgiving feast, often choosing to eat what is called a Tofurky.

If you are invited to a holiday dinner and are Hindu or other vegetarian, it is certainly appropriate to let your host know beforehand. Most hosts will be accommodating. You might want to bring a bottle of wine, or failing that, sparkling apple cider if you don't touch alcohol.

And of course, don't forget, if you have any questions about American culture or wish to book ESL or Accent Reduction lessons, feel free to give me a call at (732) 492-5360.

I've begun offering intensive 7-10 day courses for people looking to improve their accent or English skills or sell themselves in a job or school interview. I know how hard it can be to wonder if your preparations are right and to wish you had a native speaker to correct issues *before* you went on the interview. I can be your native speaker. See my website or contact me for details.

'Til next time, take care, this is your friendly neighborhood ESL and Accent Reduction tutor, signing off! Goodbye.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

These fine fall days...

Days like today are days when Americans will go to church in the morning, rake leaves all day, and then settle into the easy chair with a six pack of beer and watch the football games. Some people will throw chicken or pork chops or a steak or two on the grill, to get in one last short barbecue before the weather turns bitter, bitter cold and the snow comes. It won't be long now, and we know it.

Children sometimes earn money by hiring themselves out to neighbors on days like this--to give the car one last hand wash or to rake the leaves or what have you. If someone comes by your door and you have some small chore they could do, you could turn it over to them and lay in your hammock and read while they work. It's not uncommon for 10-13 year olds to earn a little extra cash this way, or to try to. Remember that the job they do will not be professional, but you should encourage them to do a good job.

Expected rates for jobs like this are perhaps $10-15 per child for a small chore like raking a small yard or washing a compact car or sedan and doing the windows. Mowing the lawn also costs about this much or perhaps a little more for a larger yard. If you live in a neighborhood with half acre lots and you need the weeds whipped and the edges done, this will cost about $35, but this kind of work is generally sought by older teenagers, not younger ones, because it involves handling a weed wacker and an edger.

If you pay less, you will be thought of as "chintzy"--someone who doesn't value hard work because he isn't willing to pay for it. You needn't go overboard, but do remember that $5 buys almost nothing in this country. It's not unreasonable to pay an unskilled laborer $15 for an hour and a half of work.

On the other hand, there are kids whose manners are poor and who feel "entitled" and who will want ridiculous amounts of money, like $50 to mow your lawn. It's best to agree on a price before the job is done and what's to be done. It's similar to managing people at work: You lay out the task and the parts of the task and explain the rewards.

But there's a cultural element here also: Americans will tend to want to encourage kids who do show an interest in this sort of thing, because we say they have what is called "gumption"--a kind of get up and go, a desire to improve their lot in life. This is a very American idea and we encourage it.

It's not unusual for a kid to come by with his own mower and gas and tools; if he does, you'll want to pay him a little bit more due to the convenience he's providing you with; gasoline is not cheap and he probably has to know a thing or two about keeping his small engines running.

However, not all people will come with rakes or mowers of their own; it's not unusual for you to be expected to provide.

And of course, if the whole thing makes you uncomfortable, all you have to do is smile and say that you don't have any work available today. The kids don't care, they are working the neighborhood and will simply move on to the next door.

I hope I've explained this interesting quirk of American culture and how to handle it. Remember that I'm talking about kids, not adults. In this modern world, unfortunately, if an adult comes to your house looking for work, the safest thing to do is turn him down politely.

And remember if you have any questions about American culture, or you want to take a free short phone consult or schedule a free trial ESL or Accent Reduction lesson, feel free to give me a call at (732) 492-5360.

Also, I'd love it if you'd out my American Idiom of the Day page on twitter or my facebook page. 'Til next time, this is David Berlin, signing off! Goodbye!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today, Thursday November 11th, is Veterans Day in America. Today we honor the veterans who have served in our wars. We lay wreaths and flowers at graves and monuments. If I can I will get a couple of photos of the wreaths laid in my town and post them here.

Most of us, on this one day, put our politics aside--whether we agree with each other politically or not, we feel that it is important to honor the people who served in our wars and our battles. This isn't really a festive day for us; we tend to spend time remembering the horror and wastefulness of war. It's more solemn; you would never wish someone a "Happy Veteran's Day" for instance.

Sometimes people with relatives who have served or died in America's armed conflicts (or veterans who have past service themselves) will take off work to attend reunions with their military units or to visit the graves of loved ones. It's not really considered polite to offer ideas or theories about America's foreign policies. It's a requiem for the dead and injured and those who have served more than it is for the policy makers who directed them.

There are many veterans in this country--most of them are from our wars in Viet Nam and things that happened afterwards--Grenada, Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait. Some veterans fought in Korea and occasionally there are people who fought in World War II or even World War I, although very, very few of these folks are left.

My point is, you never know when talking to someone if they are a vet themselves or if they have friends or relatives who are. It's a good day to keep politics out of your conversation.

You might have noticed that my last couple of blog posts have dealt with points of American culture. In the next blog post, I promise there will be a podcast. Until then, this is your friendly neighborhood ESL and Accent Reduction tutor, signing off! Goodbye.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

This Sunday, October 31st, is Halloween. Halloween is the second most celebrated holiday in the US. It derives from the pagan harvest festivals of times gone by. Kids dress up in scary or funny costumes and knock on the doors of strangers and say, "Trick or treat!"

The phrase "trick or treat" is a child's charm or joke--the child is wishing harm on the house's occupants if they don't give him candy or some small treat. It's a child's curse because it's a childlike point of view, but we indulge children on this day, and when they ring the bell in their costumes and say, "Trick or treat," we invariably give them some treat to remain in their good favor.

Let's start with a couple of basic things. First of all, most children who come to your house on Halloween Eve will be under fifteen. Very young children or groups of very young children will almost invariably be with a parent or older adult supervising. If you wish to indicate that your home is friendly and safe, you can leave your porch light on or leave some indicator that you are home--if you have a screen, you may wish to leave the main door open or if you have a glass door, you may wish to leave the house light on. You should know that if you do these things, it will be interpreted as your home being friendly and your doorbell will ring constantly from about 4 PM to 8 PM.

A word about jack o'lanterns. If you aren't used to this tradition it can be a bit confusing. There's some great history on Jack O Lanterns at this link.

Essentially, a jack o'lantern is a way of identifying your house as a friendly home in the spirit of the Halloween celebration. A jack o lantern is a carved pumpkin. You carve a face into a pumpkin like these , and then cut the top of the pumpkin off, scoop out the seeds and pulp, and put a lit candle inside the pumpkin. That makes the face seem to glow with an eerie internal glow.

The pumpkin pulp is hard to use, but the seeds of the pumpkin can be roasted on a cookie sheet or in a toaster oven...spread them out on a cookie sheet, heat the oven to five hundred degrees, and roast 'em until they turn golden brown. Salt 'em a couple of times while you cook 'em. Deeee lish.

BEWARE! If you put a jack o lantern outside of your house, there is a chance that it will be smashed. This is the work of immature teenage boys and girls who don't know how to honor someone else's hard work and desire to be friendly. The best you can do is to understand that smashing pumpkins is the work of children with the frame of mind of a mean spirited ten year old.

It is appropriate to admire costumes when kids come to your door--indeed it is expected. Many kids put a great deal of time and thought into their costumes--it is done because they want to play pretend. Children have great imaginations, and Halloween is night to let those imaginations run wild. Noticing it is always appreciated.

If you turn off your porch light, do not put a jack o lantern out, and keep your house lights dim or dark, the likelihood is that no one will ring your doorbell looking for treats.

Appropriate treats to give include: a small amount of money, like a quarter or fifty cents, lollipops, chocolates, small snack size candy bars, and so on. If you prefer to give healthy things, and many do these days, you can give dried fruit (ALWAYS IN A FACTORY SEALED PACKAGE, NEVER LOOSE), small bags of baked chips--I believe that places like Whole Foods and similar type places have healthy Halloween snacks.

A note if you take your kids trick or treating: Examine all candy before they eat it. Every year, there are two or three cases of people putting razor blades in apples or rat poison in candy. You just have to be careful--it's pretty obvious when this has been done. People who do these things are very unusual, sick, crazy people and they lock them up when they catch them...but they are out there and you should be careful.

Oh yes! Mischief Night. Sometimes irresponsible, childlike, thuggish teenagers will throw raw eggs at parked cars or houses, or ring doorbells and run off, or smash jack o lanterns, or throw wet toilet paper at houses, or spread toilet paper all over trees. A good defense is to be wary of the goings on in the front and back of your house and to keep these areas well lit. A video camera or digital video recorder can be invaluable here. Teenagers who think of themselves as the greatest thing going often become frightened when confronted by the police with video or photographic evidence of their misdeeds that you have helpfully provided. The police take this stuff pretty seriously; many towns have curfews for people under 17.

All right. I think that covers the basics. If you have any questions about the cultural issues involved with Halloween, or want to know how to handle it or how to get into the spirit of the festival, and maybe take some Accent Reduction or ESL Lessons while you are at it, give me a call at (732) 776-7964 to set up an appointment. Remember that I offer a free short, 10-15 minute phone consultation and a free trial lesson! I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The phrase "How are you doing?" is a *greeting*, not an expression of concern...

A note on American culture: When an American asks, "How are you?" or "How are you doing?" The appropriate answer is, "Fine!" or "Things are good!" in a positive tone, even if it isn't true.

This is because in American culture, the phrase "How are you?" or "How are you doing today?" or "How are things?" is not really a question so much as it is a greeting; it's equivalent to "Hello!".

Americans would be very surprised and a bit taken aback if you answered, "Terrible!" or "Not so great..." particularly in business context. You would appear to be weak, the sort of person who spreads his life's troubles to his workplace, and generally not a team player.

The only time in American culture it is acceptable to answer, "Not so great..." or "Not well..." to this question is when it is asked by a close friend who would geniunely want to know how you are doing. But if a business associate or coworker who you don't know personally very well (this would be most of your coworkers and business associates in the average American corporation) asks, "How are you doing?" It is a simple hello, not an expression of concern, and the appropriate answer is a positive one, such as, "Doing great, thanks!" or "Pretty good!" and not necessarily a truthful or honest one ("My wife has the flu and my son is in the hospital. Not to good.")

Why do Americans do this? There is an explanation, but it is long and detailed and difficult to explain in a simple blog post. If you *really* want to know, call me at (732) 637-7398, or email me at david.berlin.esl@gmail.com, or chat with me via Skype at david.berlin.esl and make an appointment, and I can explain ESL issues, help you reduce your accent to be more understandable to Americans, and generally explain American cultural and corporate cultural points. 'Til then,

Best Regards,


Monday, September 13, 2010

Hello everybody! The latest podcast over there in the corner describes how to know when the /t/ sound is pronounced like a more lightly articulated /d/, as in little or clatter. It's often one of the first things my students ask me, and the answer is very simple. Give it a listen! I hope you enjoy it. As always, you can reach me at (732) 637-7398 (please note that this phone number is *different* from the numbers given below), or you can email me at david.berlin.esl@gmail.com, or contact me via Skype at david.berlin.esl.

If you've found these podcasts helpful or you have suggestions or comments, feel free to post them below.

If you've *really* found these podcasts and posts helpful, I'd be honored and obliged if you'd be willing to pay a dollar for them. See the PayPal button below.

As always, with respect,


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The latest podcast describes how to hear and make the /s/ sound as in racer (like a stock car racer or a Formula 1 racer) and the /z/ sound as in razor (the thing you shave with). It's an important difference, and if you are from Poland, the Czech Republic or Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia, or a similar Eastern European country, you probably have trouble with the difference, particularly in the final position (the difference between "scarce" which means "hard to find or uncommon", like a scarce natural resource, and "scares" as in "he scares me" meaning to frighten.)

As I said it's an important difference. So check out the podcast, I hope it helps.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment for ESL or accent reduction lessons, feel free to give me a call at (732) 776-7964. Leave a message if I'm not in as I always check and return my messages within twelve hours. Alternately, you can drop me a line via e-mail at david.berlin.esl@gmail.com. Or just chat with me on Skype; my Skype ID is david.berlin.esl.

Until next time, take care! Drink plenty of cold water, iced tea, lemonade or other drink so you don't get dehydrated because it is getting hot and humid again. Enjoy the beach while you can, it'll be four feet of snow again before you know it!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hi everybody! So many events in the summer--street fairs, rock n roll bands, and everything else. Americans eat cotton candy (spun sugar), funnel cake (fried batter dusted with sugar), big soft pretzels with lots of salt and mustard, ice cream, and hot dogs. The best hot dogs are made with beef, not pork, and are branded Shickhaus, Thumanns, Hebrew National (kosher franks--slaughtered according to the Jewish laws of kashrut), and Sabrett's.

One of the greatest places to be in America on a day like today is New York City. Immigrants from rural areas are often almost overwhelmed when they come to New York--it is a huge bustling city where almost anything goes.

Important cultural tip for business travelers: It is not unusual or unacceptable for a woman to travel alone in the US, but she needs to be careful. Stay near groups of people, try not to be in isolated areas alone, if you are staying alone in a hotel make sure that you use the deadbolt and the draw lock to lock the door. Don't open the door to anyone without checking the peephole.

That said, many men will go out of their way to be solicitous and well mannered to a woman alone on business, particularly a foreigner. You have to be careful and use your judgement. Most American men are conscientious and not dangerous.

If you are meeting someone you don't know for a business dinner, pay attention to the conversation he makes, the questions he asks, the amount he drinks, and so on. Trust your gut; if something seems wrong or if a man seems dangerous, he very well could be. Let the hotel security guards and front desk people know. If worse comes to worst, the national telephone number for emergencies to summon the police in the US is 911.

Don't give anyone else a key to your hotel room under any circumstances, even if they ask for it directly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hi everybody! The weather outside is sweltering. The word
"sweltering" means "very hot and sweaty and humid". We had a fast
moving thunderstorm this afternoon that overturned some of the small
sailboats at the Belmar Marina. The kids are all right, though, thank

Today I am going to talk about a point of American business culture.
In American business, particularly in the tech and the IT sector,
people often keep in touch with people they've worked with over the
years--not just bosses, but co-workers.

This is why you sometimes will get e-mail invitations to reunions for
companies that you worked for five years ago that have since been sold
or folded or absorbed. It happens for two reasons. One, in America,
getting a job has much more to do with who you know than what you
know. Two, Americans often tie their identities up with their work.
Let me give an example.

When a Hindu makes the folded hands gesture and says, "Namaste" the
literal translation of that word is, "I recognize the self in you" or
"I recognize your eternal spirit".

An American's "self" is tied up in his work, what he does for a
living. It is part of how he derives self value.

Thus we have the concept of a "work spouse" is an American idiom for
someone who fulfills pseudo-spousal duties while at work--someone of
the opposite gender who makes sure your collar is tucked in if she is
female or compliments you on how you look if he is male. We need work
spouses because in America, our work is our lives, to a large degree.

You would never have relations with your work spouse! First of all
it's usually against the law and qualifies as sexual harassment, and
second of all, it's often against corporate policies. The term "work
spouse" is gender nonspecfic and is IDIOMATIC ONLY!

Hope I kept someone out of trouble with that blog post, because
believe you me, you can get yourself in SERIOUS trouble if you
misunderstand the concept. :-)

Today's accent reduction lesson is an easy one.

For those of you who speak the languages of the Indian subcontinent, I
want to show you the difference between the /w/ unvoiced fricative and
the /v/ voiced labiodental sound and the /f/ unvoiced labiodental
sound. It's a very common mistake for all speakers of subcontinent
languages to mix these up when speaking American English. I've
included a podcast you can listen to and some written examples are

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Today is the Fourth of July. It is the day of the announcement by the First Continental Congress that the 13 American British colonies were formally independent from the British Empire and were in fact a separate nation.

Although the Declaration was officially adopted on July 2nd 1776, no public announcement was made until July 4th.

The Declaration of Independence built its ideas partially on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, partially on the Magna Carta (the idea that kings did not have a "divine right to rule" that could not be challenged came from the Magna Carta) and from other thinkers of the time.

Some Americans have stated that the Founders believed that the rights of man came from God; some have suggested that they believed that those rights came from "natural law" (a more humanist concept).

Still others have said that when they said, "these rights come from God" they were thinking in line with humanist philosophers of the day who ascribed human rights as springing from God without a specifically religious overtone.

Even others believe that the Founders of this nation were Calvinist Christians and believed that the rights that they termed "inalienable" sprung from a God that was the God described by Martin Luther and John Calvin.

This is a question that is far from settled in the United States today (and in fact when discussing America with Americans on July 4th, it's probably best not to get into the conversation of whether America is a "Christian nation" or not unless you know that you are among people who think the same way you do, whatever that is. It's not good beer talk, and AMericans drink *lots* of beet, eat *lots* of hamburgers, Italian sausage, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw, and ice cream.)

It's very hard to explain the stirrings that even the most extreme politically leaning American feels on the Fourth of July. It is the day that America became America, and Americans became Americans, as opposed to subjects of the British Crown. The morning of July 4th is often solemn--some even go to church to pray for God's guidance for this country. Pretty much everyone celebrates and is in a festive mood.

And yes, we shoot off fireworks. John Adams felt that fireworks were an integral part of 4th of July. Several state legislatures disagree. Shoot 'em off with care.

Good artists to listen to on the 4th of July are Frank Sinatra, John Mellencamp, Lee Greenwood, Toby Keith, Louis Armstrong, Bruce Springsteen, and others. These are all people who wrote and sang about America and the nature of America and Americans and who embody the American spirit.

So enjoy your Fourth here, remember not to drink and drive (to "drink and drive" means to drink beer or hard liquor or wine and then get in a car and drive--the alcohol in these things makes it difficult to drive safely, besides the fact that hundreds of drunken driving accidents happen on the Fourth and many fatalities. Be safe and know that drinking and driving is not legal and they will arrest you and put you in jail if they catch you!)

Enjoy the day! And don't forget! If you have any questions about American culture or if you want to set up a lesson to learn to speak American English or to reduce your accent, give me a call at (732) 776-7964, hit me up on Skype at david.berlin.esl, or drop me a line at david.berlin.esl@gmail.com.

Have a happy Fourth of July!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hi everybody! This is your friendly neighborhood ESL/Accent Reduction tutor, David Berlin. This is a short podcast that explains, very briefly, the history of the English spelling system (such as it is), from Old English to Samuel Johnson's 17th century "Dictionary of the English Language".

I know some of you have trouble because English spelling is not phonetic the way it is in many other languages; words are often spelled in English in a completely different way than they are pronounced. Hopefully this podcast sheds a little light on why.

If you'd like to discuss your ESL/Accent Reduction issues with me and set up an initial consultation and appointment, call (732) 776-7964, buzz me on Skype at david.berlin.esl, or just drop me a line at david.berlin.esl@gmail.com. Once again, that number is (732) 776-7964, or Skype at david.berlin.esl, or e-mail at david.berlin.esl@gmail.com. Until next time, this is David Berlin, signing off...goodbye!

Click here to listen to the podcast: a short history of English spelling.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Intonation in terms of North American English refers to the music of speech. Have you ever heard the expression "to read between the lines"? Unlike, for instance, Chinese, which uses intonation--pitch changes in speech--to indicate content or meaning changes, Americans use pitch changes in speech to indicate emotion. So for instance to an American, there is a difference between "I have to go to the library..." (irritated) and "I have to go to the library!" (excited). We convey that difference via pitch changes and emphasis/stress changes.

Here's an example of "I have to go to the library..."with the speaker conveying to the listener that he is irritated about it.

Click here to download I have to go to the library (irritated).mp3

Here's an example of "I have to go to the library!" with the speaker conveying to
the listener that he is excited and happy about it.

Click here to download I have to go to the library (excited).mp3

It's important because if you don't intonate the sentence correctly, an American won't know how to react to it--in other words if it sounds like this:

Click here to download I have to go to the library (no intonation).mp3

Then you haven't conveyed to the American listener how you feel emotionally about it, and he won't know how to respond. An American responds partially on how you feel about it; it's very important to an American. If you can't convey it with your tone, you miss out on a big part of ordinary communication with Americans.

For Chinese folks, I have an easier explanation. Say out loud, the Chinese words for "mother", "horse", "hemp" and "scold". There is a difference, right? You have made sounds and pitched those sounds differently for each word--but the actual *sounds* are the same. (To an American ear, they all sound like "ma"). In America we don't change pitches for content--we change them to indicate emotion. Emotional content is very important to us in our speech.

If you'd like some information about the specific rules and system of intonation in North American English (because there really are specific codified rules and a specific system) feel free to give me a call at (732) 776-7964 OR buzz me on Skype at david.berlin.esl or just drop me an email at david.berlin.esl@gmail.com to chat about accent reduction and to set up an appointment. There's no long term commitment necessary; you can pay me on a per session basis for as long as you like--although I do give a discount of $5/hour for a monthlong commitment.

Take care everybody and enjoy the summer!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stay tuned ladies and gents! The Dave just got a digital videocamera AND a Sansa for audio recordings and podcasts! Soon you can experience a whole new dimension of accent reduction action from Studio Dave! There'll be YouTube posts, Twitter posts, and podcasts.

Get ready to speak the best English there ever was!

The Dave

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dig those crazy /p/ and /b/ sounds...

For those of you from the Indian subcontinent, whether you speak Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, or any of the other many languages spoken in India, you may find that you have trouble distinguishing between the /p/ and the /b/ sounds in English. This is because those sounds do not exist as seperate sounds in most of the Indian languages. So for instance, when you try to say "Bombay", to an American, you might be saying, "Pompeii"--very different!

Essentially the difference between /p/ and /b/ is that /b/ is a voiced /p/.

Here is how you make the /p/ sound:

Push your lips together, stopping the air stream as you speak. Then open your lips. The /p/ sound requires a firm lip closure. The air comes out in a strong puff.

Try saying now:




In each of these words you interrupt the air stream coming out of your mouth as you speak by closing your lips, and then opening them while you expel air.

To make the /b/ sound, use a less tense closure of the lips (with the /p/ sound you close them firmly. With the /b/ sound, less so) and vocalize in the back of your throat.

Try these words:




See you in a few! I'm trying to get my camera fixed so I can put up some video with sounds. Stay tuned!