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, or just drop me a line at Once again, that number is (732) 776-7964, or Skype at, or e-mail at 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 or just drop me an email at 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